January 15, 2020

New Year’s resolutions, not revolutions

Big Journeys Begin With Small Steps sign on desert road

Happy New Year! We’ll leave it to others to debate whether 2020 is the end of one decade or the beginning of the next. Instead, we already are looking ahead for what the year will bring in the way of engaging healthcare IT to improve patient outcomes.

What are the “standard” New Year’s resolutions? Lose weight. Be healthier. They are, at a level, similar to what we in the healthcare IT community often set out to do: “create standards,” “improve interoperability.”

However, the enormity of what we are trying to do becomes overwhelming. The goals are too big and often not quantifiable. That makes it easier to quit. “Forget it! I can’t do that.”

That is a vicious cycle that swirls downward. Instead, let’s consider the virtuous circle: small victories that fuel other small victories that, over time, meet bigger goals.

Breaking big-picture goals into smaller chunks makes them easier to tackle. Experts suggest such things as eliminating soda six days a week or making a commitment to exercise for 20 minutes a day as ways to tackle “get healthy/lose weight.”

So, we wanted to propose a few things we believe could move the healthcare IT community forward with its goals. They are focused and – aside from politics or financial interests (which aren’t mutually exclusive, of course) – doable in relatively short order if resources were purposefully allocated to them.

  1. Establish a uniform national patient ID – This is a financially fueled political hot potato that’s been cynically buried under the “privacy” red herring. Other countries have done it; the United States can – and should – too.
  2. Settle on a patient-matching system – If #1 won’t happen, there’s no reason the medical community can’t agree to use what amount to “patient-matching” systems in other industries (and particularly, the financial-services industry). “Healthcare is different” is a tired mantra. Credit-card companies are equally beholden to protect customers’ data and obviously are selfishly incentivized to ensure the money they process goes to the right places.
  3. Adopt meaningful care coordination – It’s important for all the caregivers involved in treating a patient, and especially one with chronic conditions, to have meaningful access to what the others are doing. The increased use of open-source, scalable systems even in smaller care “circles” may demonstrate the value care-coordination tools can bring to bear and encourage their use more extensively.

All three of these items are critically important because they potentially impact patient safety. At the least, they present the potential for missed or overlapping care, which can escalate costs and diminish best-case outcomes. We wrote a good deal about No. 2 in 2019; expect No. 3 to be a focus this year.

What are the three items you want to see tackled in 2020? We look forward to hearing from you and discussing those things in person over the course of the year.

Subscribe to email updates