Practical Advice for HIMSS 2014 Attendees

February 21, 2014
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health IT HIMSS 2014HIMSS14, the big conference for all things dealing with health IT, is right around the corner. It’s a great conference – wish I could attend this year.

health IT HIMSS 2014HIMSS14, the big conference for all things dealing with health IT, is right around the corner. It’s a great conference – wish I could attend this year. But since I can’t be there on my soap box, I want to share here a few thoughts for HIMSS 2014 attendees to reflect upon as they wander the conference and exhibit halls. Some first principles to help you “keep perspective” as speakers and exhibitors attempt to dazzle and amaze you with promise of what HIT can do for you.

Let’s get started…

First Principle #1

There’s a big difference between what people tell survey researchers they will do or what they want (80% for example say they want and would use a service that enabled them to email their doctor) and how people actually behave in real life (less than 10% of patients/plan members with access to secure email on their patient portal routinely use it).

First Principle #2

Patient engagement may be next “blockbuster drug” as Dave Chase said, but like any drug you need a trusted doctor with good patient-centered communication skills to prescribe it. Put another way, the vast majority of health “care” is delivered in the context of a trusting physician-patient relationship. If a patient-facing HIT solution purports to cut the doctor out by talking directly to patients…walk away.

One of the big reasons that PHRS and patient portals are going nowhere is because physicians were not included in their development (nor patients for that matter) and are not inclined to tell/recommend that patients use them.

First Principle #3

Patient-facing HIT cannot compensate for a clinician’s poor patient communication skills or bad bedside manner. Absent a strong doctor-patient relationship and good patient-centered communications, patient portals, health apps and SMS texting will not increase patient satisfaction or improve patient experiences.

First Principle #4

It’s about the message, not the technology. Sure, patient-facing technologies like SMS texting can deliver a message to the right person…but what if the message is wrong? Before you “buy” into patient-facing technology look for the “Patient Inside” logo…you know proof that real people (aka patients) were intimately involved in crafting and testing the messages to be deliver.

First Principle #5

Pushing more information at patients (regardless of how vital you think the information is) will not change people’s health behavior. That’s not how behavior change works. Rather, people need to know they have a problem, they (not you) need to believe the problem is serious, they need to know that they can fix the problem by doing X and finally there needs to be a cue or call to action. Technology can, but absent a diagnosis and appreciation as to its severity, information alone is just digital gobble dee goop.

Finally, if you forget everything else, just remember that 85% of people still want the ability to be able to see their doctor “face-to-face,” regardless of how many patient-facing HIT solutions you put in front of them

Oh and don’t forget: like doctors, patient-facing health technologies should do no harm to anyone -patient, family or providers.

Have a great conference!

(health IT / shutterstock)

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