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When Patients Know More Than Doctors

Posted on May 14, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

With a title like that, I know I’m bound to get a visceral response from some doctors, but hear me out. As someone told me today, the thing I love about John is that you know he’s going to tell you what he really thinks. He’s not going to hold back. Hopefully that’s true. Plus, I certainly welcome other people to provide opposing viewpoints so that we can all learn together.

First I should make it clear that I’m a great patient. I have extreme respect for the doctors I work with and follow their care plans to a T. For example, as a child I took accutane. That requires you to take pills twice a day. I think there may have been 1 or 2 times I missed taking my pills in 6 months. That’s pretty good if I say so myself. Regardless, I’m quite good at following the doctors care plan for me. Over time I have developed what I call a trust but verify approach. I trust that the doctor is doing what’s best, but I do like to confirm my understanding of why it’s being done when its a complicated situation. I don’t do this for things like common coughs and colds.

With this in mind, I was kind of blown away recently when someone told me about their 20 year old son who’s a diabetic. This patient and his parents had been dealing with his disease for about 15 years. As part of dealing with the disease they’d studied it and the various treatment and management options in depth. As he said, “we set a Google Alert and have read every study and discussion about the topic for 15 years.”

After moving, this diabetic patient went to see a new doctor who had just gotten out of medical school. A short discussion started and the patient quickly realized that he knew a lot more about his condition than his new doctor. What a challenging situation this must be for the new doctor.

I think most doctors are ok with this situation and have been dealing with chronic patients that know a lot about their disease for a long time. However, the availability of medical information is helping a lot of patients to be very well informed on their health issues. I wonder if a doctor use to treating well informed chronic patients has lessons we can apply to well informed general patients.

No doubt we’re in the stage of learning a new dance with a new partner. I’m not suggesting that we should change who’s leading the dance. The doctor should still be the lead for a lot of reasons. However, I am saying that the leader shouldn’t be surprised when their dance partner wants to provide some feedback on the choreography they’re doing. The leader might just find that working together they can produce even better results.

Side Note: It seems appropriate that I should use a dance analogy with the So You Think You Can Dance premiere tonight.

How Can I Spend Less Time in a Patient Encounter?

Posted on March 27, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I was reading on LinkedIn the other day, and someone suggested that in far too many ways we’re restricting our view to the following question:

How can I spend less time in a patient encounter?

While this certainly applies to our use of technology in healthcare it goes well beyond just EHR. Although, one challenge with technology like EHR is you get exactly out of it what you design it to do. If the focus of your EHR is just about minimizing the patient encounter, then that’s what you’ll get. If the focus of your EHR is to maximize reimbursement, then that’s what you’ll get. If the focus of your EHR is to meet government requirements, that’s what you’ll get.

Instead, of you focus an EHR on providing amazing patient care, that’s what you’ll get.

Many like to blame the EHR vendors for not producing EHR software that improves patient care. While I think they hold some responsibility, they are mostly just trying to satisfy the demand of their customers.

Healthcare deserves better and we need to find ways to incentivize doctors to want an EHR because it improves patient care. Otherwise, we’ll keep getting great billing engines which minimize the patient encounter at the expense of great health care.

Does an EMR Improve Patient Care?

Posted on September 16, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Everyone probably realizes by now that I love to read first hand experiences with EMR and EHR. I guess I’ve always loved stories and I’ve always loved to tell stories, so maybe that’s where that comes from. I guess this is why I loved Katherine Rourke’s post called “Would An EMR Have Improved My Son’s ED Care?” on the Hospital EMR and EHR website. It’s a great read if you love first hand experiences with EMR as I do.

Katherine does raise a challenging question, “Does an EMR improve patient care?”

In past presentations, I’ve always put the idea of an EMR improving patient care under the “possible EHR benefits.” (See a full list of EMR and EHR Benefits) As many things in life there’s a big “Depends!” that is the b est answer to that question. The answer to this question depends on what kind of care you were offering previously, the type of care you offer, the EMR you chose, the features you chose to employ in that EMR, the match between your workflow and the EMR workflow, and I’m sure another dozen other depends as well.

What’s more important to point out is that an EMR can improve patient care. I certainly can’t guarantee that an EMR will improve patient care in your clinic, but I’ve seen many cases where it has improved patient care and so I know it’s possible. The biggest determining factor in whether an EMR will improve patient care in your clinic is your desire to have it do so.

