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Communication Innovation in Health Care

Posted Apr 09 2009 7:13pm

Much has been said about the benefits of internet technology in health care. It is said that it will decrease adverse reactions and improve efficiency through cost savings that include avoiding duplication of tests and improving the interfacing of various layers of providers. This may be true.

It is also a big, deep money pit into which government may potentially pour billions and billions of dollars without very much at all to show for it. We have already seen how money bled from a variety of organizations that have since been reincarnated. Intentions were good, it's just hard to get going.

Having said this, I am not against IT changes for health care. They must come. I even believe that we will stumble along spending more money than we'd hoped and making costly mistakes along the way. But we must move forward. The world has changed along with patient expectations and we must start somewhere.

The difficulty I have with the IT spending spree is that there seems to be little room for ground up innovation--the kind of innovation that is spawned by physicians having the freedom to innovate on an independent level to provide service that patients need and want. This approach helps eliminate the costly middle infrastructure that not only adds to the cost, but that delays implementation.

We know that it takes about a decade to change very much in health care. As innovative ideas trickle through the various levels of bureaucracy, some meet their demise because they don't mesh with a government driven agenda. Others meet their demise because they can't hope to meet the archaic vision of various provincial  physician regulatory bodies or even because the public insurance computer systems are so antiquated that they can't be made to accommodate modern requirements.

But during all this evolution, we miss the simple communication tools available easily to many of us, both patients and physicians, right now.

At a House of Commons Hearing on Human Health Resources last week, it was clear to me that some MPs are serious about their responsibilities. Others are not. As a witness at the hearings, I was given the opportunity to ask the other witnesses from various groups questions regarding human health resources. To some this might appear quite strange...witnesses being given time to ask witnesses questions. It isn't the usual process that is for sure.

I am left wondering:

Did the MPs want to provide a courtesy to the witnesses like myself?

Did they not know enough about the subject to ask analytical questions?

Had they not followed the presentations well enough to be able to ask questions?

Why this deviation from the usual protocol?

Please do not misconstrue my comments and questions as disrespectful of the MPs and the process. I am merely trying to understand just how BIG the knowledge vacuum is........and I think it is very, very big indeed.

After attending a session at the Rideau Club the week prior at which Keith Martin was also in attendance, I was comforted to read his comment in the National Post Full Comment section April 7 in which he denied our health care system was the "best" in the world. He even admitted that significant change is required. It was a breath of fresh air particularly from the Liberals who seem to be tied to the mast of a sinking health care ship.

Yes, change must come. We need less regulation that stifles innovation. Hang on, please don't trot out the lack of regulation that led to the demise of the US economy. The whole sub-prime mortgage fiasco there was created by  government that encouraged banks to sell products that had no feet to stand on and is not a result of capitalism gone bad.

In health care, we need to find the balance between over-regulation that smothers innovation and patient-driven care vs regulation that could be beneficial and spawn new ways of approaching patient care.

I suspect that as time goes on and the iGeneration begins to need health care in larger amounts, that the system will embrace change. Just look at Jay Parkinson, Hello Health and Myca (Toronto based by the way).

In the meantime, our health care system will shuffle along, not too different from some of  the aging patients we see----unable to adapt quickly and  uncomfortable with  change.

 

 

 

 

 

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