New England HIMSSWe often talk about healthcare technology in terms of benefits such as time savings or cost savings. But what about the human benefits? For providers that means a better quality of life. The same is true of patients – although that better quality of life often means better treatment of disease and a higher life expectancy.

This intersection of technology and humanity took center stage at the New England HIMSS Spring Conference, held on May 16th at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. Here are some highlights and takeaways from the event.

Patients + providers = collaborators

The most moving presentation at the New England HIMSS Conference was by Dave deBronkart (“ePatient Dave”) and Dr. Danny Sands. The two men role-played discussions with a patient and a doctor using ePatient Dave’s real-life kidney cancer diagnosis as the backdrop.

The men presented two types of discussions – one “traditional” discussion and one in which digital health and an exchange of information between patient and doctor played central roles. The goal was to show how collaboration between patients and providers results in greater trust, which leads to better care.

ePatient Dave and Dr. Sands even finished their presentation singing their own version of Robert Palmer’s “Bad Case of Loving You” (Doctor, Doctor!) Definitely the first time I’ve seen a song as part of a conference presentation!

Tackling physician burnout

In addition to taking better care of patients, it’s important for healthcare organizations to take better care of their physicians. Dr. Alain Chaoui, president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, and Dr. Larry Garber, medical director for informatics at Reliant Medical Group, tackled the issue of physician burnout during their presentation.

According to Dr. Chaoui, burnout results from the collision of norms between a physician’s mission to provide patient care and the bureaucratic process. The effects are both personal and professional. About 400 physicians each year commit suicide as a result of burnout. Many others retire early, go into a field other than medicine, or stay in medicine, but in a role other than direct patient care.

Dr. Garber talked about how Reliant has tried to make improvements with its EHR to “make it easy for the right person to do the right thing.” That means that physicians will not always be responsible for every click or approval. As a result of Reliant’s efforts, the organization is currently ranked in the top 3% of healthcare organizations nationwide in physician acceptance of the EHR.

Ensuring information exchange across the care continuum

Highlights from the afternoon sessions at the New England included a session from Micky Tripathi, president & CEO of the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative. He discussed interoperability efforts – where we are with interoperability and some of the issues we need to think about as we move forward.

Juhan Sonin, director of GoInvo and a lecturer at MIT, talked about open source healthcare and the role that patients play in controlling their data.

Conclusion

The conversation around healthcare technology is slowly changing. No longer are healthcare organizations solely thinking about the financial and operational benefits of technology. Now, they are considering the patient and provider benefits. Of course, as we move to more value-based reimbursement methods, cost considerations and patient care are inextricably linked.

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Kathy Sucich

Kathy is director of healthcare marketing at Dimensional Insight. She graduated from Dartmouth College and is currently pursuing her MBA in health sector management at Boston University. Kathy is also communications chair for the Massachusetts chapter of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE).
Kathy Sucich
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