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What if navigating healthcare were as easy as many other things in our lives?

In 2024, it’s possible to book a hotel—and buy a car or even a house—all on a smartphone. And we can accomplish these tasks in mere minutes. Technology has made it much easier to navigate both high stake and mundane tasks. But in general, navigating healthcare isn’t easy—with or without a smartphone, with or without the latest technology.

Imagine a patient that’s just been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis after years of struggling. What are the odds that getting that treatment approved, scheduled and paid for can take place in 30 minutes? In a day? In a week?

Probably not great. How can that be right?

Comparing booking a family trip to a visit to the doctor to treat a major diagnosis is a seemingly absurd comparison for a lot of reasons, but then you realize the absurd part isn't the comparison, but this reality: How is it easier to schedule and pay for a trip halfway around the world than to get healthcare without delay or other obstacles?

Maybe this reality is an opportunity to take our healthcare dreams to the next level, to include setting our standards high enough to help heal a broken system.

Collaboration: Key to Unlocking Dreams of Better Healthcare

We’ve been hard at work for more than two decades at Surescripts tackling challenges just like this and responding to thoughts like, there’s got to be a better way.

We continue leading innovations that make health intelligence sharing simpler by connecting 2.14 million unique healthcare professionals and provider organizations and facilitating the exchange of patient intelligence at the scale of 23.8 billion network transactions in 2023 alone. And remember, every single one of these billions of transactions represents humans.

It’s how we are reducing delays and eliminating obstacles to care—like replacing time-consuming faxes and phone calls with easy, electronic access to information for 99% of the U.S. population.

Collaboration across the Surescripts Network Alliance has made this dream of better informed, safer and less costly care a reality.

At HIMSS24, these shared dreams and efforts to turn them into reality were highlighted during a panel discussion with healthcare leaders. They shared how technology and interoperability can Help Healthcare Heal Itself.

Joining the discussion were:

  • Pooja Babbrah, Practice Lead, Pharmacy and PBM Services, Point-of-Care Partners and Committee Member, HITAC Pharmacy Interoperability and Emerging Therapeutics Task Force, Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology
  • Dr. Michael Blackman, Chief Medical Officer, Greenway Health
  • Didi Davis, Vice President, Informatics, Conformance & Interoperability, The Sequoia Project
  • Dr. Andrew Mellin, Vice President & Chief Medical Information Officer, Surescripts
  • Kat Thorp, Vice President of Product Commercialization, Surescripts

Here are few ways they’re hoping to create a better reality for patients and those who care for them:

  1. Balancing information asymmetry. Whether that is sharing healthcare information between providers in our fragmented healthcare system, or simply the act of an e-prescription that solves the asymmetry of making the physicians intent clear to the pharmacist dispensing. Or sharing the price of healthcare with consumers so they can make better choices. Those are all examples of correcting information asymmetry to create a better system.
  2. The data tsunami is a direct source of provider burnout. One study noted the word count in a patient’s electronic health record was more than half of the length of “Hamlet,” William Shakespeare’s longest written work. If you ask any clinician: imagine reading half of “Hamlet” before every patient you, see? Not only would they tell you that is that impossible, but it’s also oftentimes not helpful to clinical decision making. Panelists agreed there's an opportunity to turn this clinical information into smarter patient health intelligence. More information is not always better, but it does mean we have an opportunity to shift our thinking to how we can protect prescribers or pharmacists from the data tsunami and instead be smarter with health intelligence.
  3. Speaking of burnout: New data shows a growing primary care provider (PCP) shortage with fewer than one PCP for every 1,500 residents in 62.9% of U.S. counties and 196 counties had no PCPs at all. Inefficiency is an industry-wide challenge, and while there are technological tools that exist to mitigate these tasks, addressing this challenge really requires the entire industry to navigate changing workflows while also reducing the overall administrative complexity, inefficiency and cost of healthcare.
  4. Creating efficiencies is only one aspect of solving clinician burnout. Better enabling pharmacists to work as part of patient care teams is another. The HIITAC Pharmacy Interoperability and Emerging Therapeutics Task Force 2023 set out to tackle the technology challenges that remain. The future of pharmacy relies on advancing interoperability and the recommendations made by the task force provided focus on closing the gaps that remain. One example is improving bi-directional data sharing and exchange of relevant patient clinical information among pharmacies, pharmacists and other providers, and advancing the policies that support this effort.

If we can meaningfully address challenges like information asymmetry and reduce administrative burdens, we can have an extraordinary impact on patients and the people who care for them.

It might also mean we can return some of the joy of being a physician, a nurse or pharmacist. Better yet, we can set up patients to have more fulfilling conversations with their doctors and we can save physicians from spending hours of “pajama time” on administrative work outside of patient care.

We all have to remember that most of us in the health IT space aren’t in the business of healthcare. And I’d dare say we’re not even in the business of technology.

We’re in the business of empowering patients and the people who care for them. As a patient in today’s system, it often feels disempowering to be sick. We’re closer than ever before to turning this dream into a reality—so that navigating healthcare is as easy as planning a spur-of-the-moment trip with your family.

Learn more about how we're helping healthcare to heal itself. Explore our 2023 National Progress Report.

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