I have to preface these post with a shout out: the images are from Kyle Roth, a local photographer who does beautiful work and who is a big champion of Cleveland, be sure to read his blog at North Coast Lifestyle and Epstein Design Partners.
I am going to write several posts about the TEDxCLE event, as I was not sure what to expect, and blown away by everything I heard. The first seaker was C Martin Harris, the Cheif Information Officer of the Cleveland Clinic. I won’t go into his entire history and background, although you can find it on the TEDxCLE site. Let’s just say that the man is well educated, intelligent and well respected amongst his peers. The topic of the session was the changing of healthcare through technology. This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. Members of my family, as well as close friends, have had plenty of health issues that have arisen from one doctor not talking to another, from medical records not meshing, or from lack of proper monitoring of their condition. So as the first speaker took the stage, I was already engaged. There is a revolution going on in health care. One that is necessary and could change the way we look at doctors and the way we manage our health. We are not talking about cool new equipment or machines, but rather information and linking things together. This includes things like electroninc medical records and portable electronic devices.
First off, Dr Miller talked about changing the way we think of health care. Typically, you go in and see a doctor. If you need to see a specialist, you go see him. If this specialist is not part of your regular system, he may not have access to your entire medical history. Then say you want to see someone in another city. This might involve a series of trips to that city to have appointments with a variety of people who will manage your procedure or treatment. When you go home to recuperate, your regular physician may not know all the things they need to know to manage your long term condition. You may even have to make a trip back to the other city for a follow up visit.
What the Cleveland Clinic is doing is trying to coordinate all of these things and use the digital technology available right now to streamline the whole procedure. Streamlining means lower costs and better care. By using electronic records, no matter where you go for healthcare, any doctor can have access to your records. This could end the miscommunication that comes from one specialist prescribing one drug that interacts with another that they may be unaware that you are using. It also means being able to spot trends that come from recurring symptoms or events. In the out of town scenario, having access to your records ahead of time, a specialist at the Cleveland Clinic could review your file and ask for blood work or other tests be done from your home town before you ever come to see him. He can evaluate your condition, speak with colleagues who might be involved and arrange for everyone to be involved before your arrival, making your trip shorter, and your are more efficient and thoughtful. Then say you want to recuperate in a third city where you have family or whatever. A physician there can coordinate with the specialist and your regular doctor to oversee your post procedure condition. This is all readily possible and makes your care centered around you, not around your doctor.
Then, Dr. Miller talked about off site monitoring. One problem with chronic conditions is managing the long term care of the patient. With the current rise in rates of diseases like hypertension and diabetes, how we manage long term care is critical. Through the use of simple tools, like inputting regular blood glucose results into your own file, to electronic blood pressure cuffs that enter information for you into your file, a patient can get better health care while seeing the doctor less. Perhaps a doctor can follow your blood sugar results online and tell give you tips to manage your condition, or even link you to a nutritionist who can monitor our diet remotely with an online food journal. A person with high blood pressure can avoid several trips into the physician’s office by reporting blood pressure results and might even get prescription changes directly through the local drug store. Monitoring one’s health by going into a doctor’s office regularly can be an expensive and difficult process, and if some of it can be done offsite, less work is lost and the cost of health care is reduced. I was fascinated at the advancements in information technology can have on health care without a single new fancy medical device even being used.
The future of medical care is here, and the Cleveland Clinic is leading the way.