With Gillette stadium as a backdrop, Dr. Daniel (Danny) Sands and Dave DeBronkart (ePatient Dave) brought their A-game and delivered the most memorable session at the New England HIMSS annual spring conference. They acted, they sang and they even danced.
DeBronkart and Dr. Sands used the power of story-telling to paint a crystal clear picture of true patient-physician partnership. In a series of vignettes, they acted out different aspects of a patient encounter in two parts. First, they would act out the typical interaction between a paternalistic physician and an e-patient (someone who is actively engaged in their care and using digital means to stay on top of their condition). Then they would act out how that same interaction might happen when the physician and e-patient are working together as partners.
The contrast was both humorous and enlightening.
In one vignette about EHRs, Dr. Sands turned his back on DeBronkart in order to enter information into the computer. DeBronkart hilariously tried to find different ways to see what was being typed in, provoking Dr. Sands to ask “Is there something wrong with your neck Dave? You keep trying to stretch it.” When DeBronkart asked what his doctor was entering, his question was dismissed as “something that didn’t concern him”.
Think about the irony of that statement. While it’s true that the EHR is a tool for physicians and healthcare organizations to track, document and yes, bill, patients it is full of information about the patient. It is rare, however, that EHR information is shared with them and often there are bureaucratic as well as technological barriers to providing it when asked.
In the second part of that vignette, Dr. Sands asked DeBronkart to sit with him as he entered information and explained what he was documenting. As this was playing out on stage, I couldn’t help but think of Dr. James Legan and his #ProjectedEHR work, where he projects his computer screen to a monitor in the exam room so that his patients can follow along with what is being entered.
You can see Dr. Legan’s setup in this video he posted in 2015 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EA5X_LP5_PQ
In 2017, Dr. Legan explained his unique outlook on EHRs: “I am convinced the electronic health record needs to be shared as a visual interactive medium at the point of care. The primary role of the EHR should be educational, all other uses secondary.” DeBronkart and Dr. Sands brought this sentiment to life at New England HIMSS.
In the other vignettes, Dr. Sands and Debronkart covered the use of email/texting, looking up health information on the Internet and concerns about side effects. Each, illustrated how powerful the patient-physician partnership could be and how easy it was to engage.
Perhaps unknowingly (or perhaps by devious machinations), DeBronkart and Dr. Sands also delivered a subtle message – that listening to and engaging patients does not require a tremendous amount of additional time. For each vignette, the second part was only slightly longer than the first one. Their performance effectively dispelled the myth that engaging a patient doubles or triples the time required for a visit.
The duo capped off their session with a surprise live performance of the parody song “epatient blues”. I managed to capture most of the performance on video.
Hopefully Dr. Sands and DeBronkart will be taking their two-man show on the road to a conference near you.