The Vice President’s Plea
Behind every frustrated physician who feels she is wasting valuable time wrestling with her hospital’s EHR system, there are dozens of patients (or patients’ families) worried about their care, largely unaware that healthcare IT currently is not helping their cause. When patients and their families become aware of the problem, they too often express frustration.
Such was the story Vice President Joe Biden told in a talk at Health Datapalooza in Washington, D.C. last week. He recounted the difficulties two healthcare provider organizations had sharing information related to treating his son Beau’s cancer. This was not merely some arcane technical issue, according to Biden, it was “a matter of life and death.” Not surprisingly, Biden advocated for system interoperability and open access to research data to advance the fight against cancer. Of course those technological goals are important not only to a “moon shot” program like curing cancer; they are a lynch pin to improving daily, routine patient care.
Technology has changed the way we communicate, the way we shop, the way we watch TV, the way we drive, and the way we interact with our homes. As an industry, healthcare is lagging way behind. And the consequences are drastic. In order for us to deliver the kind of holistic care that will truly improve people’s health, it’s time not only to talk about the potential, but to make it a reality for users and providers across the healthcare continuum.
We have today what 10 years ago was called a supercomputer in front of physicians—a device that knows virtually everything about the patient—but it isn’t helping out in ways we take for granted in our everyday lives when we shop online, use Google Maps or order an Uber. The time has come to make technology-enhanced healthcare a reality.