I read, with a combination of amusement and rage, a conversation-via-post about healthcare information technology (HIT) between John Halamka, the CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston, and Ken Terry, the editor of FierceHealthIT. Halamka thinks that the rise of electronic medical records is the key to empowering both patients and healthcare providers toward more effective, efficiently-delivered care. He also thinks that the cloud – delivering software services via the web, and hosting system data on servers at scattered sites across a city, region, country, or the globe – will be the biggest driver of health IT innovation and use.

Terry thinks that Halamka’s overly optimistic.

I was moved to make a comment on Terry’s post – that was driven not by amusement, but by a touch of rage – regarding the fact that nowhere in his post did he address the patient. Who is the entire purpose of the exercise in healthcare, even if many people involved in medicine have forgotten that fact.

Halamka actually talks about patients as more than data points. Both Halamka and Kelly are HIT thought leaders, but I give Halamka the win here because he sees patients as both the purpose of the exercise (healthcare) and as the central driver of HIT development and adoption.

As patients, we have to add our voices to the chorus. We must storm the HIT Bastille, demanding secure access to our data, control over who sees it, a say in who are providers are.

Only when patients are truly empowered – and we’ve got to take that power, not wait for someone to give us permission – will healthcare really be transformed into an industry that serves all the players involved in its process. Engaged, empowered patients are more likely to do what their healthcare providers recommend, because they’re truly communicating with each other.

Safety and cost controls will be meaningful because the patient and provider are directly connected as a team working toward the best possible outcome.

Where we are now? To this patient, it feels like the 7th, 8th, and 9th circles of Dante’s hell, all at once.

Please click this link for a bit of humor – infused with just the right touch of irony and rage – that illustrates my point (embedding isn’t working right now … GoDaddy got up and went?)

LET US IN, otherwise the system will remain broken.

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Dear Health IT geeks: LET PATIENTS IN. Please.
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