To state the obvious, there are times when the value of information depends on timing. Sometimes information needs to be provided in advance.
Consider a few examples. How valuable would the following types of information be to you?
- From your GPS car navigation device: “You should have turned off at the last freeway exit”.
- From the National Weather Service: “A class four tornado is hitting your neighborhood right now”.
- From an airline when you arrive at the gate: “We canceled your flight five hours ago because we needed the plane on another route. Sorry”.
The Federal ONC (Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT) website speaks to the value of creating a secure, interoperable nationwide health information network:
A key premise is that information should follow the patient, and artificial obstacles — technical, bureaucratic, or business related — should not be a barrier to the seamless exchange of information. (Emphasis added)
I’m not being critical of ONC here — the idea of my electronic health information following me clearly is better than today’s typical state of affairs. Until today most health information has been metaphorically “frozen” on paper and patients have had to request it in writing.
But…while some of this might be semantics, I think we should set the bar higher.
I don’t just want my health information to follow me, I want it to precede me — to be available to my care providers before I arrive, e.g.:
- To the specialist that my primary care physician has referred me to
- To the emergency physician — after the paramedics have picked me up in the field, but before I arrive in the ER
The technological capabilities are on the horizon with Meaningful Use Stages 2/3 and with Blue Button+.
But the bigger challenge will be one of mindset — where care providers come to recognize that a duty to share patient information ahead of my physical arrival is good medicine, good customer service, and competitive advantage.
I want my health information to precede me — to be at my beck and call. I’ll choose health care providers that can make that happen.