This is my post on the value of health IT for National Health IT Week (#NHITWeek).
Health IT provides information and allows connections in many ways: payers to providers, providers to other providers, caregivers to patients, and now the most fundamental connection of patients to data about their care and their bodies.
You’ve all seen the AT&T marketing campaign with the man in a suit asking children questions like, “What’s better? Fast or slow? Doing two things at once or just one? Would you rather play basketball in a big fancy stadium or a small driveway?”
Who thinks more health IT is better than less?
The more information we are able to generate about the healthcare system, medicine, and our bodies, the more ways we have to fine tune practices and systems to improve efficiency, increase communication and reduce costs and errors.
“In theory,” the doubters say. Yet the case studies they use to illustrate health technology gone wrong are just as likely a reflection of poor organizational planning and vision as an indictment of the technology. If you’re currently shopping for a replacement EHR, I bet you’ve increased your budget and are taking careful steps in your software evaluation process this time around.
Technology is a field in motion. It is always changing, updating and improving to make product goals a better reality. It has been evolving and improving since Benjamin Franklin’s famous kite experiment in 1752. We will always need more and better health IT, and we’ll always get it. (What’s better? Being better or worse?)
There are disruptive health IT changes occurring on the patient level that will improve the triple aim of health care (care, health and cost). The BlueButton “social movement” (per Lygeia Ricciardi, director of the Office of Consumer eHealth at the ONC) is opening up doors for patient-centered innovation such as the iBlueButton app, which puts the patient firmly in control of their health data and empowers them to receive and send data on their mobile devices via Direct Project protocol. Patients, literally, can become their own HIE. (Also see: ONC Announces Winners of Blue Button + Challenge)
BlueButton data combined with information generated by personal health data tracking applications and devices provide patients with information that was previously unavailable or difficult to gather in one location (smart phone). A clear, unbiased account of the data allows us, as patients, to take healthy steps to improve those numbers.
This simple access to data, generated by health IT, is improving care by making patients caretakers, or owners, of their health record. Ownership gives the health data value. “I care for my lawn, because it is mine.” Taking personal responsibility allows patients to identify areas that need improvement. When patients take steps to improve health deficits before they become chronic conditions, treatment costs are lower and, thus, the triple aim is improved.
Are we there yet? Not yet, but technology is quickly taking us there. Patients have easier access to their records, which is a result of increased interoperability of health data. We’re witnessing the modernization of the field and I believe “more health IT” is the only thing that will take us there.
It truly is an exciting time to watch health care technology find new ways to improve care.
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