Do patients qualify as a person or a thing?
Hopefully, we all answered "person." In the interest of maximizing patient care while reducing costs, there's been recent hype about "care coordination" and its purported benefits. On the other hand, "medical collaboration" has been sitting quietly on the sidelines, waiting for us to understand its importance. What's the difference?
On the surface, this may sound great, but as we dig deeper, we find that it focuses on numbers–number of events, number of patients, number of payments, number of workers, and so on.
Why is this a problem? This philosophy prioritizes the workflow and finances, not the patient. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines coordination as the act of bringing "into a common action, movement, or condition; harmonize." If we explore what is being harmonized, we discover that care providers, who are entrusted with the care and nurturing of a valuable human being, are ultimately being judged according to how quickly and efficiently they can restore a patient's health and thus minimize costs while collecting reimbursement. And this is accomplished through controlling and commanding every aspect of patient care – micro-managing, perhaps.
On the other hand, this strategy asks providers to combine their experiences and judgment by sharing information, exchanging thoughts and ideas, and involving the patient as a valuable team member. In this case, the goal is to work as a cohesive, constructive team to maximize the patient's health outcome.
Our old friend, Merriam-Webster, defines collaboration as working "jointly with others or together, especially in an intellectual endeavor." It's an excellent principle, but in real life, several obstacles often prevent healthcare providers from collaborating effectively:
* Poor communication
* An attitude that devalues teamwork
* Insensitivity to patient input
* Lack of infrastructure
Some of these issues may require considerable time and effort to overcome, but a solid infrastructure is already being built, right under our noses. The prevalence of mobile devices introduces huge possibilities for effective communication and collaboration. What if a provider could snap a picture, attach a question, and send it securely to her colleagues? And what if a colleague, upon receiving a prompt notification of the post, were able to reply immediately and easily based on his or her experiences? A qualified answer could be retrieved within minutes. The prospects are endless.
As healthcare systems seek innovative and cost-effective ways to increase the quality of care provided, we encourage medical collaboration, particularly store-and-forward medical collaboration. Care coordination focuses on finances, but a medical collaboration approach that capitalizes on providers' combined experiences and centers on the patient offers the best long-term solution. When combined with growing technologies and changing attitudes, this philosophy has the potential to revolutionize patient care for the better.
1. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/coordinate; http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/collaborate?show=0&t=1363581794
2. Image in movie: