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Wednesday
Nov152017

Patients Are a Design Problem

Patients Are a Design Problem
 

by Kim Bellard, November 15, 2017

 

When I say "patients are a design problem," I don't mean that the people who happen to be patients are a design problem.  They may well be, but that's an issue you'll have to take up with Darwin or your favorite deity (or, all-too-soon, perhaps a CRISPR editor...). 

No, I mean that making people into patients is a design problem.  And it's a big one.

 

Consider the following:

1.  Physician Respect: We treat physicians as something special. That white coat is no longer needed and may, in fact, 
be counterproductive, but serves to remind of us the deference the health care system believes physicians are due. 

2.  Patient experience: It's hard to get appointments.  The appointment time is often just a vague indicator of when we'll actually see our doctor.  We may have services done to us that we don't really understand and which not uncommonly are unpleasant, to say the least.   We may be asked to fast unnecessarily for hours before blood work or procedures.  We often are unsure about what is going to happen next, or when. It is not a patient-centered system.

3.  Medicalization:  We talk about the health care system, but we really mean the medical care system.  We almost never include, or pay for, the other things that impact our health, like diet, exercise, and environment. 

4.  Better, Soon: We've seen remarkable strides in what medical care can achieve.  We have become a nation of pill-poppers.  When something is wrong with us, we expect to be able to get it fixed, and we expect that to happen quickly. 

5.  Confusion reigns: Nothing about health care seems easy.  It's hard to pick a physician, or a health plan.  The terminology makes no pretense at being understandable to anyone not a health care professional.  The bills are practically indecipherable.  If you need multiple doctors, tests, or procedures -- which you almost certainly will -- you'll have to navigate the maze around getting them.  No one, lay or

professional, claims to understand the "system."

6.  Responsibility: We've delegated responsibility for our health to our health care professionals, especially our doctors.  It is more established than ever that regular exercise, moderate eating, and a balanced life would do more to improve our health than any regime of medical treatments.  Yet we continue to expect that the results of our increasingly poor habits will be "fixed." 

 

These are why we are "patients."  These are why we are expected to be patient.

We will always need physicians (although 
not always human ones!), and many other health care professionals.  That's a good thing.  They have knowledge and skills that can help us.  They deserve our respect. 

But we should design our health care system around us, not them. 

Make the "system" simpler.  Focus it around our health, not our care.  Expect us to have responsibility for our own health -- but ensure we have the tools we need to manage it.  Spend money to prevent health issues, not address them once they've happened.

If patients are a design problem, then maybe people can come up with a design solution.

 
This post is an abridged version of the posting in Kim Bellard’s blogsite. Click here to read the full posting

 

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