fresh era - health ITHow many know that it is National Health IT Week? My guess is that not many do. If you work in health IT, you probably will. HIMSS sponsors this annual rallying point as a way to engage in health IT conversations on Capitol Hill and also encourage the health IT community to share their health story. Both are worthy initiatives.

Health IT or health information technology is central to our healthcare interactions today. Many more healthcare interactions contain health IT today:

  • A website to register as a new patient or schedule an appointment with a physician
  • A tracking device on your wrist for how many steps you walked or how well you slept
  • Your phone with a calorie counter or a personal health record
  • A web portal to gain your access to your lab results or health information

These are just the tip of the iceberg today, and there is much more to come. The next generation of health IT will be less obvious, as it is woven into our clothing, and more robust, as it administers what we need at a given moment.

Health IT needs a refresh, especially as it relates to who is involved in the conversations. Health IT conversations need to seep like spilled water, going to new places outside normal boundaries and flowing into new corners of our spaces – work, family, and friends.

A fresh era of health IT is coming. We begin with a solid foundation of electronic health records and greater digital health awareness and usage. From here, we will innovate and gain greater positive change. What will facilitate a new era in health IT is three focus areas:

  1. Generational Conversations
  2. A Healthy Triumvirate
  3. Enlivening Health IT

A Fresh Era of Health IT: Three Focus Areas

Let’s explore the three focus areas.

1 – Generational Conversations

Health IT and conversations seem like an odd couple, but they are not. We need more conversations about healthcare, personal care, and history of care. Many healthcare conversations occur at health conferences. Although this is natural, we need to expand conversations beyond the places where they normally happen.

Healthcare conversations need to happen in living rooms, non-health IT conferences, and with friends. Most importantly, healthcare conversations need to happen with grandparents, parents, and kids. We need to share personal history. When a health concern arises, history can be a solid place to begin to understand what may be happening.

I am guilty of not having these conversations, but I am working to change. I try to understand the health challenges of my grandparents and parents. Part of the reason is to help them in their care. Another reason is to record our personal family health history so the information can be passed to my kids and, eventually, their kids. Our family history needs to contain our health history as well.

Where does health IT come into these stories? A few ways. First, we can share our health concerns and experiences with others. Privacy is essential in healthcare, so we need to be comfortable in what and where we share our health story. Second, we can collect our personal health stories within a personal health record and share it with our family members.

Millennials are taking this conversational step forward. Fifty-three percent consider their friends and family to be trusted sources of health information and nearly a quarter report reading online reviews when looking for a provider.

Health IT can be a foundation to support and store our stories.

2 – Healthy Triumvirate

A new shift is happening. In the past, healthcare seemed to be about just our bodies. Healthcare also seemed to be more reactive based on what a physician said. Today, healthcare expands beyond these old boundaries.

Healthcare is proactive now. As it relates to our bodies, we read more about how everything works and how we can keep ourselves in better condition. We are more informed when we engage in conversation during a physician visit. We share our metrics. With health IT, it is more personal now. We can track many health-related metrics with our own devices. Much more needs to happen in this space, but we are on the right track for caring for our bodies in more proactive ways.

Add to this two key elements – mind and soul. With our minds, brain health is taking center stage as a key component of how we can be more productive, innovative, and smart in how we take breaks, pace our days, and use techniques to revive our focus and growth. With our soul, mindful practices are becoming more commonplace within workplaces and personal spaces. Meditation, yoga, being present, and leading with heart and empathy now play a role in how we can take a whole health approach in our lives.

A new healthy triumvirate is here, and we need to engage all three elements to raise our health story to new levels of performance, relaxation, and innovation.

3 – Enlivening Health IT

Here is the challenge. How can we take health IT to a new level of usability, activation, and results?

Today, health IT is having a positive impact. Much more can be done, so we look forward to the next iteration of health IT. Usability needs to better. Interoperability needs to be better. Access to our information needs to be better. Transparency of physician care and pricing needs to be better. A list can easily be developed in how we can refresh and enliven health IT.

Millennials will lead the efforts. Forty-three percent of Millennials want access to their health data through their smartphone, and more than half of Millennials think hospitals and doctors should post their prices so patients can compare. We need to support these shifts.

The good news is an entrepreneurial spirit is entering the health IT arena. In 2015, venture funding into digital health kept steady with a slight increase – $4.5B in total venture funding. Continued innovation and creative solutions will enter the marketplace over the next several years. Exciting health IT times are ahead!

An essential ingredient now is “What do I do next?” Information is static unless we act upon it. We need to take the information tracked and collected and do something with it. We can adopt new healthy habits. We can drop unhealthy habits. We need to take action on the information absorbed.

As a consumer, patient, and citizen, we need to be proactive in testing, using, and providing feedback on what is working and what is not. We play a role in the evolution and revolution of health IT, and we need to be active.

The Next Generation of Health IT and Health IT Stories

Health IT and health stories are connected. Over the past ten years, I learned a great deal about health IT and healthcare. I need to learn much more. More critically, I need to do more to keep a healthy mindset and approach within my family and community. During National Health IT Week, our awareness is raised. We need to take this renewed awareness and apply it our every week activities.

Are you ready for a fresh era of health IT? Join the conversation on Twitter by using #NHITWeek.