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by Melissa Hendricks
Published on October 19, 2017

We're proud to announce the launch of Perspectives: Issue 3, focusing on the theme of patient experience. For more information on Perspectives, or to download your digital copy, go here.

I'd like to take a moment to reflect on the irony of working on a patient experience issue of Perspectives while simultaneously navigating medical challenges in my personal life.

My husband is one of those unlucky people who needed to pay heed to the over-the-counter Drug Facts warning about stomach bleeding from non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). We discovered that recently, when he woke in the middle of the night, took two ibuprofen tablets and ended up with gastrointestinal bleeding.

It was less that it was an emergent situation: My husband wasn't in any pain, but we headed to the emergency department (ED) as more of a convenience factor. With two small children at home, finding an immediate solution to our situation was top-of-mind for us, so we could get back to our busy lives. We went to three EDs that night. I called each one of them from the car, trying to ascertain how long wait times were. Ultimately, without readily available information about ED wait times, I ended up choosing the one that was closest to our home - at least, I reasoned, the drive would be short.

Our ED experience is at odds with consumer expectations, which have been heavy influenced by modern technology. Today, if I want to take my kids to Great Clips for their haircuts, I can add my name to the waitlist online or via an app on my phone, and when I arrive at the salon, I can see the wait time associated with my name. While there are hospitals that have wait clocks or publicized wait times, it's not the universal standard - even though advances in technology have led consumers like myself to expect that function.

The consumerization of health care

The consumerization of health care is something we all hear discussed frequently, but as ready as we may be for change, it rarely comes as quickly as we'd like. Although there are shining examples of where leading health care organizations are embracing retail-like approaches as they reinvent the patient experience, by and large, the health care industry has yet to adapt to the needs of the consumer.

My husband's story isn't over. When he was finally admitted through the ED, he ended up needing two blood transfusions and spent three nights in the hospital (he was sicker than we thought). Post-admission, he required an iron transfusion and a capsule test, and amid all this, we've been sent to sub-specialists and are seeking out second and third opinions on his condition.

We've had a front row seat to seeing both the promising advances and lack of progress that leave us wanting more so that we can truly be engaged participants in the care process. It was great to be able to pull up summaries of my husband's labs and discharge instructions through a patient portal, but simultaneously frustrating that we couldn't electronically share the full clinical copy of his record directly with the provider of our choosing at an outside facility. And even though two of the hospitals shared the same EHR platform, we didn't experience the much-touted interoperability between the two platforms, and were instead sent out the door with a ream of paper that equated to my husband's medical record. When I suggested the provider access my husband's record through the local health information exchange (HIE), the front-line provider didn't know what the HIE was or how to share the record.

Being in this situation made me realize managing one's health care - and particularly a chronic condition - is difficult when there's work, family and a whole life to live in the balance. The challenge becomes making health care feel integrated with our lifestyles. How can we shift the health care system in favor of the consumer perspective?

Fresh perspectives on health care

Benjamin Franklin said, "Only two things in life are certain: death and taxes." I'd like to add a third certainty: We're all in the role of the patient at some point in our lives - some of us more often than others. My husband's story is not unique.

In the new issue of Perspectives, you'll hear from thought leaders from all corners of the health care industry as they share their insights on the patient experience. Capt. James Andrew Ellzy and Lieutenant Colonel Mark Mellot from the United States Department of Defense share their approach to making sure providers have access to the right information at the right time even when they in remote locations so they can they have the full story about the patient. Artist, author and patient rights advocate Regina Holliday shares her own moving story, making a powerful argument for patient data access. Cerner's Dr. David Nill discusses the positive influence wearable technology can have when it comes to engaging the patient in their own health and care.

These articles and others in the publication highlight a unique angle on the patient experience, which ultimately becomes personal for each of us. I'm passionate about changing this experience because it's part of what I do for a living, but also because the health of my family depends on it.

In today's rapidly changing health care landscape, it's important to be up-to-date on technological advances, current legislation and fundamental shifts in care delivery. Download Cerner's Perspectives for exclusive content from leaders in health care.

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