This 7-part series is based on what I learned at a Healthcare Conference in Baltimore, MD, sponsored by an organization called Planetree that is seeking to dramatically improve the quality of patient care by offering up a comprehensive certification program to hospitals around the world.
In the last three installments, I wrote about Jason Wells’ opening keynote address, where he pointed out all the things that were wrong with healthcare. “These problems leave the industry open to “industry disrupters” like CVS, Walgreens and an Amazon Subsidiary called One Medical that are all trying to create a better way of delivering healthcare by eliminating or reducing long waits, endless forms, confusing bills and high prices.”
On the second day of the conference, Roy Ziegelstein, M.D., Vice Dean for Education at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine , gave a Keynote address on “Personomics.” Ziegelstein writes a regular column by this same name in The Journal of The American Medical Association or JAMA. Personomics embraces the surprising premise that spending MORE time with a patient in the short run will ultimately save time and money in the long run.
Ziegelstein suggests that healthcare practitioners REALLY get to know their patients, including their life circumstances: (Can they afford the treatments he is recommending?) Their cultural background: (Is there anything that might prevent this patient from seeking treatment; like telling a 7th Day Adventist to eat more meat because their iron levels are low.) Their personal preferences: (What is their position on getting vaccinations?) Their behavioral tendencies: (Are they organized enough to follow a complex medication regimen?) Do they have a family/friend support system in place. (Can they get driven to certain appointments?)
“If you don’t know these things about your patients right from the get-go,” Ziegelstein points out, “you are going to be wasting your time and theirs.”
Dr. Ziegelstein also talked about the importance of having empathy for his clients. “Even I get nervous when I have my blood pressure taken. If MY blood pressure goes up just think what this does to a patient? This leads me to believe that we may be prescribing unnecessary treatments, like blood pressure medications, because we are in such a hurry to get the appointment over with.”
Ziegelstein talked about the importance of mixing things up. “The way we approach health care is boring. Everything is cookie cutter. And for a lot of doctors, this monotonous cookie cutter approach leads to burnout. Getting to know the patient helps to break up the monotony.”
Ziegelstein also gave plenty of examples of how getting to know a patient saves money. “Upwards of 30% of all diagnostic studies are unnecessary. And, of course, there are additional procedures that certain patient will simply refuse to do, like getting a colonoscopy, for example, even if you make the appointment for them, and assure them that their insurance will cover it.”
“So in this case, doing a fecal blood tests saves everyone time and money. But that important bit of understanding isn’t going to come about, in a rushed impersonal initial consultation.”
In our next and final installment we’ll talk about how Personomics and what Ziegelstein calls P5 Medicine will take healthcare into the future of medicine by focusing it more on being: Predictive, Preventive, Personalized, Participatory and Psycho-cognitive.