Human cost of patient records system largely ignored at HIMSS

There was plenty of focus on the interoperability problem at the HIMSS18 conference in Las Vegas, but not enough about how it hurts patients, in the opinion of CNBC reporter Christina Farr.

Farr writes that she’s heard about this human cost from leaders in health IT. In a 2015 interview with the now-deceased former CEO of Cerner, Neal Patterson, he told Farr that his wife, Jeanne, had to bring paper bags filled with hard copies of her medical records to every appointment as she dealt with breast cancer. He struggled with the fact that a $20 billion company like Cerner had failed to solve this very problem, making patients focus on making record requests and paying fees for their own health data instead of focusing on getting better.

Attendees at HIMSS18 certainly were discussing these very problems, but to Farr, it “all felt a little shallow” with “very little recognition of the human cost of this problem.”

“It is unacceptable that a hospital in 2018 can't send an x-ray from one facility to another, without asking a patient to physically carry over a CD-ROM or a USB drive,” Farr writes. “Even drug dealers have moved on from using faxes and pagers. And in every other industry from retail to banking, systems connect.”

There is hope for this to change, Farr writes, thanks to technology giants like Apple and Google taking notice and major medical records vendors adopting open standards. Solving the interoperability for good, she says, should mean “we’re going to have to focus on what it means to be a patient.”

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