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EHRs and Health IT: Keeping Caregivers in the Innovation Conversation

by Hanh Le, MD, Senior Product Manager, Epocrates, an athenahealth company

Living in the San Francisco Bay Area and having enough curiosity to get a cat into trouble, I’ve attended a lot of health care technology conferences. After a few, you start to see the same themes. At VentureBeat’s inaugural HealthBeat conference last month, I, once again, I saw the repetition: Big data, outcomes-focused innovation, wearable devices, electronic health record (EHR) adoption, and patient engagement tools.

During one of the best talks of the day, Dr. David Levin, CMIO of Cleveland Clinic, presented his thoughts on the direction medicine is headed, in the form of three ‘P’ words: Personalization, Population-based, and Pervasive. As a doctor, what was conspicuously missing for me was a fourth ‘P:’ Physician! With all the technologies being developed, where is the physician in the equation? Between desktop medicine, decreased reimbursements, Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) and Meaningful Use, physicians are becoming increasingly overlooked in the discussion of where medicine is going.

Other than the AirStrip, which puts event monitors (e.g., heart rate, blood pressure, and infant monitoring readings) right into the physician’s mobile device, many of the technologies presented at HealthBeat either took the autonomy out of the physicians’ hands or offered something much more complicated and time-consuming in its place. Thankfully, our very own Mary Kate Foley, VP of User Experience at athenahealth, reminded us of the priority audience during a HealthBeat fireside chat entitled “Next Generation of EHRs, Illuminating the Big Picture.” Mary Kate asserted that you don’t design systems around databases—you design them around people. With that comment, physicians became part of the conversation again.

From my vantage point, the real gap—and opportunity—in technology now exists in the lack of innovation that could truly make a physician’s day more efficient. In comparison to many of the products and services I saw at HealthBeat 2013, I could see how the combination of Epocrates’ mHealth technology and expertise and athenahealth’s cloud-based services could help clinicians get through their days faster and more effectively—knowing that some days may never be pain-free.

The opportunity and need for greater innovation inspires a rewrite of the old adage “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”: Innovative products that enable clinicians to practice with as few burdens as possible keeps clinical burnout at bay. What do you think?

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