Healing Healthcare in America with Technology

By Jennifer Dennard
09:33 AM

Sometimes healthcare hits close to home, and by that I mean it reaches out from behind the computer screens and conference podiums I sit so often in front of and grabs me by the shoulders, shaking me out of my blogging bubble with the message that this state of care we’re all living in needs to get better, quickly.

That was certainly the message of Dr. Otis Brawley, Chief Medical Officer at the American Cancer Society and author of the new book “How We Do Harm: a Doctor Breaks Ranks About Being Sick in America,” during his keynote speech at the recent Health Care Heroes Awards in Atlanta.

Known for telling it like it is according to a few of my fellow attendees (certainly evident in an Atlanta Magazine interview earlier this year), Dr. Brawley showed slides, gave statistics, and told stories about the way in which healthcare in America has the propensity to do more harm than healing, especially when low-income, lesser-educated, uninsured patients are taken into account. 

I can blog until I’m blue in the face about the need to empower patients, engage patients, and educate patients about the benefits new technology is bringing to healthcare, but until the disparities Dr. Brawley speaks of are diminished, I worry that my writing skills might be going to waste.

When faced with some of the statistics we’ve all heard regarding healthcare spending and outcomes in the United States (We spent $2.53 trillion on healthcare in 2009 alone, and we’re closing in on about $8,000 per person annually, according to one of Dr. Brawley’s slides), it’s hard not to get discouraged about the general state of things. Adding to this feeling of malaise are the recent studies I’ve read related to how healthcare IT like electronic medical records doesn’t actually improve outcomes, which makes me wonder, how can we regain faith in our healthcare system?

Dr. Brawley ended his keynote with the directive that we must put our faith in the science of medicine, and I firmly believe that technology has a big part to play in advancing evidence-based medicine. We’re only a few years into the very beginning stages of this new world of digital health, so, as an eternal optimist, I’d like to think that healthcare IT will eventually have more evangelists than detractors, and be responsible for a healthier and more satisfied patient population.

Next up on my HIT social calendar is the TAG Health event on “Technology’s Role in the Future Healthcare Delivery Model.” In light of Dr. Brawley’s talk, I’ll be interested to hear what panelists from Georgia State University, McKesson and WellStar Health System perceive technology’s true benefits – and potential - to be. 

 Jennifer Dennard is Social Marketing Director for Atlanta-based Billian's HealthDATA, Porter Research and HITR.com. Connect with her on Twitter @SmyrnaGirl.