In my daily review of a broad range of articles about healthcare and innovation, I have to admit that the patient – which should be the focal point of healthcare efforts – is often woefully left to the side or brought up as an afterthought. The “business” of healthcare has become front and center, while patients and their real health and satisfaction languish.
This week, Dr. James C. Salwitz wrote a poignant piece: A plea for a universal unified EMR. The entire piece revolves around the patient and what the physician needs to serve and help the patient. This was such a refreshing change from so many of the pieces I read that are so totally engulfed in the dollars and cents. This excerpt sums up Salwitz’s frustration and the sad state we have found ourselves in.
At some point, this gets to be ridiculous. Online, I can buy any item from anywhere at any price, pay any bill, watch any movie, listen to any song, order dinner, schedule car repair or read about any subject on Wikipedia. I can determine the weather in Rio, sport scores of Barcelona, Parisian traffic or by GPS the location of my kids, just down the block.
However, I absolutely cannot learn anything at all of the health history of the flesh and blood cancer patient sitting right in front of me.
The tone of this piece is in such start contrast to another article I read when researching this topic. In Robert N. Charette’s U.S. Electronic Health Record Initiative: A Backlash Growing?, the word “patient” appears just 1 time in the entire 1,386 word piece. I am not saying that Charette’s piece is bad. In fact, it is a nice summary of the woes of the Electronic Health Record (EHR) initiative in the U.S. Rather, I am simply pointing out the dehumanization of our healthcare discussions. I am not naïve. I do recognize that healthcare must be paid for and that there is a robust economy around healthcare. Yet, if we lose focus on the patient, we risk being entrenched in the matters of business only. When ultimately, without patients there would be no healthcare.
While I am certainly not an expert on Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) / Electronic Health Records (EHRs), I do provide a fresh look from someone that has a wealth of expertise in innovation and technology transfer. In my work as a technology transfer and open innovation consultant, I use a consistent focus on the “customer.” In the case of healthcare innovation (and reform), I think that we run the risk of forgetting that the patient is THE customer. Vendors, hospitals, and other healthcare company needs and wants should be taking a back seat to the patient needs for having complete and easily transportable access to their EMR. Do we want to lose what is best for patients under the avalanche of bureaucracy and entrenched businesses with their own objectives? Certainly, we can all agree with Salwitz that not having access to the records of his patients ultimately leads to bad healthcare decisions. If you were the patient, wouldn’t you want your doctor to have all your information before making a life or death decision on your behalf?