25 Jun UW Medical Foundation CEO shares his vision on the state of health care and patient safety
Describes gap between what we know and what we do
MADISON – The human aspect of leveraging and delivering information technology for increased patient safety in health care is often overshadowed by the appeal of cutting-edge technologies, gizmos and gadgets. Jeffrey Grossman MD, president and chief operating officer of the University of Wisconsin Medical Foundation, spoke Wednesday at the Digital Healthcare Conference in Madison produced by the Wisconsin Technology Network. Dr Grossman discussed how technology can aid people working in medicine and offered a critique of the current medical practice.
Dr. Grossman, who is also serves as Senior Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs at the UW Medical School, began by saying UW Hospital is one of the top hospitals in the country and has one of the lowest patient mortality rates. Citing the Wisconsin Patient Safety Institute as an example, he attributed these achievements to factors such as interagency cooperation.
“Madison is an extraordinary place in terms of how health care providers work together,” Grossman said.
He went on to say one of the perks of his job is sitting on the podium at the Medical School’s graduation. This year’s guest speaker, Jordan Cohen, president and chief executive officer of the Association of American Medical Colleges, advised the graduates to use their hearts, spines and brains – in that order. Cohen pointed out that while they had learned a large amount of information, half of what they learned is wrong and no one knows what half that is.
Grossman expounded upon Cohen’s ideas, emphasizing the importance of relating to patients in the information-soaked world of medicine.
“We’re now getting into the generation of new physicians whose lives are going to be fundamentally different – there really is going to have to be a new paradigm for these folks,” Grossman said. “How are we going to keep people’s brains and hearts connected?”
New doctors are often enthusiastic and pure at heart, he said, but eventually job satisfaction declines and low physician approval rates follow. And the way to restore the fervor and undo cynicism is through technology.
“[Information technology] really can be the link between our hearts and minds and we need to use it,” Grossman said.
Despite exponentially growing amounts scientific data and biomedical knowledge, patient care still lags. This “knowledge gap,” is the discrepancy between what physicians know and what they do.
“The technology that was used to intervene with patients is absolutely necessary but not sufficient to close this gap,” Grossman said.
Specialists and specialized care, which sometimes neglect overall health, also contribute to this schism. Grossman said the known decrease in primary care is due to fact it’s simply easier to learn a limited amount of knowledge and also because of financial concerns. It’s not uncommon, he said, for an orthopedic surgeon to make an order of magnitude more than a family physician, which creates a powerful cultural and economic force.
Grossman also mentioned a backlash against technology within the medical community; that some heath care providers feel new technology can help within a specialized field, but are averse to overarching knowledge-management technology.
“Technology is seen as interfering with the doctor-patient relationship and I would contend that that’s not true,” Grossman said.
He called for physician leaders to develop a vision that embraces and leverages technology to improve health care while dismissing the notion that current technology is inadequate to improve patient care.
A new model of care and new expectations are necessary to make progress. And while Grossman said he doesn’t expect a revolution in medical education anytime soon, slowly the system will evolve to better serve future physicians.
Audience members appreciated Grossman’s practitioner viewpoint.
“For me, it was more of an education,” said Tom Mack of Paragon Development Systems. “I found it interesting and it gave me better insight into the clinician’s side.”
Kristin V. Johnson is the Associate Editor of WTN. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.