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Monday, April 9, 2012

Let’s get healthcare as good as our dogs get

My dog Jackson was born to a stray mother, and he never knew Daddy. Jackson has never had health insurance. Now entering old age (at ten), he definitely has some risk factors for poor health: uninsured, born homeless into a single parent family, aging. Yet he gets excellent health care, and of special note, he routinely gets much clearer doctors’ orders than I do.

At the end of each well-dog checkup, and at every other visit to the veterinarian, he receives a printed four-page summary that describes notes from the exam and, highlighted in red ink, the steps we should take to keep him healthy.

We weren’t brushing his teeth, so the visit summary included a paragraph on the plaque and tartar that develops with poor dental hygiene. It even recommended the specific flavor of toothpaste he’d likely prefer: poultry! Years ago, when we found a lump in his left front shoulder, the visit summary described what a lipoma was, with our treatment options. In a later visit we heard a shocking diagnosis of a cancerous tumor. In later rereading the visit summary, we absorbed more of it than when we had first gotten the diagnosis.

Sign a petition encouraging doctors' assistants to promptly print the doctor's orders for human ambulatory patients.

The vet’s electronic health record software makes it easy for the vet and the technician to produce these summaries, so promptly that the payment clerk can routinely hand the printout to us at the end of the visit. The information in the visit summary is significant, actionable, pertinent, timely and specific; in short, it’s highly meaningful.

For example, when Jackson recently ruptured a spinal disk, the visit summary specified the timing, contra-indications, and pill-sweetening Pill Pockets (again in that yummy chicken flavor) for a pain medication and an anti-inflammatory (think canine ibuprofen), and the rules for a month of doggie bed rest: no running, jumping, stair-climbing; minimal walks; a harness to replace the collar, etc. The visit summary enabled us to engage actively in his recovery.

In spreading the use of electronic health records for humans, the powers that be are deciding what constitutes “meaningful use” by doctors of the E.H.R. They’re gathering comments from the public until May 7, 2012. We humans are just as deserving as our dogs; we too, should get doctors’ orders as clear as our dogs get.

Please sign the petition so that the Stage 2 and Stage 3 definitions of “meaningful use” shall routinely and promptly include printed doctor’s orders after an ambulatory visit, to build patients’ engagement in their care.

That’ll give us meaningful use of the electronic medical record, in the consumer’s eyes – at a cost less than a dog biscuit.

See an earlier story about Jackson in my e-book.

1 comment:

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