Patient Access–It’s time to trade in your Palm Pilot

I watched the movie Jaws recently. It was made in 1975. In 1975 I looked like the keyboard player for the Moody Blues (see photo). I wonder how different the movie Jaws would be if someone tried to make it today using today’s technology.

Bathers would see the shark’s fin. Using Bluetooth, they would triangulate on the fin, send a GPS signal to any CIA drone not targeted on some Middle-East Sadam-wanna-be. The drone would shoot a Hellfire missile into the surf on Amity Island, and the tourists would be dining on sushi.  Game over. Movie over. Pass the wasabi and pickled ginger.

When Jaws was filmed in 1975—where is Richard Nixon when you need him—if any of the visitors to Amity Island fell ill, there was no way for them to go to the Amity Island Hospital’s website to check their symptoms. No way for them to schedule an appointment online. No way for them to request a refill online. No way to seek a second opinion online. No way to call from the beach to talk to a nurse.

Technology is great, unless you have spent the last forty years without it, or you are looking to upgrade to a newer version of your Palm Pilot. In the movie Father of the Bride the wedding planner Franc (Martin Short) responds to Steve Martin saying “Welcome to the 90’s Mr. Banks.”  Sometimes it seems like the business of healthcare, how healthcare is run, has yet to be introduced to the nineties.

Thirty-nine years have passed since Jaws was released. If you happen to be one who studies the business of healthcare it would appear that not much has changed except for the fact that hospital administrators no longer wear bellbottoms, platform shoes, and puka-shell necklaces, and they no longer sport moustaches and long sideburns and long hair.

Accessing a healthcare institution remains the way it was in 1975.  For the most part it cannot be accessed it online. You can barely access it by phone. You still are not a customer or a potential customer.

Many hospitals still believe they have patients, not customers. Unless they change that perception the time will come when they have neither.

There are two ways of looking at access; access to the organization and access to healthcare. 

Healthcare is very impressive. At a recent meeting of the Cardiovascular Leadership Institute Leadership Council of Penn Medicine we watched of video of the transformation of a skin cell into a heart muscle cell—it began to beat!  We can treat numerous cancers and can transplant a face.

We can do everything except schedule an appointment. It may be time to trade in the Palm Pilot.

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