As we start a new year, I looked back on all that we learned from the hundreds of conversations we had with doctors, patients and hospital administrators to pinpoint the top lessons that really stood out from 2011. There was a lot of frustration with the fee-for-service model and the fragmented care that it engenders, but there were a few points of concern that surprised us that I thought I would share with our readers.
When we asked patients what they wanted from their doctors, we heard they wanted someone who would really listen, take them seriously, and didn’t keep them waiting. When we talked to doctors, we learned they were frustrated by patients who didn’t show up for their appointments, follow up with their treatment plans or take their medications. While it is often said that anecdotes don’t equal data, there are corresponding statistics on the sorry level of readmissions, which can often be traced to a lack of coordination among caregivers and the need for patient engagement.
As we looked into where video communication might help, we observed that video had two very different roles to play in medicine. The obvious role, as pioneered in dermatology and neurology, was using video as a diagnostic tool, for example looking at a photograph of a patient’s skin or observing his performance in a neurological examination. The other role, which may be equally if not more important, was more of a consultative role to establish rapport and engender trust between the parties. Doctors refer to the “doorknob syndrome,” where the patient mentions the most significant problem as he has his hand on the doorknob to leave the room. As this is something that occurs most likely in person and least likely over the phone, video is more like being there in person. Video, like an in person visit, ensures a higher level of trust between the patient and doctor.
We also heard a lot from hospital administrators about “change management.” Doctors are avid consumers of technology, from surgical robots to smart phones, but they have little patience for tools that are supposed to help and instead create more work. Electronic medical records (EMR) are a case in point. Implementation of an EMR can cost millions (or even billions in some cases) but we have yet to encounter a health care professional who hasn’t expressed frustration with one. Enterprises everywhere need to deal with the high level of expectation conditioned by consumer IT, and health care is no exception.
When it comes to video communication, the technical requirements are pretty straightforward: high quality, low bandwidth, interoperability with existing systems, and straightforward user experience. While there may not be one technology that satisfies all those requirements at once, we at SBR Health see an opportunity in crafting a solution that combines the best of the available video technologies with applications that are compatible with the day-to-day workflow of busy clinicians, improve communication among clinicians, patients and family members, and enable more efficient and compassionate delivery of health care.
Chris Herot is the CEO and co-founder of SBR Health. Prior to launching SBR in 2010, Chris was Chief Product Officer at VSee Lab, a provider of high quality, low bandwidth and low cost videoconferencing solutions to enterprises and governments. Chris has been a successful business and technology leader in several high growth companies, and directed the advanced technology group for several years at Lotus Development (now IBM) where he was responsible for video, mobile and real-time communications solutions.
Chris received his BS and MS degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he was on the faculty of the group that became the MIT Media Laboratory.