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Let Doctors Be Doctors: A Reminder to Wake-Up Before the Empire Falls

by Jonathan Bush, President & CEO

In order to create the soil for new generations to grow, empires must fall…or evolve.

We see this in society, and because most of us find it incredibly uncomfortable to watch leading institutes crumble, society has created all kinds of things to protect us from the “fall” scenario. While the intentions of such protections are good, the reality is that empires are too often lulled into inaction, resting on the laurels of their power.

Healthcare needs saving and I highly doubt it will be saved by many big things, but rather by millions of small things. The more we feel okay about this, the better prepared we’ll be to weather and embrace the inevitable fall of empires in health care.

Acknowledgement is half the battle in everything. In every addiction. In every compulsion.

Nothing about the Let Doctors Be Doctors campaign suggests that athenahealth is perfect. Just today we shared some of the data around the initiative and the findings speak volumes.

Much of the palpable pain we see in the #LetDoctorsBeDoctors movement we had a hand in perpetrating. And we have our reasons: Laws require certain codes that don’t make any sense; the way payment is contingent on documentation that has to be there purely for “because” reasons.

But for ourselves, we enjoy the challenge of building a company in the full bright light of our frailty. Benefiting from as little denial or obfuscation as possible. While it hurts to hear how intrusive physicians and care staff find EHRs, that sentiment gives us a guiding light to build a better one. We see such raw candor and insight as necessary knowledge, even if it means taking a back step toward a more forward step.

For us, the EHR is the network, which means creating places where clinical documentation happens that are connected to other places so that ultimately the highly-intelligent network can eliminate repetition, automate the unearthing of relevant insights at or around the points of care, and reduce undue distractions and attention away from patients. Only with a network as a backbone to the EHR, will the information about each patient encounter and the information around each diagnosis be richer, more complete, and more longitudinally consistent.

Our assumption is that when you Let Doctors Be Doctors all things improve: care quality, patient experience, cost, and provider satisfaction. If, as an industry we continue to build technology in service to little, tiny (or massive) competing towers of isolated information then shame on us. Those empires should fall. But if we bitch and fight and scream to prevent that, this backslide into bureaucratic “docu drama” could position us for a great leap forward.

I thank the scrappy, boisterous providers and health care professionals who spoke up – who screamed – and asked for technology to let doctors be doctors. In fact, we have physicians charging The Hill today, as I write, to take your fighting words and ask Congress to pass legislation on health IT that lets doctors be doctors. Preserving the moments of care. 


Watch the acoustic version of ZDoggMD's "EHR State of Mind." And if you feel moved or inspired, speak out and help drive change, or join in the conversation on Twitter with #LetDoctorsBeDoctors.   


Jonathan Bush is the President and CEO of athenahealth.

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