National Health IT Week (October 2-6, 2017) is designed to bring the health IT community together to raise awareness of the benefits of information technology. From the billing office to the doctor’s office, we’ve seen some amazing advancements over the last decade, ranging from the rise of the electronic health record (EHR) to portal technology, big data, and cloud ERP. We join healthcare professionals in celebrating the value of health IT with a few innovative trends worthy of recognition:
Healthcare IT content companies
Hospitals and medical centers are good at taking care of patients, but they’re not necessarily good at developing evidence-based order sets and clinical decision support prompts or creating and maintaining taxonomies and clinical terminologies. Frankly, keeping an up-to-date list of every medication available in the United States is not on the top of any medical center’s to-do list. We salute the third-party content companies that relieve some of the burden from the EHR vendors and the customers they serve.
Healthcare is fragmented in the United States. Not only do we practice medicine under different payment schemes, but many of the rules change from state to state, and even from month to month. Physicians, nurses, and caregivers who can match high blood pressure to HTN to hypertension are worth their weight in gold. Companies such as Redox and MuleSoft are helping app developers connect the dots (and docs!).
EHR vendors and other groups have come together to form alliances to help physicians and hospitals send meaningful information to one another. Carequality, CommonWell, and Direct Trust are examples of organizations trying to tear down barriers to the free exchange of medical data.
Comprehensive health data
The trend toward sharing all patient data with the patients themselves isn’t new, but it has taken off in the last five years. The OpenNotes principles are being baked into modern EHRs. The idea that potentially-complicated clinical information is beyond the understanding of those who didn’t attend medical or nursing school should be long gone. Patients and those who care for them can (and often must) become just as knowledgeable as their caregivers regarding their serious diagnoses. When a businesswoman fighting cancer tells you that her “hematocrit is coming up” and that she’s so excited that “finally my key markers are down,” you understand that patients can share in their care.
Patients have been seeking advice from Dr. Google for a while now, but one can’t be sure of the soundness of the instruction, especially if one can’t be sure of its source. Medical societies, healthcare systems, and individual practitioners have been developing and promulgating medical advice recently, incorporating sound technical writing best practices. Some states are experimenting with allowing patients to “order” their own lab tests. Is it a good thing or not? The future will tell us, but it’s certainly innovative.
Physicians and healthcare systems are leveraging social media tools to tear down artificial walls between patients and those who provide their care. Dr. Bryan Vartabedian has coined the term online doctor to describe a physician who curates, creates, converses, and contributes to medicine on the web. Perhaps this means blogging, or tweeting references to interesting articles, or even responding to questions from patients and non-patients alike. Whatever it means, those who are innovating online should be lauded for their work.
Craig Joseph, MD, is the Chief Medical Officer at Avaap where he works with healthcare leaders to implement and optimize EHRs in order to increase physician satisfaction, improve efficiency, and ensure full value of the technology.