The occasion of National Health IT Week prompts me to consider the importance of achieving the “Triple Aim” of healthcare reform: enhancing patient’s experience, improving the outcomes of care, and delivering optimal value for the lowest possible cost. While these broad goals help drive both the direction of health IT in general, and our organization’s mission specifically, I have the added incentive of experiencing their import first hand, as both a patient and a caregiver.
My wife and I adopted our son Ethan at the age of 3. We knew at the time that his gallbladder had been removed when he was an infant. He suffered recurring stomach pain throughout his short life. In 2010, Ethan required multiple hospitalizations for what turned out to be chronic pancreatitis. We went to many specialists over the next couple of years. My wife and I carried around a thick binder containing our son’s medical information. It was our responsibility to inform each new provider of Ethan’s entire health history. Our intimate understanding of every treatment, test run, lab reading, and scan result was critical to his care. He was deathly afraid of needles, so every “poke” we could prevent was one less traumatic event in his life.
In August 2013, at the age of 47, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 prostate cancer, with no family history or symptoms. Because of the severity of my case, I was referred to the Mayo Clinic for treatment. In the midst of dealing with a new cancer diagnosis, I had to visit all of my various providers and collect my own medical records – I built my own health binder. (Ultimately I had radical surgery and have fortunately remained cancer free since)
These scenarios are certainly not unique to me or my family. For instance, most people don’t see one doctor exclusively, or even have all of their doctors in the same health system. It is far more typical to see different providers across the community, and sometimes even across the state or the country. At some point in time, we are all responsible for carrying our own health “binder” (or that of our kids or parents) around, in order to tie the health care community together and assure that we receive the best treatment possible. As both parent and a professional in health IT, I quickly became convinced that that’s not good enough.
Whether we are addressing our children’s needs, assisting parents struggling with the effects of aging, or managing our own health concerns, these are a necessary and unavoidable aspects of life for us all. The role of HIT is to make those interactions seamless, simple, and as productive as possible. Ultimately, the goal of HIT is to support optimal health for our families, friends, and all citizens all across the country. We’re working hard every day to eliminate the ‘binders’ and to make the US healthcare system a shining example of a “Care-Connected Community” for the rest of the world. That’s what I’m committed to, and why #IHeartHIT.