Healthcare IT or Not: No excuse for bad service

I applaud my colleague Michael Millenson for shedding light on a very important topic in HHN's January 11th, Most Wired On-Line Magazine, "A Patient's View of Health IT". I referenced my own family's horrible healthcare experience in an earlier post on this blog. While Michael's son's episode happened in a highly wired hospital, our little horror occurred in a setting that was hardly wired at all. My point is that we must never excuse bad service in a medical setting because of, or due to the lack of, information technology.

Would anyone argue that healthcare is a service industry? Would anyone dispute that patients should always receive the most dignified, professional and expedient care possible? Should not all clinicians and hospital workers do unto others as they would want done unto them? Give me a break! We shouldn't have to put up with bad service ever; information system or not. You don't need a computer to show compassion or provide a human touch. You don't need and can't blame a computer for really bad communication between the givers and receivers of care. I estimate that my own family member's recent hospitalization cost the government (Medicare) tens of thousands of dollars over just a few days. Yet did anyone ever explain what the diagnosis was? Did anyone reach out to the family to inform us what transpired during the stay, why medications were changed, what kind of follow-up was recommended? Need I go on?

Sometimes I'm honestly ashamed by the way my profession treats its customers; customers who sometimes figuratively and literally are giving us an arm and a leg for their care. We wouldn't put up with it from a restaurant, bank, broker, carpenter or plumber. Why do we tolerate it in healthcare? It's time for change; a change in attitude. And it will take a lot more than IT to get us there.

Let us know what you think?

Bill Crounse, M.D. Healthcare Industry Director Microsoft Healthcare and Life Sciences