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It's NOT the patients' fault! Stop whining and fix it. | Healthcare Revisited

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It’s NOT the patients’ fault! Stop whining and fix it.

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Whining baby

Stop whining and make better tools!

Healthcare has to be among the whiniest of all industries. Can you imagine leaders in another industry blaming the consumer for not using their product? Can you imagine what would happen if a product director at GE, or Apple told his boss that the reason his product wasn’t successful was because of a problem with consumers? 

I can imagine it now, “Mr. Jobs, the product is perfect, just the way it is. The reason it’s not selling is because users are just too dumb to realize how good it is.”

It’s easy to see that response is whiny and lazy. They’d be lucky to get back to their desk before they were fired.

So why do we continue to put up with that mindset in healthcare? I recently read an Information Week article from Paul Cerrato titled, “Why Personal Health Records Have Flopped; It’s not a security, privacy, or data-sharing problem. It’s a patient problem“. In the article, he says that the problem with Personal Health Records is consumer apathy. That kind of thinking is no different than the ridiculous scenario we were imagining at Apple. Stop blaming patients, and put in the energy to figure out what they want and need!

Now Paul, just to clarify, I’m not endorsing Colin Evan’s belief that the problem is providers’ unwillingness to put patients in control of their medical data, either. What would a patient do with their medical data if they did have control of it? Medical data takes a lot of knowledge to understand and interpret, and the average healthcare consumer has about a 4th grade reading level (that means that half of them are actually reading below that).

What I am saying is that if we want to successfully improve the healthcare industry, we can’t be satisfied with blaming the patients. We have to take the time and energy to ask “why”. Why are people willing to spend twice the energy picking a TV that they’ll spend picking their doctor? Is it because they don’t care about their health? Personally, I have a much harder time believing that people don’t care about their health, and a much easier time believing that we’ve made crappy tools, that don’t adequately support consumers’ needs when it comes to the complex, confusing, and intimidating healthcare industry.

We need to know that we’re giving people access to good healthcare consumer engagement products that are functional, usable, and hopefully, even desirable. And to do that, we have to stop whining and recognize that it’s not the patients’ fault.

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