Do patients have experiences or problems? It’s a question of culture that is as important within the face-to-face interactions between physicians and patients as it is with even simple health information technology (IT) tools such as the patient portal.
All the patient data that continues to become more accessible in the context of EHR is useful for transparency, but it still requires the keen insight of the physician to help tell the story that weaves that fragmented data together in a meaningful way for patients. Perhaps, this is why it’s called meaningful use and not collection.
Collecting data from a patient (e.g., demographics, family history, symptoms) and transforming this into actionable information in the form of a care plan is what being a clinician is all about. That’s why these healthcare professionals are doing the jobs they do.
The tradition of the clinic visit that has been defined by the problem as a reason for the patient being present or engaged in a conversation about her health may be a key obstacle in the new dialogue about accountable care and the strategic use of EHR. The new dialogue about measuring outcomes of health and even a deeper emphasis on preventive health versus the old-fashioned sick care is about the story of the patient.
From the physician’s point-of-view, the ability to tell a story within the EHR may be as easily described as going beyond the clicks of radio buttons often associated with the discrete data gathering for demonstrating meaningful use. Whether it’s physicians in one clinic or several working in collaboration through a referral network, they’ve shared with me the value they immediately saw within EHR systems to facilitate readable notes about a patient for continuity of care years before the meaningful use incentive. Giving legibility, not only structure, is what makes EHR adoption many times more meaningful.
The patient experience is no longer defined by a hospital stay, and accountability for care measures are proof of that new reality. Whether it’s a conversation in the clinic about the important features of the EHR or history and symptoms of the patient’s problem, this dialogue represents much more than just the “voice of the customer.”
Perhaps this short video from a great storyteller, Kurt Vonnegut, may stimulate the connection to the physician-patient interaction as an opportunity to weave that data together with respect to outcomes and emotions:
Robert Green is the author of Community Healthcare: Finding a Common Ground with New Expectations in Healthcare. Through his physician client relationships, Bob has gained substantial insight regarding the daily challenges that medical professionals and their staffs face, such as regulatory issues, financial management, and clinical collaboration through the use of health IT. His process of making both interpersonal and purposeful connections within the organization results in improved employee performance and confidence and enhanced client experience.