Local Healthcare Example – Patient Driven and Connected

Tom Zimmerman

We talk a lot about patient-centric healthcare these days.

Enterprise imaging is just one of the clinical areas where this is taking shape.

Unfortunately – and fortunately – I’ve had some first-hand looks at how things are unfolding in 2015.

I was a little over enthusiastic on our family’s new elliptical exercise machine.

Despite my hobbled limp and a very tender left foot, my primary physician suspected a sprain or strain.

“I’ll give you a referral to the network’s podiatrist if you like,” he offered. “Could be a stress fracture, but it’s hard to tell.”

So the choice was mine.

With our family’s pre-tax healthcare allocation fund still full, I opted to schedule – and pay my share of – the specialist visit.

She was in network, so the registration desk matched name and birth date, but there were no additional forms. They had my patient jacket of histories, medications and…payment details.  (“Still with GE Healthcare?”)

Before meeting the podiatrist, I was immediately directed to the digital X-ray suite.

Three angles took less than 5 minutes.

Several minutes later, I was seated with the doctor, squinting as she pointed at the digital images of my foot on her laptop screen.

“Tough to say for sure,” she said cheerfully while circling an area of gray and white streaks. “Could be the hint of a stress fracture, but you’re not feeling direct pain in that area. Nothing definite from the images, I’m afraid.” My untrained eye failed to see any of the nuances she referred to in the image, but I didn’t see a big, obvious crack either.

In the end, our course of action was to wait and watch for changes, with some additional instructions on athletic shoes and arch support. The entire time in office was less than 30 minutes.

Back home on the patient’s portal, I was able to message with my primary physician, who had already seen the results and taken a quick look at the image himself. Without an “I told you so,” his message was to check back if I had any questions or my condition changed.  I then received a detailed billing in the mail that explained my share of the patient-initiated specialist and X-ray fees. Logging in to our insurance carriers payment site, I approved the pre-tax account fees and considered it worthwhile peace of mind. (and my foot recovered!)

Something else appealed to me about the process. I appreciate the value of a vendor neutral archive and a complete patient jacket; I can see where access to these digital images of my foot may prove valuable in the future for comparison or baseline. Let’s hope I don’t need that reference!

As a patient and consumer, the entire process was very satisfactory for staying connected to both clinicians and feeling as though I weren’t waiting on others to decide for me. Still, I was spending my own money, with only the slight illusion that since it was allocated to a pre-tax fund, I have to “use it or lose it” in the calendar year.

I realize that this is a very minor healthcare example in the scheme of things – nothing life threatening about a sprained foot – but it did give me a first-hand glimpse into the progress we are making towards actually executing on the evolution to patient-centered care.

Please let me know what you think – we’ll share more on this in future posts.
Be encouraged in all you do,

TomZ


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