Helping patients, physicians form true digital connections

Kevin B. O'Reilly
Editor
AMA Wire
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This week, the AMA is playing a key role at the 2017 Connected Health Conference in Boston, which brings together more than 2,000 physicians, health professionals and forward-thinking companies in the area of digital health.

In a blog post previewing the conference, AMA Chief Medical Information Officer Michael L. Hodgkins, MD, MPH, noted that “the U.S. health care system is a $3 trillion-a-year enterprise that generates more data than ever before. And yet,” he added, “some of the most meaningful data about patient health is inaccessible to physicians or incomplete—a shortcoming that is frustrating physicians and making the delivery of care less effective and efficient.”

Several factors conspire to impede “truly connected health,” he wrote. They include:

  • The lack of interoperability across systems so that patients’ data do not follow them as they move through the continuum of care.
  • The problem of not always having the right data to share when assessing outcomes such as the patient’s own assessment based on their goals during treatment (for example, a patient’s functional recovery after knee-replacement surgery will be viewed differently by a former athlete versus a more sedentary individual).
  • The disconnect between patients and physicians created by the electronic health record system (EHR).

On the last point, Dr. Hodgkins wrote that “the EHR was supposed to liberate physicians from cumbersome, immobile, insecure paper charts” but instead has “shackled too many to their keyboards, clicking their ways through late nights and early mornings completing the many user-hostile tasks these systems require.”

That so-called pajama time with the EHR “gobbles up nearly 90 minutes nightly from America’s primary care doctors. All told, EHR time takes up more than half of the family physician’s workday. Today’s suboptimal EHRs also make it harder for patients and physicians to develop the critical rapport they need in the exam room to genuinely share in the medical decision-making process,” he wrote.

“Physicians deserve to have a voice and contribute to innovations in health care, and the AMA is striving to connect doctors with the people building new technology so that they can work together to make revolutionary products that revolve around what matters: helping physicians improve the nation’s health,” Dr. Hodgkins added.

The AMA, he wrote, is working to help:

  • Physicians streamline administrative operations.
  • Patients achieve dramatically better health outcomes
  • Stakeholders gain greater results with lower overhead.
  • Make health care data more informative, more interoperable, more adaptive and easier to capture.

At the Connected Health Conference, AMA physicians and other thought leaders will take part in presentations addressing “vital topics such as how to break down barriers to physician uptake of connected health and why physician insights are critical to the new era of digital medicine,” Dr. Hodgkins wrote.

For example, AMA President David O. Barbe, MD, MHA, “will delve into the AMA’s digital health initiatives, including Xcertia, Health 2047, the Integrated Health Model Initiative, and the Physician Innovation Network (PIN),” Dr. Hodgkins noted.

By recognizing the key challenges physicians face when implementing health IT and the increase of direct-to-consumer digital health apps, the AMA aims to help physicians navigate and maximize technology for improved patient care and professional satisfaction. The AMA is focused on influencing health IT with the goal of enhancing patient-centered care, improving health outcomes and accelerating progress in health care.

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