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The following is a guest post from Dr. Randall Oates, president of SOAPware and a fellow member of the American Academy of Family Physicians. After more than 20 years of operating a successful Family Medicine practice, Dr. Oates made the tough decision to phase down his medical practice and focus on new technology to help transform healthcare and create a bridge to a better system.

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Imagine learning that your doctor has been told by an administrator that they shouldn’t spend any more than 7 minutes meeting with their patients face-to-face,  and that they were encouraged to include as many billable services as is possible in that time.  All of this is because of a “pay for procedure” healthcare system that devalues actually taking care of patients.  Does that sound a bit like insanity?  I’ve been there as a physician, and the probability is that you are now there as a patient.

Recently, I had the great pleasure of traveling to several places on the planet where healthcare is smarter. In particular, I was pleased to visit Denmark. Some recent healthcare data from Denmark shows that:

·           The cost was less than half that in the U.S.

·           Outcomes were dramatically better.

·           The system received high marks from both patients and physicians.

From a physician perspective, it seemed almost too good to be true.  I extended my stay an extra week, traveling through the countryside, visiting practices, pharmacies and hospitals, to confirm that it really is possible to have a system that is more patient-centered.  It is very similar in character to what is described in the illustration How Smarter Healthcare Works. In other nations I visited, and in some smarter practices I visited in the U.S., there is a consistent formula for success:

1.            Empowerment of primary care via a closer equivalence, both in status and monetarily, to specialist care.

2.            Practical information technologies that have a focus on enhancing the patient-physician relationship.

Several initiatives within healthcare reform have some promise of bringing our system into better balance. For example, if Accountable Care Organizations can be created on a strong foundation of Patient Centered Medical Homes, better quality of care and new efficiency will follow.

The recent announcement by IBM and ActiveHealth may well be a major milestone on the path to smarter healthcare as well.  I am pleased to have been able to work with and advise teams within IBM and ActiveHealth over the past three years attempting to serve as a bridge to bring advanced information technologies to the patient-physician interface.

Founded by a physician, for nearly two decades, SOAPware, Inc. has adhered to a simple philosophy of delivering affordable technology to healthcare providers. Improving healthcare and the quality of life, by empowering medical professionals and patients with innovative technology and services is the mission we are committed to achieve.

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