Doctors and Patients as Customers

Posted on May 11, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I’m not sure where I came up with the following idea. I had stored it in my list of future posts and I didn’t have any reference for it. So, if I forgot to acknowledge who provided me the comment I’m sorry.

This is the comment that I received from someone, “EMR provides benefits to the patient (better patient care) and payers (cost savings).”

Of course, we could argue these two points until we’re blue in the face. In fact, feel free to argue either point in the comments below. That will be interesting. I’ll just say that there’s the potential for better patient care and the potential for cost savings to the payers. Whether the potential will become a reality will be a fun discussion in the comments.

When I saw the above statement I started to consider the impact of “better patient care” from a doctor’s perspective. Better patient care seems like something that should benefit the doctor. Pretty sad to consider that the customer (patients) getting better service has little effect on a doctor’s business. Certainly there are some hyper competitive markets where this isn’t true. However, I believe that most patients (myself included) aren’t very good (shall I say knowledgeable) enough to be able to distinguish between good patient care and great patient care. Sure, there are outlier cases, but what measures do patient use to distinguish the quality of care their doctor provides?

If you assume the above statement of EMR software providing better patient care (Clinical Decision Support, Drug to Drug and Drug to Allergy interaction checking, etc etc etc), then why as patients (customers) aren’t we asking future doctors if they use these features? Maybe a few people are, but there’s far from an outcry of patients leaving doctors who are refusing to use an EMR.

For some reason this isn’t working:
EMR Use -> Better Patient Care -> Happy Patients -> Better Business for Doctors

I’m sure that some will come and say that it’s just not clear that the EMR benefits to patient care are tangible enough for this “customer demand” to occur. I remember about 5 years ago when on the EMR Update forum someone suggested a “Got EMR?” (similar to Got Milk) ad campaign for doctors to advertise the fact that they had an EMR. So, of course this topic isn’t new. Although, it’s still very relevant.

Although, even beyond EMR, I wonder what a company or website could do to help consumers/customers (patients if you prefer) to better evaluate the quality of healthcare that’s being provided. I don’t have any ideas on this regard. I’m as bad as the next person at figuring it out. However, whenever there’s a lack of good information I think there’s an opportunity. As you’ve probably figured out, I’m all about good information and accountability.