The curtain rises to the scene of a psychiatrist’s office. Dr. Ben* leans back in his chair wearing a smoking jacket with an unlit pipe in his mouth. He ushers in a disgruntled looking pair, one fidgeting with a new iPad, and the other clutching a portfolio containing the creative concepts for the hospital’s new integrated marketing campaign.
Dr. Ben: Come in. Sit down. I understand the two of you are having some issues in your relationship…
Marketing: Issues! That’s an understatement!
(I.T. glares at Marketing.)
Dr. Ben: Everyone just take a deep breath and relax. This is a safe place where we can talk through our challenges with one another without being attacked. We need to get to the root of the conflict between you so that we can begin to repair your relationship. To do that, we’ll first try to understand where you’re coming from. No interruptions and no attacking one another. Agreed?
(Marketing and I.T. grunt noncommittally while avoiding one another’s gaze.)
Dr. Ben: Excellent! Marketing, why don’t you begin?
Marketing: It just doesn’t feel like I.T. thinks I’m important. My projects are never a priority and if my systems go down, it sometimes takes hours before they’re fixed.
We’ve never had a great relationship, and I’ve dealt with what I’ve had to work with, but things are really coming to a head around this whole meaningful use thing.
I.T.: That’s my problem, not yours!
Dr. Ben: Now, now. Remember our rules. Marketing, please continue.
Marketing: You see! This is exactly my point. I.T. is just dismissive of me. But we’ve been moving down this meaningful use path, and I need be involved!
Dr. Ben: And how does that make you feel?
Marketing: I just don’t feel like my expertise is respected. I want to be a strategic contributor for the new initiatives at our hospital, but I.T. just waltzes along without listening to a thing that I say.
Dr. Ben: Ok. Good start. I.T., what do you see as the problem here?
I.T.: (Sighs) Marketing really wears me out, and I just don’t think they understand the priorities. It’s not that I think Marketing’s stuff isn’t important, but let’s face it – if the website goes down, nobody dies.
Dr. Ben: That’s a good perspective. What about the meaningful use process that you have underway?
I.T.: I honestly don’t understand why Marketing would want to be involved. We’ve got our checklist and our project plans. When we get the systems rolled out, we’ll let Marketing know in case they want to put up a billboard…
Marketing: That’s all that you think we do! Brochures and billboards??!? Marketing is so much more that that!
Dr. Ben: Calm down. Slow, deep breaths, please. Let’s keep this on topic. Marketing, why do you think you should be involved?
Marketing: Granted, we’re not the only ones I.T. needs to keep happy. This is different, though. Meaningful use takes I.T. somewhere they’ve never been before: to the consumer. Patient portals are part of the solution set for Stage 1 of meaningful use and the idea that I.T. is going to be constructing the online experience for patients is scary! We know how to communicate effectively with health consumers. Have you ever seen I.T. try to carry on a conversation at the hospital holiday party?
Dr. Ben: Let’s not resort to personal attacks, now.
I.T.: Thank you.
Dr. Ben: Marketing has a point, though. What about the patient portal?
I.T.: Well. We’re approaching them like any other I.T. systems. We have a set of features that meaningful use requires these things to do and we only consider solutions that do those things. We then grok for an optimal combination of cost and general level of headaches they’re likely to cause us and make a selection. I’m guessing we’ll get the portals from our inpatient and outpatient EMR vendors and then add on the portals from our scheduling vendor and our lab vendor…
Marketing: How many portals are you talking about? And they’re all going to have their own logins, right? Oh, and I suppose none of them will work if you’re not already a patient. And what does “grok” mean? Is that a word?
Dr. Ben: Take it easy. Remember, no interrupting! I.T., have you given much thought to the overall patient and consumer experience?
I.T.: That’s not how my success is judged. I need to make certain information available to patients after an encounter with one of our physicians or the hospital and then have other information available to those patients on-demand. If we turn around that data in a timely fashion and have on-demand information for enough patients, then we qualify for meaningful use dollars.
Dr. Ben: Marketing, how does that sound to you?
Marketing: I.T.’s missing the point. Sure, that’s what the meaningful use regulations say, but we’d really like people to use it. Meaningful use doesn’t require that, but it’s really important to making the effort worthwhile.
Let’s look at how this patient portal is going to get used. In most cases, the woman of the house is managing healthcare for her spouse and kids. She’s going to need to make appointments, fill out the paperwork, check test results and pay the bills for four or five people. She needs to manage all of that in one place, not with separate logins let alone to two or three different portals!
This can really differentiate us in the market if we do it right. But the solution that we put in place needs to be easy to use, and I’ve seen what our EMR vendors think a user interface should look like. Oh, and we need to use consumer-friendly terminology and provide a lot of supporting information. Our patients didn’t go to med school after all.
And health reform is going to push more and more out through the portal. eVisits and patient self‑directed care are just around the corner, and…
I.T.: Whoa! None of that’s on my radar right now. At this moment I need to get the functionality out there so that I can check the box on my meaningful use attestation.
Marketing: And do you want to rip it all out a year from now and start over?
I.T.: Ideally? No.
Marketing: So I think we need to talk.
Dr. Ben: Well, our times up, but I think we’re making some real progress here. Let’s take what we’ve learned a step further. I.T., could you bring this meaningful use checklist to the next meeting, and Marketing, could you make a list of value-added features you want included in the patient portal? I really think a solution that will make you both happy is within reach. See you next week.
Met with new patients I.T. and marketing. Apparent that the two bring different skill sets to the table and are motivated by different goals when it comes to meaningful use compliance. Although they both began the session hostile, by the end they seemed open to at least hearing the other side’s perspective. For the sake of the patients, I hope we can reconcile their differences.
*Note: I’m not a real doctor, but I play one in this article.