I was one of the 111.5 million viewers watching the Seattle Seahawks rattle Peyton Manning’s cage on Superbowl Sunday. After the game Russell Wilson and the other young Seattle players talked a lot about their commitment to each other and to the season. Well before the start of the season they began to work out together. The team entered the season willing to work hard without any promise of success. Most of the young players, including Russell Wilson, were not highly compensated for this season, so they were not playing for the money. They were willing to sacrifice, endure, and scrap for the promise of a possible reward down the road. As a group, the Seahawks committed to delayed gratification. It was worth the work and the wait.
More lessons in delayed gratification
Nephrologists should relate to the practice of delayed gratification. Four years of medical school, 3 years of internship and residency, and 2 to 3 years of fellowship are a practice in delayed gratification. Most of us were 30 years old or older before starting a first real job. The years of study and training can be filled with uncertainty and frustration, but the commitment to the education, training, and specialization is critical to having the skills to be successful as a practicing nephrologist. It is worth the work and the wait.
Health IT is turning out to be a lesson in delayed gratification, too. Years of development and billions of dollars have been committed to Health IT and the full value of it has not yet been realized. EHRs fall short in providing flexible and intuitive User Interfaces. Interoperability is still a work in progress. The HIT road has been convoluted and rocky enough that it is hard to even remember where we are headed. What is the value at the end of the HIT road?
Health IT value goals
The non-profit Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) has been maintaining the road map for getting to Health IT value. HIMSS has articulated Health IT value goals as STEPS:
- Satisfaction—centers around patient communication and provider interoperability
- Treatment—hinges on patient safety and reduced medical errors
- Electronic information—leverages guideline based care, population health and quality measures
- Prevention/Patient education—covers everything from immunizations to patient compliance
- Savings—includes business outcomes as well as efficient operations
If Health IT can support all of these value goals, then the quality and efficiency of care will improve. HIMSS is clear that in order to achieve the lofty STEPS goals, Health IT must integrate secure wireless and mobile technology.
Realizing the health IT value
Some experts believe that after these years of delayed gratification we are on the verge of seeing Health IT value. Recently electronichealthreporter.com published some Health IT expert musings on Health IT value:
- Brian Wells from UPHS suggests that recent gains in storing and sharing standardized data will create valuable data aggregation.
- Alex Bratton from Lextech thinks consumers will soon have access to clinical and cost information that will open up options and choices for receiving the best care.
- David Whitehouse with UST Global sees that the opportunity to analyze, interpret, and correlate data will help turn basic health information into health wisdom.
- David Troxel from The Doctors Company believes that EHRs will improve efficiency, improve patient safety, and support quality care especially once interoperability eliminates information silos.
Maybe we are not so far off from seeing Health IT value. The road has been long and weary, but steady progress is being made in User Interface design, data structure standardization and interoperability, and even integration of mobile technology, all of which should bring value. As the years of Meaningful Use go by it is hard to see the progress, but the steady commitment and steps toward the value goals will hopefully pay off in the end.
Get the bigger picture in Orlando
The Seattle Seahawks are not the only folks headed to Disney World. You can join the HIMSS Annual Conference in Orlando in late February. The keynote speaker is Hillary Rodham Clinton and the Value of Health IT is on the agenda with these encouraging words: “While the initial costs are high, and resistance to change is still a barrier in some environments, the preponderance of data and feedback indicates that the advent of the EHR is the tipping point toward transformation.”