Since John Irvine’s taken over as the business lead for THCB, we now have a raft of new sponsors including CDW, Silverlink and now Orion Health. Apparently the marketing folks at Orion thought that it would be a good idea for me to interview their Chief Medical Officer Chris Hobson. What I didn’t realize is that Chris is a wealth of knowledge about health care systems around the world, and in particular how EMR use became prevalent–yup that essentially 100% adopted–in New Zealand We had a very interesting conversation about that, and if you’re as interested in that conundrum as you ought to be (which is very!) you need to read this. And hopefully the marketing people wont be too upset that their CMO barely got close to the topic of what OrionHealth actually does!
Matthew Holt: This is Matthew Holt at The Health Care Blog and today I’m doing another podcast. And with me I have Chris Hobson. Chris is the Chief Medical Officer at Orion Health. I’m very happy to be talking to anyone at Orion Health because unbeknownst to me last week they have decided to become a sponsor of The Health Care Blog. As part of that arrangement, I’m very delighted to interview Chris because I interview a lot of people who do not sponsor me. [laughter] Anyway, Chris, good morning. Thank you very much for joining me. Thanks to Orion. I don’t know who was it who your organization who decided to do this as I am no longer the business rep of the Health Care Blog but delighted to talk to you.
Chris Hobson: Good morning. It’s nice to be here.
Matthew: I sense by your accent you are one of these American immigrants. Well, you’re in Canada, right?
Chris: Yes, actually I’m native from New Zealand. Orion Health, actually, we started in New Zealand. As we’ve grown from New Zealand across UK, Canada, Australia, and other parts in the US, I’ve sort of tagged along with the company.
Matthew: That’s great. Well, it’s always good for people to come from the rest of the English speaking world to tell the North Americans how to do it. I’ve been doing it for years, not that anyone is listening.
Matthew: Let’s talk a bit about that. There are a couple of things that Orion does. For those people who don’t know about Orion, and you’ll explain it better than I do, loosely you’re in the business of improving data communications and data integrations and that ends up being a lot around messaging and interoperability issue–currently a big picture problem in the US. But also elsewhere. Let me ask you to start with a couple of things. First off let’s talk a bit about what you perceive to be the big problem in the US in that sector. Because you guys are also in a lot of other countries, you mentioned New Zealand, UK, Canada and also some other European countries, give me a sense of. Is this the same problem everywhere in health systems or is the US unique?
Chris: Sure. Well, we have our own perspective on what’s wrong with the health care system, but I guess, there would be fairly few people who would disagree a major problem with health care is the fragmented nature of it. There are a lot of different people, all well intentioned, doing a lot of good things across that the patients may interact with. The problems that we see arise as the result of all this—Going on from fragmented system to provider-to-provider-to-provider. In particular the information does not move along with the patient and it is very easy for the provider to focus on a narrow area and miss the big picture for what is going on with the patient.In the US, health care is more fragmented probably than anywhere else. In the sense that there are six thousand hospitals and just a huge range of both providers and payers. And if you look outside of the US, health care is not as fragmented; however, it is still quite fragmented and the same problems do arise.So if look for instance, the classic kind of story comes where down to and I’m taking this case from Don Berwick, and so I hope that’s OK but–
Matthew: [laughter] We steal from Don Berwick all the time.
Chris: [laughter] You steal from Don Berwick all the time. That’s great. He’s a Harvard professor of pediatrics, and his wife developed an obscure neurological complaint. It took some nearly six to twelve months before she got better more or less as a result, or not as a result, of the health care system. Along the way, she saw a huge range of different professionals who were all trying, well intentionedly trying, to help. The problem from his perspective was that each time they went to see a new professional he had to remember the case history. Each time they would see another professional, they would ask, "Tell me about what’s been going on." sort of thing. Of course, he had told the story so many times and been questioned about it so often that by the time he got to about 10 days or 10 weeks of this it was very hard to be strictly correct or accurate even with the best intentions.Another case in a sense that may be described as another sort of sense from when I was working at South Auckland in New Zealand, we went out and visited a home visiting nurse. And the first thing she said as she went in to visit a patient, she said, "Everything you tell me will be kept completely confidential, and I won’t share it with anyone." She then proceeded to take the whole history about what had been going on, and the patient had diabetes and had been to see a primary care practitioner who had said, "You have diabetes." But of course, the patient didn’t like that message particularly. So, he did nothing and a few months later he still wasn’t feeling very well, and went to see another practitioner who said ‘You’ve got diabetes’, and he didn’t like that story either. But eventually he managed to end up in the emergency room in the hospital and they looked up the history and said ‘You’ve got diabetes’. And they operated on the patient and then sent him out into the community. So when the community visiting nurse went to see the patient to look at the ulcer on the leg and dressings she knew nothing of all of this. Even though she worked for the same hospital and the same surgeons had done the surgery they hadn’t communicated onto the next provider what needed to be done.Now let’s rewrite that script and go back and say. The patient goes to see the first GP and he says you’ve got diabetes and the patient doesn’t like hearing that news so he goes to see the second practitioner. When he goes to the second practitioner, this time the stories different because he says ‘hey you’ve got diabetes, and by the way that first doctor that you didn’t like for telling you that you’ve got diabetes. He was right. You’ve got diabetes and now two of us have told you and you need to take this seriously.’ Let’s imagine the patient still did nothing and ended up in the hospital. The hospital specialist will say ‘You’ve got diabetes, and by the way, all these other people who’ve been telling you the same thing, it’s about time you started to take note of it.’So that’s a short vignette on what we see as the biggest problem in health care from our perspective. I mean health care is full of problems, but the information continuity and sharing of information, and sharing it in a way that improves the quality of care and re-enforces messages to the patient and it’s consistent. We see the lack of that as a huge barrier to improving the quality of care.