Healthcare IT: Some patients still waiting for the basics

I read with interest a recent Healthcare IT Spotlight story that called out one healthcare organization in particular as an example of what can be done with healthcare analytics in creating an accountable care organization ... because, after having had a relative recently stay at that same teaching hospital, I'm left with the impression that even leading-edge providers may have a long way to go to operationalize the potential benefits of basic IT, never mind advanced analytics.

Analytics and information technology are all fine and good at a high level, but the best way to view success may be from the patient's bedside, rather than just operational savings or other impersonal metrics. And from the vantage point of one recent patient it looks like more than just analytics remain in the stone age. The key network in providing patient care in this case was a 49-year old technology: The fax machine.

The patient in this case had been dispatched earlier this summer to the provider's main teaching hospital from a local clinic operated by that same provider. When the patient arrived the nurse had to ask what drugs he was taking because the system containing that information at the provider's other facility, located 70 miles away, was not integrated with the system in the teaching hospital. They also were not set up for remote access. The patient had more than a dozen different prescriptions and could not recite the exact names, strengths and dosages for each. He had left them at home at the advice of his physician, who said the hospital would take care of that. So the nurse called the other location and had them fax over the entire prescription list which, I presumed, someone would then have to scan or manually key into the system.

The hospital also did not have access to the patient's medical records. In anticipation of that, the cardiologist had handed the patient a thick printout - a subset of his full patient record that he assumed would suffice. But some information that the doctors needed was missing. Out went another request for faxed information.

Finally, after the medical procedure had been completed, one of the doctors who was part of the team in the operating room came to visit the patient. After reviewing the results, he mentioned that he'd like to review the patient's medications, which he had not seen and could not find.

As for the procedure, the doctors and staff seemed to do an excellent job overall. But from the patient advocate's chair, I have to say that I'm not sure the application of information technology or analytics had much to do with it.

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