Does National Health IT Week Matter?

Does national health IT week matter?

According to Dr. Geeta Nayyar in a commentary posted to Modern Healthcare, as the proliferation of technology takes us closer to instant information in nearly every form, the healthcare sector simply does not move so quickly, and there is a long way to go.

This is clearly the case, and, meaning no disrespect Dr. Nayyar, this is not a new thought.

She opines that this is the reason national health IT week is so important to patients.

Allow me to quote her: “That’s why National Health Information Technology Week (Sept. 16-20, 2013) is so important to patients, physicians and hospitals in the U.S. Now in its eighth year, National Health IT Week is a collaborative forum of providers, insurers, pharmaceutical companies, government agencies, research foundations and consumer protection groups coming together to address some of the pressing issues in the industry that technology can help solve.

“In focusing the nation’s attention on technology, the week highlights how ‘smart’ mobile applications, predictive analytic tools, patient engagement systems and other forms of technology will transform the delivery of care in the near future.”

All valid points, and clear advantages laid out in support of the movement, but I’m not so sure this is an effort that doesn’t strike me as a preacher speaking to his choir.

Nayyar makes some great points and suggests that as a practicing physician deeply involved in the national health IT conversation, technology is the foundation for advancing the quality of healthcare quality and improving patient health outcomes where patients engage more with their physicians.

But, is this a celebration only for those putting on the party?

How are consumers such as myself actually being involved and engaged? Like it or not, I’ve spent a great deal more time in doctors’ offices this year and prior to that have had an overwhelming interest in health IT as a journalist and before that, as a health IT vendor employee.

I’ve rarely been engaged at the level where health IT or its week matters.

Truth is, I know more about what’s going on in this space than those who are affected by the reform and regulation – the physicians and administrators — and that’s not much. Clearly, I know much less about health IT than Nayyer and her colleagues who care.

The keys words are “colleagues who care.” Only so many do. Others are forced to care only because they feel their arms are being twisted, not because it makes them better care providers.

Fact is, I can see the benefit and I know it to be true, and I love the concept of Blue Button, interoperability and the exchange of information and records as freely as an email being sent from me to you. However, one thing is clear to me, as a patient: I may like technology in every other area of my life and access to information wherever I am, including for my physician when giving me his best educated guess about my overall health, but I also like the exam room to be a sanctuary to my health where interruption is set aside and I get to be the star of the show for the entire eight minutes I get with my doctor.

So, let’s move forward and put progress in its place, but – perhaps as a lone voice here – let’s not pretend that this is a movement that every consumer knows or cares about nor is it one in which must be forced upon like a law in which not all agree.

So, as Nayyar says: “technology will continue to play a key role in healthcare reform—not just for better care but for cost control and greater efficiency as well. Without continued advancements in health IT, providers will find it extremely challenging to meet their dual goals of quality clinical care and cost containment.”

However, I’m too young to be old school, but I still feel as though I want my physician thinking first of me and second about checking a box on her tablet in the exam room.

As for you, Dr. Nayyer, (who says, “By bringing together a wide range of viewpoints, National Health IT Week will advance the national discussion on these topics as we build a stronger and more robust healthcare system for everyone.”) I’m all for good conversations, but I’m more concerned about good care.

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