How is Freedom of Data Simplifying the Lives of Physicians and Patients?

Abhinav Shashank
Tue 27 Mar 2018
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Healthcare is one of the biggest boons to humankind. There have been lots of success and numbers to define them, but most importantly, lots of personal stories behind these numbers. Every individual has a different story and a takeaway.

I remember the story of a 45-year old man and how the care team’s proactiveness saved his life. His care coach noted that his ED utilization had gone off the charts when he visited the ED third time in quick succession. Upon reviewing his medical record, the care team learned about his history of Acute and Emergency Department admissions as well as his long-standing history of alcohol abuse and cardiovascular disease.

As the care coach began engaging and partnering with him, it became clear that the patient did not understand much of his current medical condition nor its severity. The care coach offered to attend his next physician appointment with him. Following his appointment, the provider thanked the care coach for attending the visit and stated she did not realize that his patient was not understanding much of what she was saying. After a few months, the care coach and the patient were happy to report he was not drinking and had not had any further admission to the hospital or the Emergency Department.

Physicians and care teams can continue interacting with patients to help them out, but they need to know who needs their attention the most. And I think, this is where freedom of data plays a major role. The power to go beyond and see the unseen and deliver timely care before an episode occurs.

The chronicles of unfriendly tech and siloed data

Healthcare has been somewhat of a different field, and so has been healthcare information technology. But it is an established fact that the perfect healthcare can be achieved by creating a balance between the ones who receive care, and the ones who deliver.

Being a healthcare provider is no easy job. From handling numerous patient visits every day, documenting multiple interactions on the EHR, to staying aligned with the overarching goals of the organization- the life of every physician is brimming with pressure and stress. And on top of everything, caregivers face mounds of data before them. Either there’s too much information that they keep wrestling with never-ending sheets, or there are gaps, errors, or misinformation. Amidst all this, they lose time to communicate with patients.

Some common things physicians tell me when I interact with them:

“Imagine a patient talking to their physician, and the doctor is just typing away, looking at his computer screen… There is nothing more frustrating to a patient than that.”

“Half the day goes into pulling together data from ten different systems- the EHR, the lab result, the patient portal, their wearables, and whatnot. As a physician, my question remains how to navigate the system- not how to put together all this information and then think.”

Health IT can be miles away from today for providers

Even in the digital age, one of the greatest challenges physicians face is collecting, documenting, and capturing healthcare data from a number of sources. So much so that it becomes a challenge to differentiate between valuable data and information overload. And while examining patients on their follow up visits, a lot of providers’ time goes into looking for scanned and acquired reports in the EHRs.

It’s patient care providers need to focus on, and technology- something that was meant to assist them- should be the last thing frustrating them. And rightly so, strings of numbers and codes and other patient information, no matter how systematically assembled and integrated, is not a narrative. It doesn’t tell a story.

Most physicians were hardly involved when EHRs or a data platform was being configured. Many lacked the technical background. Granted, the priorities back then were different. But over time, technology for physicians has translated into fewer benefits, reduced efficiencies, and more overhead costs. That’s what health IT needs to address. Additionally, and most importantly, the next wave of innovation has to reduce the burden on caregivers.

How data can undo the damage

The key is simplicity- why must the care team members hop from one platform to other with ten different sets of credentials? Just to drill down into a patient’s health, when it can all be available right on their computer screen?

It costs up to $10,000 every time a healthcare organization hires and trains a new physician. It costs patients and insurance companies every time a doctor asks the patient to revisit because their concerns were unaddressed.

A doctor typically sees 15-20 patients a day, and the appointments that should last 20-25 minutes are limited to 15 minutes because of extensive administrative tasks. If the doctors are able to view a patient’s medication history, their vitals, their previous visit summaries, all in a compact view- that could save a good 5-10 minutes for a doctor. This time could be better used to understand a patient’s lifestyle and their ongoing healthcare needs.

Correct integration of healthcare data alone can save the industry almost $300 billion. One-click technology can help physicians and care teams improve patient follow-ups by more than 200%. Better time spent per patient could be the first step towards saving healthcare more than $1 billion!

The road ahead

Forget manuals and day-long trainings. Providers should be able to leverage healthcare data as simply as they use appliances at home or drive into their new cars. The healthcare loop can only be brought to a close when the right data is delivered to the right people. We are able to bring together a goldmine of data and analyze it, get an understanding of the population health, and track network performance- but we are still having a hard time getting it back to the people who need it the most. The progress of healthcare rests on the shoulders of physicians, and labor-saving tech over labor-inducing ones could be an encouragement they need right now.


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Tags: HealthIT, Population Health
Abhinav Shashank
How is Freedom of Data Simplifying the Lives of Physicians and Patients?

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