The Patient Matters

As I attended HIMSS17 last week in Orlando, I had time to reflect on how Health Information Technology (HIT) has progressed over the years.

Medical care once simply meant a provider visited a home or spent 30 minutes interacting with a patient to understand their perspective and needs.  The result: face time and many written notes with pharmaceuticals and instruments in a black bag.

Then HIT came on the scene and became a major player in the provider business.  The attention turned to collecting data and automating process all with the focus of capturing information for billing — from order slips to “key punchers.”

Over time, billing requirements changed and early adopters of technology recognized that capturing orders to drive billing was beneficial because you could look at a patient’s order history and then capture clinical information important for managing the patient’s care.

But all of this was for the providers – for billing and creating a history on the patient for the providers to use.  HIT adopters envisioned empirical data driven health care. They believed if they could gain discrete access to data such as lab results, imaging results, range of motion, etc., then it would greatly improve overall patient care.

Yes, this empirical data is important, but we also realize there is still a critical piece missing.

Take an example from Laurence Higgins, MD.1 He noted that a patient recovering from shoulder surgery had a 75% range of motion. This sounds like a success until you ask the patient who shared that, while they did have great range of motion, they were experiencing extreme pain.  Now that recovery doesn’t seem so successful.

This now creates a whole new facet of HIT.  We need smarter software utilizing Cognitive Computing, a topic so eloquently presented this week by the keynote speaker Ginni Rometty, IBM chairman, president and CEO.

This is the major opportunity facing healthcare today.  The HIT industry is making a paradigm shift from hardcore numbers and facts to looking for relationships and applying cognitive knowledge to provide better care for patients.

Another key focus is increasing patient involvement.  Payers are recognizing that an involved patient will drive down the cost of care and improve clinical outcomes.  But doing so comes with challenges including, first and foremost, how to communicate with a population that may have low health literacy skills, are technology challenged, have limited reading skills, are attention challenged, and have diminished motor skills.

While 5 out of 10 people have limited literacy, an astounding nine out of 10 have limited health literacy2.

Interaction with this population presents its fair share of obstacles. Yet, we must find ways to present complicated information in easy to understand ways, create interactions that are intuitive and maintain data integrity, sustain user interest, and teach all new skills and behaviors.

So here we are – rounding full circle, again.  However, healthcare and specifically HIT is in a better position to collect data while augmenting that information with the patient experience and applying cognitive analysis to provide the best care in a cost-effective way.

What matters to the patient, must matter to us. It’s imperative that we put the patient first.


Earl Arbuckle, MS PMC-V                                                                                                                                                 Director, Product Management



1 Measuring Value Based Patient Care with Reported Outcomes education session at HIMSS17

2 How to Create Consumer Friendly Health It education session at HIMSS17