The KLAS Patient Engagement Summit - Cover

The KLAS Patient Engagement Summit

A Broken System

Thinking I wanted to pursue a career in law, I spent four years working for an advocacy group (what a bunch of lawyers call themselves when they don’t want to call themselves a law firm). This group helped people across the US apply for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA).

Besides the arduous task of navigating the SSA’s red tape—imagine spending every day at the DMV and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what it felt like—I helped these disabled persons build their case for an eventual hearing.

It was unlikely that a disabled person would be awarded benefits before the hearing, and these hearings only came after a series of appeals that could stretch on for months or even years.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of getting a person’s disability claim in order before the hearing. Imagine my frequent frustration when clients were denied by a judge. The most common reason? Insufficient medical records (MRs) as evidence.

That the MR was at the core of our clients’ denials didn’t shock me. In the 6–18 months leading up to their hearing, our single biggest hurdle as representatives was procuring medical records. Why? Because the MR consisted of a box of paper in the basement of a critical-access facility 100 miles away, especially for our more rural clients!

Unfortunately, our destitute clients couldn’t afford the gas to drive out and get their MRs, not to mention the fees they’d incur just by requesting their own health data.

Admittedly, we did have success with receiving many records by fax and snail mail—you know, those two bleeding-edge technologies? But far too often we ran afoul of a healthcare system that didn’t have patient engagement at heart.

Ultimately, it was this frustrating lack of power for patients that drove me into healthcare IT, looking for somebody—anybody—who was working to solve this problem.

Where Is the Solution?

Today, I’m sitting in a room filled with healthcare leaders. Provider and vendor executives sit alongside patient advocates at KLAS’ Keystone Summit. Their goal Is to create a framework to help shape the future of patient engagement.

The tone of today’s meeting was set by Russ Branzell, CEO of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME). To kick off the event, he shared personal experiences of his family’s lengthy battle with cancer. His stories shaped the feeling of this conference. To those gathered today, this isn’t just an opportunity to talk shop about IT tools; this is a chance to impact the lives of patients everywhere.

This is the group that I had hoped to find several years prior. At the time, and from the outside of healthcare looking in, it felt as though no one cared about the plight of my disabled clients and their quest for a patient-centered approach to care.

Now, as I sit surrounded by “healthcare insiders,” I realize how wrong I was. This group of individuals is driven to make changes to healthcare. Thankfully, technology is finally getting to the point where they can deliver on their hopes for patient experience.

In the coming weeks, KLAS will publish a white paper that formalizes the work done today. However, if I could summarize this event in one idea, I would borrow from Matt O’Neil, the former VP of Brand & Media for the Dallas Cowboys and current CEO of Ichi Go (a marketing agency based in New York).

He explained the Peak-End Rule, or the idea that a person judges their experiences based on how the peak of that experience felt (good or bad) and how that experience ended.

As he reminisced on his Cowboys experience, Matt noted that at any given moment it was likely that someone was walking into the AT&T stadium for the first, and possibly last, time in their lives.

Matt’s goal was to do all in his power to make sure the fan’s peak was a positive high and the end of their experience a satisfying one. No detail was glossed over—from the soundtrack playing, to the foods being served, to the order in which announcements were made on the loudspeaker.

If sports fans deserve that kind of attention to detail, I’d argue our patients do as well.