- If banking were like health care, automated teller machine transactions would take not seconds, but perhaps days or longer as a result of unavailable or misplaced records.
- If home building were like health care, carpenters, electricians and plumbers each would work with different blueprints, with very little coordination
- If shopping were like health care, product prices would not be posted, and the prices charged would vary widely within the same store, depending of the source of payment.
- If automobile manufacturers were like health care, warranties for cars that require manufacturers to pay for defects would not exist. As a result, few factories would seek to monitor and improve production line performance and product quality.
- If airline travel were like health care, each pilot would be free to design his or her own preflight safety check, or not perform one at all.
I’m sure you could add others. These “what ifs” are in the introduction to a lengthy Institute of Medicine report titled “Best Care at Lower Cost – The Path to Continuously Learning Health Care in America.” It’s worth reading and it’s worth considering the reality behind these analogies, funny and scary at the same time and – let’s be honest - unacceptable.
The IoM report joins a long line of studies, conferences and articles that outline the challenges of providing effective care in America today, and provide roadmaps to a new future. So why is change so slow compared to other sectors? Why are the practitioners of care so slow to embrace new ideas? And how long will patients put up with current practices?
According to the IoM, a large part of the reluctance is attitudinal and behavioral. Yes, the incentives to practice differently (and frankly better) are not yet in place, but in primary care, we’ve seen that a lot of physicians simply don’t want to change, and in fact, our biggest competitor is not another vendor of practice technology, but doing nothing.
Yet the world of care – primary and otherwise – is changing irrevocably. Whatever side of the reform debate you sit on, there’s no going back. Enabling technology is here. Accountability is coming. The informed patient is real. The actual question is – are you going to be the change, or be forced to change?
One thing we’ve seen in the physicians deciding to adopt Hello Health is that they’ve made the shift in how they practice. They’re not enticed solely through the artificial incentive of federal Meaningful Use funds. They know their patients want to engage with them more meaningfully, they want to get rid of the paper burden, they know that a profitable business is a better practice. They want to address the future of practice head on.
It’s interesting when you think of all of the sectors referenced above in the analogies. Each adopted its own enabling technologies and the resultant better business practices, but the real transformation occurred when customers embraced the change. Businesses became more responsive, more innovative and for the leaders, more profitable. The customers experienced then demanded more choice, more transparency, more information. It’s not about customers paying less, although they sometimes do. It’s about them willing to pay appropriately for the value they perceive. Change has been mutually beneficial.
We talk about “new revenue” for doctors at Hello Health. Sustainable profitability, the outcome of new revenue, requires new attitudes along with new technology. Even before the health “system” really starts performing in a coordinated, efficient manner, the primary care physician can already provide the connectivity, communication and automation that lead to a more engaging, more valuable relationship that patients will embrace, something they value and will pay for. Your patients and you will both profit from change.
Steven Ferguson is the patient management officer at Hello Health, the revenue generating EHR platform for primary care practices supporting practice vitality through patient engagement and electronic medical revenue.