I just returned from an overnight trip to Toronto, Canada. If you plan on making the trip yourself, let me warn you. Flying back to the States is a major hassle these days. I spent more than 2 hours waiting in four different lines of check-in, customs and security checks before arriving at my gate.
The reason for my quick trip to Toronto was to provide a breakfast keynote to healthcare executives, public health officials and clinicians at the invitation of eHealth Ontario. Later the same morning I was invited to speak at the launch of eHealth Ontario’s Physician’s Task Force. There I was joined by clinical leaders from across Ontario who will help chart the course of eHealth initiatives in the region.
Just as what is dominating discussion in America these days, an important component of eHealth Ontario’s work is increasing the adoption and use of electronic medical records systems by Ontario physicians. According to speakers at the gathering, about 35 percent of physicians in Ontario are currently using EMRs. Clearly, digitizing clinical information is an important goal. But as I’ve pointed on this Blog and in my discussions with eHealth Ontario and other groups, this is just the beginning of the journey to improve patient care and citizen health. In fact, it is not the EMR that will deliver the value but rather what we do next with the health information that is digitized. I summarized my thinking with the following recommendations to eHealth Ontario.
- Focus on projects and initiatives that reduce complexity. Technology only adds real value when it reduces complexity.
- Focus on projects to improve care team communication and collaboration. (Unified Communications).
- Focus on projects that engage consumers/patients and provide transactional value; again reducing complexity in how consumers engage with the health system.
- Look for opportunities to use technology to facilitate patient referrals, reduce errors, and improve patient flow and through-put.
- Look for ways to meet consumer's needs with exactly the most appropriate level of service, at the most appropriate time and place (messaging, e-mail, phone, web, and in-office visits).
- Where possible, apply commodity, flexible, adaptive technology when building industry solutions.
- Remember, so many of today’s solutions are not as dependent on the technology (we can solve for that) as they are on human behaviors, regulations, and business models that reward innovation with properly placed incentives.
Time and time again, I have seen healthcare organizations adhere to these common sense principles and succeed where others have failed. The opportunity to use technology to solve some of our most pressing issues in health and healthcare is immense. And, that opportunity is in all kinds of areas in clinical practice and public health that have nothing to do with EMRs. In fact, some of the biggest and fastest returns on investment will come from these other areas. Now, if only we could figure out how to make flying fun again.
Bill Crounse, MD Senior Director, Worldwide Health Microsoft