Exciting Times for Health Information

Happy New Year 1910!

Image by Puzzler4879 A Blessed New Year To All via Flickr

Here we are again at the end of another year. Some say the perception of the years speeding by faster and faster is just an attribute of getting older. But I prefer to think that the last year flew by because it was busy and exciting! The year was full of activity, for M*Modal which continues to grow by leaps and bounds, and for me personally.

This was the year I got myself back to school, the year I made lots of new friends and worked with lots of old ones with a similar passion for health information at AHDI and AHIMA and with our M*Modal customers. It was the year I took on new projects such as working with the interns from University of Pittsburgh’s HIM program, and it was also the year I learned about social media! As I look back I can hardly believe that I only entered the world of social media this past summer. Social media has been such a tremendous communication tool and source of information and education for me that I can’t imagine doing without it now.

But most of all, this was a year during which conversations about health care changed in an incredibly exciting way.

Yesterday I was talking with my boss, Michael Finke, CEO and spiritual leader (though he does not admit to that) of this no-longer-little movement we call M*Modal, when he said this might be the most exciting time for healthcare and for health information that has been seen in decades. I agree.

Why? Because the conversation is changing. Conversation about healthcare is changing its focus from being about “improving healthcare” to being about “improving patient health.” A few years ago, that kind of statement would have been seen as idealistic and unrealistic, but now I read about it every day.

This last year has been full of talk about the Accountable Care Organization (ACO) and the Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH), established under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to transform care of the patient to a collaborative team effort – a team that includes the patient – to manage chronic illness, to prevent complications and avoid hospitalizations and procedures when possible, and to improve overall health.

Physicians and healthcare organizations are making use of social media to promote and educate the public about health matters. Influential physician bloggers such as Kevin Pho, MD (KevinMD.com) continually provide much needed information about health and about changes in healthcare. Mayo Clinic reaches thousands through its Center for Social Media, with greater than 100,000 followers on Twitter and the largest medical provider channel on Youtube.

Vaunted health systems such as Mayo Clinic, Geisinger Health System, and Kaiser Permanente are leading the way, showing the rest of the world how healthcare can be centered around the patient and not around reimbursement.

Kaiser’s incredible book Connected for Health: Using Electronic Health Records to Transform Care Delivery (Liang, 2010) talks about placing the patient at the center of care, “home as the hub” (Liang, 2010, p. 15), and how their efforts to improve health information contribute to patient health.

Mayo Clinic explains its history and how it continues to act on the vision of the Mayo brothers years after they are gone in another of my favorite reads, Management Lessons from Mayo Clinic: Inside One of the Worlds Most Admired Service Organizations (Berry, Seltman. 2008).

And Geisinger Health System sees results by piloting  innovative new payment models for patients – package prices for total care before, during, and after certain procedures rather than pricing for each individual event that occurs during a patient stay – including treatment for any complications that might occur.

Systems like Mayo and Geisinger prove that physicians and researchers, passionate about the health of their patients, will flock to a system that revolves around health of the patient even if they are paid as employees and not for the numbers of patients they see or the number of procedures they perform. I think that model for healthcare must be an incredible relief to physicians who have long been feeling the pinch of lower reimbursement and higher costs at the expense of the health of their patients.

And what must exist at the core of all of these efforts in order for them to succeed? Health information. Without complete, accurate, timely, and accessible health information, collaborative care of the patient can’t happen. In fact, as we read every day, health information can no longer be separated from the topic of patient health.

So despite the results of the last election and the talk about healthcare reform being rolled back, the train is a-rolling. There is no stopping it now.

What do I say to the nay-sayers in Washington who are determined to repeal healthcare reform because of party politics? At the risk of sounding incredibly naïve – and maybe just a little bit silly (when has that ever stopped me before) – I’m going to re-visit the words of Bob Dylan when he said…

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall….

….For the times they are a-changin’. (Dylan, 1963)

In the new year ahead, in our world of health information, let’s not be left behind. Let’s join the conversation and think about how we can contribute to better patient health.

I can’t wait to see what we can do together in 2011!

All the best to you and yours for the New Year,
Lynn

References:

Liang, L. L. (2010). Connected for health: Using electronic health records to transform care delivery. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Dylan, B. (1963).  “The Times They are A-Changin’.” Lyrics. Copyright by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1991, 1992 by Special Rider Music.  Retrieved December 30, 2010 from http://www.bobdylan.com/#/songs/the-times-they-are-a-changin

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