I came across the most wonderful article today on ForbesBrandVoice by athenahealth contributor, Dr. Stephen Klasko. The article, What Doctors Aren't Learning In Medical School And Why It Matters, touches on a theme that has been near and dear to me over the course of my own medical career--the importance of communication and collaboration in healthcare.
Dr. Klasko has intimate knowledge about education, doctors and medical students. He is the President and CEO of the highly regarded Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health in Philadelphia. In the article, he cites some of the findings from athenahealth's ninth "Epocrates Future Physicians of America Survey". The annual survey seeks opinions from more than 1400 medical students about topics impacting the medical profession. Probably to no ones surprise, only ten percent of the students plan to seek solo or partnership practice after graduation and residency. It seems even these young doctors-to-be are savvy enough to realize the sands have sifted in medical economics.
However, what I absolutely loved about what these students had to say in the survey is summarized by Dr. Klasko in the following points:
An impressive 96 percent of students believe that to deliver high quality care, it is important to collaborate effectively with extended care teams, including registered nurses, physician assistants, specialists, and medical staff (a stance not often shared by the medical societies they may soon be joining).
However, nearly 60 percent consider lack of communication between care teams the biggest obstacle to effective care coordination. In fact, concerns about inadequate cross-team communication was acknowledged by seventy-five percent of students surveyed.
That is music to my ears because it so totally confirms what I've been saying for the past 14 years during my health industry tenure at Microsoft. Healthcare is all about communication and collaboration. Not only has medical education dismissed this by teaching future doctors to be competitive, autonomous, hierarchical and noncreative, but even when young doctors begin to understand the importance of communication and collaboration in medical practice, the "health system" is woefully behind other industries in making available the contemporary tools that foster effective communication and collaboration.
At Microsoft I have more than 100,000 colleagues who represent our workforce around the globe. My more direct teammates and partners who manage our health industry business around the world number in the thousands. Yet communication and collaboration with anyone on any team is as simple as picking up a device (smartphone, tablet, laptop, or from my desktop) and making a couple of clicks with a mouse or taps on a screen. With Skype for Business and Exchange Active Directory, I can reach out to any one or any group. I can see if they are online, offline or busy. I can see their role and expertise in their organization. I can communicate asynchronously with email or synchronously with messaging, voice, video and even multi-party web conferencing. I have other tools in what we call our productivity suite (Office 365) that let me collaborate with teammates on documents, spreadsheets and presentations, again either synchronously or asynchronously. Furthermore, I can use a workplace social tool (Yammer) to more broadly share information, ask questions, find experts, etc. I have a world of options at my fingertips that I can utilize no matter where I am or what I'm doing.
The irony is that the same medical students who participated in the Epocrates survey are likely to be heavy users of all things digital and social in their everyday lives. They grew up with this technology, yet our health institutions where they now find themselves learning and working are mostly in the dark--still using pagers (overhead and electronic), old fashioned phones, and even fax machines. Yikes!
It doesn't have to be this way, and isn't among some of the more progressive health institutions we work with here in America and around the globe. Whether you are teaching medical students, residents, or running a hospital, clinic or health system, you owe it to your clinical staff and patients to break the grip of old, tired technologies and manual processes and join the new industrial workplace. These tools are as applicable in healthcare as they are in any other industry, and perhaps even more important considering what's at stake--health, safety, and human lives.
Bill Crounse, MD Senior Director, Worldwide Health Microsoft