At Impact Advisors, we know the importance of healthcare IT. That is why last week we joined more than 440 organizations from across the country to celebrate National Healthcare IT Week (NHIT). Each day we go to work and help our clients improve the quality of healthcare delivery, increase patient safety, decrease medical errors, and strengthen the interaction between patients and healthcare providers. We work side by side with our clients to solve some of the toughest challenges in healthcare. While we recognize our work is in IT, we know our positive Impact is on patient outcomes. The patient will always remain at the heart of everything we do. We want to thank all healthcare IT professionals for making a positive Impact and would like to share some stories from our Associates on why healthcare IT is so important to them.
Positive Health Impacts of Health IT
I am incredibly fortunate to be healthy, and I do not take my health for granted. Most of us know that we should maintain a healthy diet and adhere to a planned exercise regimen; but that’s only part of the equation for staying healthy. Another key component of managing your own health is getting routine healthcare: annual physical exam, semi-annual dental cleaning and exam, recommended lab work, etc. Healthcare Information Technology had simplified this component of managing my health and enabled me to better plan my daily diet and exercise regimen.
With a patient portal literally at my fingertips via my smartphone, I have twenty-four seven access to schedule my routine healthcare exams, review my lab results, review the progress notes from my recent visit and see a list any recommended procedures based on my gender and age. In some cases, I have the ability to have a virtual appointment with my provider, while I am on a coffee break, rather than taking time off of work.
Healthcare information technology has significantly increased the visibility to my health records, and I have become much more engaged with managing my health. I can view how my lab tests, for example, have changed over time and use that information to modify my diet and exercise regimen. Healthcare information technology has provided me with the information I need to take a proactive approach to my health management.
One of the most positive impacts healthcare information technology has had in my life is seeing how my increased awareness and engagement has inspired some of my family and friends to do the same.
People Are the Reason We Do What We Do
In the 15 years I’ve been working in the healthcare IT field, I have heard a lot of complaints. “Oh, those darn nurses don’t even know how to (technical thing) (huff, sigh),”or, “These doctors are so frustrating; I wish they weren’t on the system,” or, “I could barely walk to the cafeteria because of all the patients wandering around.”
I don’t agree with them. I realized early on in my career that doctors, nurses and especially patients, aren’t the problem with HIT — they’re the REASON we do what we do. Nurses don’t HAVE to know how to do technical things — that’s MY job. Doctors are frustrating when they’re frustrated, and if they’re frustrated by their EMR, that’s MY job to fix it. And patients “wandering around?” This may be their first trip to the hospital that I work in daily. Hospitals are pretty confusing places to navigate, and it’s probably been a stressful day for them. It’s MY job to empathize and lead them to their destination if I can. It’s MY job. That’s the common thread.
My job is to help providers and staff do THEIR job better, so that they can better care for their patients. Those patients are someone’s parent, child, sibling, spouse, partner or friend. I would want my own parents, children, friends or spouse to receive the best possible care…why would I want anything different for anyone else?
I’m passionate about what I do, even on the frustrating days, because I know that the time I save a doctor by providing her the information she needs may allow her to see one more patient that day. The information I provide an ICU nurse may allow him to catch a problem before it becomes life threatening. The information I provide a patient through a portal like Epic’s MyChart may alleviate their worry. I heart HIT, because it’s MY job.
Health IT: Care, Compassion and Technology
Two dates are important for everyone. The date of their birth and the date of their death. The years spanning these two dates give multiple opportunities to seek out health care services. All those serving in health care have the ability to provide stories of success, or failure, whether personal or professional. Those of us working in Information Technology have the ability to touch thousands of lives with our work. We may not see the individual faces of those that benefit from our work, we continue to provide the technology to our health care clinical partners. Occasionally, we need to remind ourselves that our work does touch the patients’ lives, and we do impact them. The story I share is one of care, compassion, and technology.
My mother, suffering from multiple ailments (most stemming from a car accident in her twenties) takes several medications. After her regularly scheduled lab draw to check her levels, the lab system interfaced the results directly to her Primary Care Providers in basket. Within 24 hours, my mother’s PCP called and asked her to come in for a quick evaluation. Unbeknownst to us, my mom had cancer. Her pain medication masked the symptoms and without the lab interfacing to her medical record, it might have gone uncaught for an undetermined amount of time. Happily, the cancer was found and her PCP and care team were able to get her referred to the Oncology team for treatment. Another opportunity for the electronic health record to kick into gear.
