I’d be a pretty shallow gal, I would, if I didn’t take the problems patients face when transitioning from hospital to another setting seriously. But I swear I’m not being flip when I say that holding another conference on how HIT can solve the problem is, uh, a bit lame.
The conference in question, which will bring together some bigshots in healthcare policy, politics and health IT, includes speaker spots by Farzad Mostashari, MD, National Coordinator for Health IT, Health Affairs Editor-in-Chief Susan Dentzer and Todd Park, CTO of HHS. Wow. And that’s just some of the headliners.
The participants will cover some of the critical ways HIT can support seamless transitions from hospitals to a patient’s next location, including standards, interoperability, exchange and Meaningful Use, the event’s press release notes.
OK. Fine. I get it — to coordinate care, EMRs and other HIT systems have to be individually robust and share data fluidly. Providers have to get on board. And it’ll all work if everybody adopts the right technology and plays nicely with their pals.
It’s telling, though, that event leaders aren’t promising much talk on how patients and their families can leverage IT to help make this happen. It isn’t about empowering patients to access their health information, communicate with doctors as supportive team members or even about patient education. It’s all about making sure the machines and software do their job. A brilliantly orchestrated, thoughtfully developed, boundlessly powerful set of machines and software solutions, but technology nonetheless.
So count me as impatient. Until policy types and health IT gurus get their heads out of the enterprise IT, networking and software business, they’re going to talk around the real care coordination issue. And that’s not only a bore, it’s a dangerous waste of time. We’re fighting for people’s lives here.
Hospitals have and arguably have had for some time more than enough firepower to solve their end of the problem. But historically, they’ve done little to involve patients and families in managing their conditions once they’re gone. Discharge summaries are perfunctory at best, particularly given how much info hospitals have at their fingertips, and virtually no education takes place throughout a patient’s visit. Once they leave, it gets far worse. “Out of sight, out of mind” may be a bit too strong but I’m sure you see what I mean.
If they want to be part of the solution, hospitals will need to think about how they can support the patients directly through smart IT use, especially super-smart new mobile options and remote monitoring of chronic or emergent conditions in the home. Otherwise, patients are likely to remain sick, puzzled and likely to fall between the cracks.