Many times in life, you get what you want. Do you want an EMR to improve your patient care? Or were you too focused on wanting to get the EHR Incentive money? Not that these and other benefits are mutually exclusive, but the focus of your EHR implementation matters a lot. Make sure you’re focused on the right things and your EMR selection and implementation will go 100 times better. In fact, it will even improve patient care if you want it to.

12 Reasons Why EMRs Improve Patient Care

Posted on March 28, 2011 I Written By

Katherine Rourke is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

While HIT insiders and pundits take it as a given that installing an EMR benefits everyone, it’s not so obvious to some gun-shy practices.   Even researchers like myself switch gears every time I try to explain what EMR technology can do.

That’s why I was pleased to come across the following blog item. This piece offers a very solid list of twelve reasons why EMRs can improve patient care, including the following (in no particular order of importance):

*  EMRs are less subject to physical damage and data loss than paper records, as the data can be backed up and stored elsewhere.

* EMRs reduce wait times for patients, as there’s no need to wait for a receptionist to pull a chart and get it to the treating clinician.

* Data stored in an EMR can be sent more easily to other clinicians than when using a paper record. (This may not be true if the EMR is balky — in reality, only an HIE can really fulfill this promise — but it should be true.)

* EMRs that integrate e-prescribing reduce the risk that a  patient will get the wrong drug/dose, as poorly-written prescriptions stop being an issue.

The piece also notes that with an EMR in place, practices should have neater workspaces to use (no paper accumulation) and have better access to care documentation during emergencies.

Now, to inject a note of skepticism here, it’s unlikely that most practices will realize all of these benefits quickly.

In particular, I highly doubt that practices will be able to cut back on paper quickly, since if nothing else, they’ll have to do something with the reams of letters and faxes that other providers send to them, and possibly images as well. (It’s no coincidence that the author works for an HIT consulting firm.)

Still, it’s good to see a well-rounded wrap-up of how EMRs might support day-to-day patient care.  It’s easy to assume that everyone understands EMRs’ potential — but I’d argue that many clinicians are just beginning to draw these conclusions.

That being said, would you add any clinical care benefits to our blogger’s list? Would you disagree with any of his conclusions?

Balancing Privacy and Security with Patient Care

Posted on December 23, 2009 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Healthcare InformationWeek has an article that discusses the challenges of EMR security and privacy. A lot of the stuff is nothing new to those of us in the healthcare space. Although, it’s interesting to see how they summarize things like the goal to be full EMR by 2014 and the EMR stimulus money.

However, the article did include these interesting stats on the number of breaches that happen in healthcare and the focus IT managers put on privacy and data security in healthcare.

Healthcare providers and other health businesses aren’t stepping up to protect privacy, according to a recent study. Some 80% of healthcare organizations have experienced at least one incident of lost or stolen health information in the past year, according to the study, released this month from security management company LogLogic and the Ponemon Institute, which conducts privacy and information management research.

Also, some 70% of IT managers surveyed said senior management doesn’t view privacy and data security as a priority, and 53% say their organizations don’t take appropriate steps to protect patient privacy. Less than half judge their existing security measures as “effective or very effective.”

I was surprised that 80% of organizations have had an incident of lost or stolen health information. However, I honestly don’t see this ever changing. Stuff happens even with the very best efforts.

I did also like this quote of John Halamka about the challenge of balancing privacy and security with sharing the patient information to provide better patient care.

“You want to protect the patient’s preferences for confidentiality,” Halamka said. But you also need to get information where it’s needed. “If you come to the emergency department in a coma, and you have a record that includes psychiatric treatment, HIV, drug abuse, and other information, would you share part of it or all of it? My preference would be all of it, with the hope that emergency workers would use it discreetly, to save my life.” But other people may feel differently, Halamka said, and healthcare policy needs to serve all those needs.

I’m a little surprised that Halamka has had psychiatric treatment, HIV and drug abuse. He’s doing quite well considering that history. (that’s sarcasm in case you didn’t note it) His history aside, I’m totally with him on wanting that information available as well. However, he’s totally correct that many people wouldn’t want that stuff shared. Enabling the consumer to make that decision though is a hard nut to crack.