Friday, October 27, 2006

Wouldn't it be nice?

Though I’m not involved professionally with Health care, I’ve always been around conversations concerning this topic. It helps that my father and brother (twin) are Docs. With the entire web 2.0 stuff exploding in the consumer market, I’ve wondered whether the social networking technologies that are currently evolving wouldn't be excellent tools to unite people with a new vision of a stronger and more effective health care system.

I wanted to write this blog, not so much because I have any particular expertise here, but rather, because I'm interested in becoming a part of conversations focused on answering the question:

Does today's web and it's associated technologies (e.g., collaboration, social networking) offer an avenue to developing (and promoting) a vision for a more sensible health care system?

After reading an article in the last issue of Newsweek on “Fixing America’s Hospitals,” I decided to find out more about health care and why everything is so screwed up so I tried to find some objective info on the web. I didn’t realize how tough this is. Sure, there’s some info, but I never know, because of Big Pharma sponsorships, if some of the information is skewed one way or another.

I’m sure there are a lot of studies on improving the health care system, but I found one in particular from the Rand Corporation, which states, “On average, Americans receive about half of recommended medical care processes.” Of note is the end of the report where they offer conclusions or recommendations on how to "fix" the current situation:

What can we do to break through this impasse? Given the complexity and diversity of the health care system, there will be no simple solution. A key component of any solution, however, is the routine availability of information on performance at all levels. Making such information available will require a major overhaul of our current health information systems, with a focus on automating the entry and retrieval of key data for clinical decision-making and for the measurement and reporting of quality.49 Establishing a national base line for performance makes it possible to assess the effect of policy changes and to evaluate large-scale national, regional, state, or local efforts to improve quality.

It’d be cool to have a vision of what a more “sane” system would actually look like. The closest thing to this vision that I came across was something called “People-centered Health care” or “People centered heath care” (not sure of the correct spelling ‘cause it’s spelled both ways). It seems to describe a health care experience 180 degrees different than the institutional experience one must currently endure. .

I found one definition of “patient-centered health care” from the Institute of Health care Improvement stating the following:

Enable health care providers to reliably meet the needs and preferences of patients. We believe that health care that is customized based on patient needs and preferences will make tremendous strides toward improving patient-provider relationships, sharing knowledge, and putting patients in control. Customization of care also helps to eliminate unwanted, unneeded, and wasteful services; and increase the effectiveness of care delivered.

Enable fully informed, shared decision-making. There is increasing evidence that patients and families who participate fully in care decisions help to improve the quality of medical decisions and reduce overuse of aggressive surgical treatments without worsening health outcomes. (Annette O’Connor)

Include patients and their loved ones on health care improvement and design teams. Doing so has transformed the improvement experience for the health care organizations that have embraced this challenge.

Currently, social websites such as Myspace are making headlines because of their ability to connect people. The technologies employed in such sites go by a number of names: Web 2.0, the social web. It occurs to me that these are precisely the type of tools that could ably address the areas (communication, collaboration, etc.) that "experts" highlight as problem areas within the healthcare system.

Wouldn’t it make sense to get patients, caregivers, and others to hook up in a Myspace-type environment all with the same vision (people-centered health care)? Employing such tools aren’t solutions bound to emanate?
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