Posted on | March 30, 2009 | 1 Comment
Most people know by now that Electronic Medical Records got a boost from President Obama’s stimulus package- $19 billion to be precise. This money will help to incentivize hospitals and doctors to get moving. Currently, fewer than 20% of hospitals and 25% of physicians’ offices are fully automated. Obama’s administration believes that moving the dial on this will have three specific benefits: better coordination of care, fewer errors, and lower treatment costs.1
But what may or may not happen at your local hospital or in your doctor’s office is less dramatic and far-reaching than what is already occurring in homes across America. I’m talking about patients beginning to organize their own care and seeking out customized information to assist decision making. With the assistance of health entrepreneurs, patients are bringing order to a new type of therapy called Ix, or Information Therapy.
Ix is information-centered but also relationship-rich. Let’s look at a few cases. To begin with, there is Kaiser Permanente’s non-profit "Center for Information Therapy." As its director Paul Wallace says, “Information therapy can help bridge the transition from doctors doing things to and for people, to helping them become active participants in their own health care.” One of the Center’s offerings is the "MyHealthManager" web site. This site streams and organizes personal health data, reminds and instructs, provides key information and allows two-way, online communications between patient and clinician.1,2
Seattle’s "Group Health" and other care systems around the country are following Kaiser’s lead by providing secure platforms where a health consumer can collect and organize his or her own vital health information.3
This shifting locus of power and ownership is significant enough, but a second group of health entrepreneurs are taking it one step further. By partnering with various information platform giants, these companies are arming consumers with targeted information.Three quick examples:
- Healthwise of Boise, Idaho, a licenser of health information to WebMD, has developed customized information programs. These include interactive slide shows and online dialogue for patients who have suffered heart attack or have diabetes and/or other chronic conditions. They’ve ventured into the mental health domain as well by designing their information therapy conversations for Harvard’s "Pilgrim Healthcare," whose patients suffer from depression, sleeping disorders or chronic pain.4
- Vitality Group takes a different approach by incentivizing healthy behaviors. For example, if a subscriber participates in risk assessment and completes online information and healthy behavior modules, they get “Vitality Bucks” which are redeemable for products and services.5
- And finally there is Wolters Klumers’ "UpToDate"; a site with 340,000 physician customers. These doctors direct their patients to the site for access to the latest guidelines on treatments for many conditions. Some doctors even offer their patients a free month’s service valued at $19.95 a month for those in special need of “information therapy.”6
What we’re seeing on the leading edge of the health consumer revolution are the early signs that our healthcare leaders are finally beginning to understand the power of health information technology to connect, converge, and collaborate. Rather then be possessive about it, they are finding ways to share the health information platform with their patients. In fact, on April 22, 2009, in Boston, the Health 2.0 community and the Ix community will be joining hands in a convergence conference.7
I believe that this is a smart move. If left alone, these technologies could easily drive a wedge between the people and the people caring for the people. But by reaching out, physicians and other care givers are moving technology from being a “doule-check’ against each other, to becoming a ‘double-connect’ with each other. In the process, costs should go down, and quality should go up.
For Health Commentary, I’m Mike Magee.
1. Landro, L. Online records get patients involved in care. WSJ, D1. 18 March 2009.
2. An Introduction to Information Therapy. Ix Website.
3. Ix Action Alliance. Center for Information Therapy.
5. Vitality Fact Sheet. Destiny Health.
6. Wolters Kluwer Health Acquires UpToDate. 4 Sept. 2008.