Mom’s referral was entered into the system that day, and she received a call from the Oncology care team within 24 hours. Because of these automated systems that worked within her medical record, and the care she received, I had extra time with my mother. Time that otherwise would have been lost. A critical component to my mother’s care was the electronic health record. Where we can automate processes, it can give back time for the patient to spend with their loved ones. While our work is not patient facing, they are just as important. Consider your work in Information Technology as an additional care partner. You are a critical partner for thousands of patients. What you do matters!
Some experiences move us in ways that we never imagined. Being present in the moments that most challenge us, often change us. Unfortunately, for those who have experienced the agony of watching a friend or loved one suffer through debilitating illness, we’ve seen the frequent opportunities for improvement across the continuum of care in our healthcare industry. Witnessing these moments reinforced my desire to help in whichever way I could. Admittedly, I didn’t know enough to practice medicine; however, I could certainly help improve the lives of our caregivers and patients through the implementation and optimization of technology.
There is no doubt that those who directly take care of our patients are certainly the front line of providing world class care and outcomes. It’s a privilege to stand with them and assist this group of folks who are helping to make a real Impact in the lives of others. Thankfully, working in healthcare IT provides the unique opportunity to improve the patient’s interaction with their caregivers on many levels. What we do in health IT is not easy. Often, we find ourselves at the intersection of the two most dangerous groups of people in the world; those who want to change everything, and those who want to change nothing. It’s a tremendous chance to deliver results and broker peace by retaining what works while helping others to understand the potential benefits that are readily available through the thoughtful implementation of technology.
Make no mistake, these are the defining moments. The “aha” moments when independent thinkers realize that they are tightly woven members of interdependent processes. Ultimately, these moments have a way of building upon themselves and presenting us with the opportunities to help make a difference in the lives of the most fragile among us. For this, I am thankful.
Healthcare IT: One Less Worry
Four years ago, my partner had gone to our primary physician with a complaint of a sore throat and puffiness in his neck. We were sent for tests a few days later at an imaging office the physician is affiliated with. I hadn’t even pulled out of the parking lot when I received a call to come back to the office. A few minutes later, we received the diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and immediately were referred to an oncologist who was affiliated with our physician.
At the oncologist office, the lab and imaging results were in the system and a care plan was established. Upon completion of chemotherapy, the radiation oncologist began his portion of the treatment. Due to an electronic medical record they were all a part of, every test, lab result and medication administered was available for review. The electronic medical record lived up to its expectation!
Knowing that all of my partner’s medical information was available set my mind at ease. I knew each physician was able to see the whole picture. Therefore, I was able to focus on the matters at hand and not worry if the insurance information was correct or if the latest lab results were in.
Even today, follow up visits are made easier by having one less worry knowing the latest imaging result or lab work available is in the system. I heart HIT for being there by making a difficult situation so much easier and allowing me to focus on what really mattered. I am proud to be a consultant in health IT and hope that what I do has a positive Impact on other’s as it did on me. Also, I am happy to say the treatment was successful and my partner is now in remission!
Moving the Point of Impacting our Patients
As a clinical pharmacist, it was always very fulfilling as well as obvious when I made an impact on a patient’s life. Whether direct advice to the patient, working collaboratively with his or her physician, or intervening on a potentially dangerous medication order; I was making a difference.
Often though, my part in the process was one where I needed to be reactive. People often ask me if I miss being a pharmacist. When I moved into health IT, I realized we had the opportunity to shape healthcare; to drive clinical care proactively. It was a chance to prevent errors rather than an opportunity to catch them before they reached the patient. I could make a bigger impact on entire populations of patients, not just the individuals.
I’ve never had a problem drawing the clear line that what we all do, whether direct patient care or providing the technology to facilitate that care, we all are taking care of patients. They place their trust and health in the people who design and configure the computer systems just as they do with the doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and many other direct patient care givers on the hospital wards or in their clinics. Healthcare IT is ultimately about people; it’s about the patients and making a difference in their lives.
To be inspired by more healthcare IT stories, click here.