Health IT is “I will see the doctor now”

Patients Don’t Care About Meaningful Use

Brad Tritle, Chair, HIMSS Social Media Task Force

With all of the excitement and discussion around Meaningful Use Stage 2 happening, it is perhaps good to remind the industry of something physicians and other providers already know: Patients don’t care about Meaningful Use.

What DO they care about?

Well, we know they care about family, work, friends, recreation, faith and health. They care about time for – and away from – each of those. More and more people are connected via phones, smartphones, and other mobile devices. They are spending more time online via social media, texting or emails, with their family, for work, friends, recreation, faith and – health??

We know from the surveys and information relayed to us by Susannah Fox (Pew Internet) and Jane Sarasohn-Kahn that people are going online looking for health information (“NOW”). Because they need it? Let’s take that slowly: People are online…looking for health information/education…looking for answers to concerns…any time of day or night…and…where/when can they engage with their physician/provider? Is it the next day, in two days, a week or more?

When I’m dealing with a health issue, but have to work anyway, I often (try to) put it out of my mind so that I can continue being productive. I might not think again about it until that night, possibly right before bed. The same goes for when a family member brings me a health issue or a need for a renewed prescription – it seems to be in the evening when we have time to talk with each other and reflect. I’ve been fortunate that my physician has set me up with secure messaging, and I seem to always send her messages about 10 pm (“NOW”). Then I can rest, knowing that I will have an answer from a knowledgeable source often within one day (during the week).

I will confess I have also asked health questions of physicians who don’t know me via an iPhone app, just due to wanting to ask the question when it was on my mind (“NOW”). The answer was somewhat useful, and did reflect a lack of knowledge of my health history, but hey, it was free and almost immediate, so what do I have to complain about? Still, if I had ready access to my health history to share….This reminds me of the recent ONC video:

If you’re unable to view the video in your web browser view it here.

Not surprisingly, employers are recognizing it makes sense to allow employees to interface virtually from their desk or home with healthcare providers, saving time away from work, though certainly the outcome needs to be good (if not, it means lower productivity and time away from work). There are more telehealth consult (including behavioral health) companies becoming part of employee benefits, and incredible innovations are occurring in this area. Most of them relate to allowing me, the patient, to see the doctor NOW, with the caveat that this is for urgent or emergent care – health issues that I can’t put out of my mind perhaps, and not to take the place of my regular physician. Some even offer to coordinate with my physician, providing me and my physician with a summary. Some physicians are even looking at offering such teleconsults as an extension of their patient portal, and a way to fill up certain parts of their schedule.

So, access to my records, secure messaging and patient education – these things seem to matter to patients. Hmmm…sound like Meaningful Use to you?

Brad Tritle (@btritle) is Chair, HIMSS Social Media Task Force; Principal, Health-e Republic; Director of Healthcare Business Development, IGC; and CEO, eHealth Nexus. This article first appeared on the HIMSS blog on September 5, 2012.