By Samant Virk, MD, CEO and co-founder, MediSprout.
Ask a doctor why he or she decided to go into the field of medicine and their answers vary. Many want to help people and they have personal stories like a sick parent that motivated them to become a physician. Others may come from a long line of doctors in their family and it’s a real point of pride. But, one thing is very clear, you likely won’t find a doctor who answers that question with, “So I could deal with insurance companies or get great at filling out the electronic health record (EHR).”
The cold truth is that in 2019 doctors spend more time filling out paperwork, playing phone tag, navigating federal and state mandates, and dealing with medication authorizations than they do helping their patients. Doctors spend only a fraction of their time actually building a better doctor/patient relationship and treating people. It’s hard to pinpoint when the doctor/patient relationship inextricably changed. But it’s estimated that doctors today spend just 27 percent of their time with patients.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment in healthcare is technology. We’ve all heard the “Oh how wonderful this new system is, it will change your world and healthcare for the better.” Rather than help us be better doctors who are able to assist a greater number of patients more effectively, it has created barriers and reduced our impact, interfering with one of the most essential parts of healthcare in which we were trained — communicating with our patients.
That’s because the technology is actually designed to reduce costs by leveraging data collected from government-mandated EHR rather than toward actually making patients feel better by addressing their medical needs.
Just like Uber disrupted the taxi industry and fintech is disrupting financial services, our practices need disrupting, too. And I believe it should be an inside job. Start-ups with 20-something computer geniuses are clearly brilliant, but the start-up model of launch, fail, re-launch won’t work for doctors. In healthcare, there is little room, or tolerance, for error.
Most likely, in one of the few lucid moments you have in your hectic, even chaotic schedule you contemplate healthcare’s greatest problems, its most pressing questions that must be solved, obstacles and the most important hurdles that must be overcome, and how doing so would alleviate many of your woes. That’s likely an overstatement. The problems are many, some of the obstacles overwhelming.
There are opportunities, of course. But opportunities often come from problems that must be solved. And, as the saying goes, for everyone you ask, you’re likely to receive a different answer to what needs to be first addressed. So, in this series (see part 1 and part 3), we examine some of healthcare’s most pressing challenges, according to some of the sector’s most knowledgeable voices.
Without further delay, the following are some of the problems in need of solutions. Or, in other words, some of healthcare’s greatest opportunities. What is healthcare’s most pressing question, problem, hurdle, obstacle, thing to overcome? And how that can be solved/addressed?
Lynn Carroll, chief of strategy & operations, HSBlox
Preventable medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the U.S., and frequently can be linked to inaccurate patient data, according to a study by Johns Hopkins University. Machine learning should be used to solve patient-matching challenges by analyzing and consolidating patient data from multiple systems, such as EHRs, medical charts, e-prescribing technologies, clinical documentation solutions and revenue cycle management platforms, and by creating longitudinal patient records that can be transparently shared among the patient’s care team, optimizing care coordination. The patient-matching solution is then combined with blockchain to disseminate the relevant patient data to all parties who have permission to view it.
Extending care coordination beyond the hospital walls heavily burdens providers and healthcare administrators. As the industry continues to shift from fee-for-service to value-based care, optimizing care teams to address social determinants of health and drive patient engagement is paramount. Today’s health systems must leverage an agile workforce and intuitive technology to deliver 360-degree patient-centered care.
Dr. Samant Virk, physician, founder and CEO, MediSprout
As a practicing physician for the last 15 years, I had a growing frustration with the fact that more than 70 percent of my time was consumed by administrative tasks that took away from my ability to help patients. The biggest challenge of healthcare right now is that we’ve lost touch with that physician and patient connection. Question: How can we reconnect physicians with patients — tech has driven a wedge between us and it’s time to fix this. Doctors would love to spend more time with the patients that need them the most while getting paid for follow-up care and communications that eats up their day. We believe that technology is the solution here.
Healthcare must shift its focus from viewing patients as “customers” and instead consider patients as “partners” within the broader healthcare ecosystem. All of the exciting innovation underway (including the increased adoption of virtual care and telehealth) should reflect what is required for the patient/partner to better manage his/her healthcare throughout the care continuum. To solve for healthcare that is truly consumer-centric, the broader healthcare ecosystem needs to identify the best investments to make which will drive quicker and better outcomes for the individual consumer (e.g., the patient/partner), overall population health, healthcare professionals, and healthcare organizations.
Price transparency for the Employers and the patient. The explanation of benefits (EOB) does not contain real financial payments between the payer and the provider. The real numbers are considered proprietary. A patient nor employer benefit plan cannot control their healthcare costs if they do not know how much was paid and for what service. At a grocery store, each item is tagged with the name of the product and the price. In healthcare the service and or product is not presented to the patient prior to the receipt of service and the services are not itemized on the bill. What to do? Make is illegal for payers and providers to have proprietary payments on healthcare goods and services.
The most pressing problem for US healthcare is improving quality of care while reducing cost. Intelligently leveraging clinical information — for predictive analytics, precision medicine, population health analytics and other analytic purposes — is critical to solving this problem. The largest impediment to actionable analytics is dirty clinical data entered by more than four million clinicians into more than one hundred certified EHRs resulting in a clear and present need for scalable technology to normalize, de-duplicate and enrich clinical data so that data scientists can spend more time identifying actionable insights from data, and less time fixing clinical data.
I see our shortage of primary care physicians as the biggest challenge the American healthcare system faces over the next 20 years. PCPs are crucial to the patient experience, and preventative care that can help drive value. Tied to this is my concern is the lack of investment/acceleration in technology designed to improve physician experience and utilization. PCPs spend way too much time entering data when there are opportunities like voice assisted scribe or authentication that reduce data entry and allows them to spend more time completely focused on patients providing quality care.