Thoughts from the Information Therapy Conference

I’m here in Park City, UT for the sixth annual Information Therapy Conference. For the uninitiated, Information Therapy is simply the idea that Patient Education can be as “therapeutic” as medicine itself when exactly the right information is delivered at precisely the right time.

For example, one physician here at the conference said that after she delivers bad news to a patient, she figures the patient retains maybe 25% of what she tells them if that. Information Therapy is about recognizing that this patient is at the step “just diagnosed with Heart Failure” and then making sure that patient receives an article, watches a video, or is otherwise educated about “You’ve been diagnosed with Heart Failure. What now?”.

Conferences like these are interesting because you meet so many different people from so many different areas of healthcare each tackling a similar problem from a vastly different angle.

For example, I’ve seen Patient Portals here from three different companies each selling essentially the same core Patient Portal to three different markets. If it happened that a patient’s insurance company purchased the Trizetto portal, his hospital purchased the MedSeek portal, and his doctor purchased the Omedix portal, he would have three different ways of accessing almost the exact same thing!

I’ve seen an incredible demonstration from MedEncentive on Pay-for-Performance. Traditionally, I haven’t been blown away by Pay-for-Performance, but they’ve set up their program in such a way that patients are actually financially incentivized toward compliance, doctors are financially incentivized to follow Evidence-Based Medicine, and both parties are aware that their actual performance will be rated by the other party (Matthew Holt does a much better job of explaining this on The Healthcare Blog).

One theme that seems to come up every single year at the Ix Conference (hidden though it may be) is that medicine practiced in an Integrated Health Sytem (like Kaiser, Group Health, Cleveland Clinic, etc.) has some serious advantages and incentive alignments versus the standard “private practice” model. Seeing the EMR and Patient Portal that the Cleveland Clinic has in place makes me teary-eyed, and another doc here admitted it makes him “drool with envy.” So maybe part of our job is to take the magnificence of a Patient Portal / Patient Education Infrastructure as seen in an Integrated Health System and make it available to a private medical practice? Or at least to adapt it to better fit the needs of that market, but still enable them to achieve that nirvana?

Other interesting trivia at the conference:

  • What billion-dollar healthcare industry are most doctors not even aware of? Disease management. Crazy stuff.
  • Healthwise is starting to get very sophisticated with its Patient Education. They are actually able to now generate patient education content specifically for the moment in time when a patient has been diagnosed with asthma but has not demonstrated compliance. WOW.

And finally, I’m starting to realize just how a big of a deal patient education can be for patients. In fact the phrase “Patient Education” doesn’t event really do the concept justice. Information Therapy on the other hand is huge. When patients are empowered and encouraged to learn about their own condition, they do learn about it. And when they learn about it, they are actually able to monitor the care they receive, to interact with their doctor in a more elevated and more efficient manner, and they are so much happier because they don’t just blindly meander through the healthcare system; they actively navigate it.

The trick is distilling all of that down to a concrete value proposition for a standalone medical practice. Is it enough to say “We offer patient education.”? Is it enough to just encourage patients to look at it and leave it at that? I don’t think so. I think the graph of Patient Education Utility looks like this:

In other words, you don’t get a whole lot out of the Patient Education if it’s just there, but if you really use it, integrate it, engage with your patients, etc. it can make a huge difference.

More thoughts to come down the line!

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