I’m an IT professional. Some people use the terms “geek,” “nerd,” or “technology aficionado.” I’m proud of these badges of honor. And, I love what I do; always have and always will. As Director of Physician Information Services for IASIS Healthcare, I travel from practice to practice supporting over 400 physicians across seven states. When I say “support,” I mean that literally. Physicians everywhere are grappling with how to “adopt and adapt” to the new technology requirements mandated by new congressional legislation. It’s “go digital or bust” in today’s tumultuous healthcare climate.

It’s not easy for physicians to balance treating patients with the quality measures and government mandates now required of them. Beyond helping them implement and learn the functionality of each application, I am also trying to help them deal with the mounting frustration that comes with having to change the way they practice medicine. This is a dramatic change, any way you look at it. I am constantly asked, “Why do we have to do this?” My peers and I have also come up against the pressure that providers are feeling: “How does the government expect us to treat our patients and manage all these IT requirements?” My favorite question that providers ask is, “Why do I have to develop new templates and workflows when my current templates are working just fine?” To these questions, I reply “We’re in a new technological age where electronic healthcare data is essential to move forward. I’m here to help you do this!”

Provider communication, Interoperability and the next guy

Healthcare is undergoing a massive transformation as we move on in the age of the technologically connected world. All the systems we are implementing today drive interoperability and sharing patient data so we can focus on the whole patient. For instance, we’re not just looking at the injured knee any longer. We’re also addressing the condition of obesity that has damaged that knee.

The contemporary electronic health record, (EHR) allows us to capture all the required information in the patient visit. And yes, it is more information than would ever have been collected previously. Times are changing and that change is sometimes faster than we can keep pace with. However, I tell our providers that we will get you where you need to be. This journey will result in providing the patient volume you need to be successful and paying you accordingly.

Digital documentation is critical for reasons beyond government mandates. Think of your patients. What happens if you leave the practice or retire? What happens to your patients? Someone will be taking your place. What about the doctor who takes your place? That is why interoperability and exchange of data are vital features to the EHR. The improved communication among providers and the electronic documentation of all patient information is a big payoff in return for some upfront effort and expense. And, at the same time, the providers themselves come to benefit from this. During the training process the providers become experts at managing their own data, reducing their risk, and improving outcomes.

So what’s this got to do with antibiotics?

Switching gears, now. Starting last year, I traveled to Africa for two weeks with a group of volunteers. Our intention is to continue this for the next six years.  This year, we are going to Bauya, an African village in Sierra Leone near Freetown. We are helping to build an orphanage, and while there, we assist with healthcare, medications, and water purification. Our goal is restoration for each child and building a secure hope for his or her future.

No matter how overwhelming this transition to “electronic everything” may seem to all of us, nothing trumps what I see on these trips. Talk about putting things in perspective!

Going from ‘head in my laptop’ 80 hours a week, to a village very poor and impoverished, is a real eye opener. There is no electricity so, ironically, these folks will never have to worry about electronic health records. There is one doctor for the entire village and virtually no medical supplies. Over-the-counter medical supplies that we take for granted, such as rubbing alcohol, bandages, antibiotics, and Neosporin, are just not available. These villagers lack clean water so that any wound, no matter how minor, is likely to get infected. In America, we complain if we have to wait in the waiting room when the doctor is running late. With the shift to value-based healthcare, even these trivial inconveniences will be minimized with the push for operational efficiency. But, in Bauya and most third-world countries, cultivating patience is the only way to survive. This is not news to most of us. More than 80% of the world’s population lives in abject poverty. The word technology is not even in their vocabulary; no cell phones, no fax machines, no email…nada.

The most important theme that I brought back from my trips is that it’s really important for us to remember that with every transaction, there is a “human” at the receiving end of everything we do. At the end of the day, it’s all about helping each other. We take so much for granted in the United States, especially our access to quality healthcare.

So, no matter how frustrating this transition is, what have we really got to complain about?

 

More About IASIS Healthcare

Founded in 1997, privately held IASIS Healthcare owns and operates community-focused hospitals in high-growth urban and suburban markets. IASIS owns and operates 16 acute care hospitals, one behavioral health hospital, and one managed care plan throughout the U.S. IASIS Healthcare has a presence in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Nevada, Texas, and Utah.