When it comes to healthcare, I – a proud American – can‘t help but look up to Canada. For one thing, I have to… they’re up north. But the main reason is that they seem to know that being in second place can have its advantages; and that slow and steady wins the race.
At Emerge, we have the company motto of ‘Saving Healthcare.’
Occasionally, someone raises the question: “are you serious about that; or is it just marketing?”
Now, I promise to answer that question at the end of this piece; but let me first echo a few other questions I hear from time to time:
Which country has the best healthcare in the world? How much does it cost over there? Who pays for it? Is it privatized? Single-payer?
Valid questions, yet ultimately, in my view, the wrong ones to ask. I believe that healthcare – while an issue of considerable gravity – should be evaluated in the same manner as any other apparatus. Cost – be it exorbitant or marginal – is in and of itself not an indication of quality. Since we’re going to be shelling out cash regardless, it is best to first determine if we are paying for a piece of the future or a crumbling chunk of the past. In other words… are we on the right path forward? Best to be sure before sprinting into the unknown.
Which brings me back to our friends to the north and my admiration for their approach to healthcare. While we intrepid American rushed to digitize our health records so as never to set eyes on another piece of clinical paper again; our Canadian brethren grabbed a pencil, observed us and took some notes.
The Canadians were cautious in making the move from paper to digital. This was, ultimately, a very good idea. I know, I know - they had the luxury of seeing how we handled the same process and learn from our mistakes. So what? I say good job, Canada, for pacing yourselves.
As a health tech entrepreneur, I’ll be the last person to make the case against modernization. Technology is a key to the future and digitizing paper records was inevitable. But, as is often the case, trusting that technology can just be plugged in and transform theoretical straw into practical gold is unwise. Fire was a great discovery, but someone needs to watch over the stove.
Here are three (out of many) cases of botched digital healthcare from which Canada might have had the chance to learn:
- 1 - The US Coast Guard set sail on the friendly seas of digital health care and nearly sank in the process. Five years after converting to digital and adversely affecting healthcare for thousands of active troops and civilian members, the Guard exasperatedly gave up and terminated the agreement with its electronic health record vendor; and returned to paper-based care.
- 2 - The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center stated its intention to slash 5% of its workforce – roughly 900 administrative and back-office employees. Their reason? A 77% decrease in adjusted income attributed to their EHR implementation.
- 3 - NYC-based Health and Hospitals Corp. signed a $302 million, 15-year EMR contract. The agreement was set to be financed by federal funds and cover all implementation expenses with no unintended additional spending anticipated. Ultimately, the process was set back by major delays and the budget ballooned to $764 million, with some estimates expecting this figure to double when all is said and done.
So America can be impetuous from time to time. But we are also kings of innovation. Problems such as those listed above are the reason why companies like Emerge exist. Partnering with EHR vendors Allscripts and athenahealth, both of which understand the necessity of an open healthcare market, has allowed us to develop solutions for avoiding debacles such as those listed above.
Digitizing reams of patient records is, in essence, a good idea. But good ideas don’t correlate to good outcomes if the planning is shoddy and the implementation is mishandled. Grappling with locating and parsing digital records is no better – and can often times be worse – than scurrying to locate paper-based information.
Companies like Emerge recognize this and our solutions hinge upon the leveraging of data. Our core offering, ChartScout, accesses electronic health records, understands their content and channels relevant data to the doctors based on what they actually want to know. It isn’t enough to digitize content with a ceremonial “tada!” and call it a day. Content is passive. Context is what matters. Being situationally-aware and giving doctors context-sensitive access to critical information is the key any viable healthcare system.
Our approach to paper-based records is no different than our method for dealing with digital patient data. Once scanned, our algorithms analyze clinical documents for any information pertinent to the needs of the healthcare professional and the patient. Otherwise, of what value is the health record? It was in a filing cabinet yesterday and is a scanned file today. Congratulations. Can you access it? Can you read it? Do you even know that it exists in your system?
A scanned document that can’t be read and searched through is just lost information.
Canadian doctors will be facing the same challenges when they make their upcoming planned transition to electronic health records.
Observing us has shown them – if they didn’t already know – that going digital without the benefit of innovative solutions is a one-way ticket to trouble.
Canada is going digital. And Emerge is going to help them.
Ours is the only EHR-integrated solution that can provide true access to digitized paper files. ChartScout’s ability to access and visualize all clinical data, be it scanned paper, free text notes or structured info and analyzing it based on any given need of a healthcare professional, puts us in a position to address the pressing issues facing many healthcare systems around the world.
So… going back to that first question on ‘Saving Healthcare.’ Do we mean it? Are we serious when we say that?
We intend to Save Healthcare. What we ultimately seek, the reason we’re in business, is to help people. All people, wherever they reside.
This attitude is what makes me a proud entrepreneur, a proud neighbor to our friends up north and ultimately a proud American.
Scott Finfer, CEO and Co-Founder Emerge Medical Data Intelligence
Scott Finfer is the CEO of Emerge Medical Data Intelligence, a company dedicated to removing the barriers between caregivers and critical Electronic Health Record data. Emerge’s solution, ChartScout, empowers medical professionals with swift, reliable access to EHR data via comprehensive patient-chart search and visualization capabilities; as well as customizable context-specific dashboards.