Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Patitent as a Person - my lunch with Clay Patterson

The patient’s position in the HIT marketplace is that of data….that is a really strong statement but if you look at the Medical Record you know it’s actually a fact. The focused push to enable EMR in hospitals IS critical and has to occur. The mindset around it, to me, is often concerning.

Somehow the “data” has to evolve back into a “patient” who has to evolve back into a “person”.

As most of you know – my professional passion is the patient, the one who must take up residence within the walls of a hospital for a period of time. However, if we limit ourselves to seeing the “patient” only within those walls then we limit our view of the health continuum.

On Monday I enjoyed a wonderful lunch with Cerner’s Clay Patterson. I wasn’t sure what to expect – Cerner is an enigma – when people ask me about it I say “It’s shiny” meaning it’s very exciting, cool new innovations, amazing technology, thriving business, and flashy interactive gadgets. However, nothing I had seen to date gave me the feeling of heart – innovation, yes – incredible business, absolutely – heart, not so much. The heart I was missing was the patient – the person. Then I met Clay. His passion is getting medical data in a useable format so that a person can better interact with their health. This incredibly engaging and friendly man painted a picture of Cerner unlike any I had seen before – he shared a vision of people not products.

As he spoke, the picture that formed in my head was a giant sphere and inside of it there were stations of a person’s health journey. They include Hospital, Family Doctor, Medications, Tests, and even Diet & Exercise. (which I call DEA - which is a blog for another day) all surrounding the ability to research within the platform. The components within the sphere are interconnected and the data can ride freely between them.

The Sphere is taking information that is generally spaghetti and putting it into waffle format. When it’s in waffle format it can be searched, analyzed, cross referenced, and made into useable information. Think of it like managing your finances. Many of us keep our receipts in a box – or a wallet – or the center console of our car (or for some of us all of those places). You may have to dig them out if you need to return something, but the data of what you bought and when generally goes nowhere. However, if you use an online banking service then it automatically can analyze your spending habits and you can toss your little pieces of dispirit papers. The evaluation can lead to better planning, better habits, and overall better financial wellness. WHY? Because Data itself is not valuable – Data analyzed and applied into information is valuable.

But will adoption of this medium really occur. My prediction is yes – if you look at the slow recovery of our economy, you notice that people are spending less with credit cards and more with cash. Why because when you lose your home due to over spending you must take drastic measures to get things under control. People have had to learn to live within their means. Currently, the US is one of the most unhealthy nations in the world. Out of necessity a time is coming when we are going to have to reclaim our health. Sooner than later change will occur – not because there is some cool gadget but because consumers will realize that managing their health is the same as managing their finances.

The challenge will be education, access, and funding. How are we going to teach masses of people how to engage with their health while using a computer based tool?  Encouraging people to take control of their health is only part of the puzzle.  How are people going to get access to this portal?  This is a really layered portion of the equation including socioeconomic, locations, etc.  Who is going to provide access to this cool portal and who will “own” the data? Remember the data isn’t the value, the value is in the analysis….. when the data becomes information. As with everything else, it all comes back to who is going to pay for it? In a time when socialized healthcare is looming are we going to drive consumers to pay (not likely), employers, payers, ACOs?

If you believe that the patient is the heart of all we do then you must believe that the patient’s ability to interact with their health is critical to our success.

Stay Tuned for an exciting announcement from Cerner in the coming months.

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Kourtney Govro