[This post is the third and final part of a commentary on “Medicine in Denial,”(2011) by Dr. Lawrence Weed and Lincoln Weed. You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.]
It seems that Dr. Larry Weed is commonly referred to as the father of the SOAP note and of the problem list.
Having read his book, I’d say he should also be known as the father of orderly patient-centered care, and I’d encourage all those interested in patient empowerment and personalized care to learn more about his ideas. (Digital health enthusiasts, this means you too.)
Skeptical of this paternity claim? Consider this:
“The patient must have a copy of his own record. He must be involved with organizing and recording the variables so that the course of his own data on disease and treatment will slowly reveal to him what the best care for him should be.”
“Our job is to give the patient the tools and responsibility to organize the knowledge and slowly learn to integrate it. This can be done with modern guidance tools.”
These quotes of Dr. Weed’s were published in 1975, in a book titled “Your Health Care and How to Manage It.” The introduction to this older book is conveniently included as an appendix within “Medicine in Denial.” I highlighted it this section intensely, astounded at how forward-thinking and pragmatically patient-centered Dr. Weed’s ideas were back in 1975.
Thirty-eight years ago, Dr. Weed was encouraging patients to self-track and to participate in identifying the best course of medical management for themselves. Plus he thought they should have access to their records.
[This post is Part 2 of a commentary on “Medicine in Denial,”(2011) by Dr. Lawrence Weed and Lincoln Weed. You can read Part 1 here.]
An excellent chapter in “Medicine in Denial” discusses the problem-oriented medical record (POMR), a comprehensive charting approach that Dr. Larry Weed began developing in the late 1950s.
The Weeds begin by detailing what a good health care record should allow clinicians, and the healthcare system to do. In other words, they start by clearly defining the needs of patients, the purpose of the medical record, and the kind of health care it should support.
Specifically, the Weeds make the following points:
- Managing chronic illness often involves multiple interventions that require adjustment over time, rather than a single treatment that results in cure/resolution. This requires tracking of physiologic variables and medical interventions over time.
- Chronic care of medically complex patients, especially those with multimorbidity, requires coordination of care among multiple clinicians at multiple sites over time.
- For the many people suffering from multi-morbidity, chronic medical problems and their associated interventions often interact. This makes it particularly important that care be individualized, and carefully tracked over time.
- Enabling patient awareness, participation, and commitment is essential, with the Weeds noting that “unavoidable complexity must somehow be made manageable by patients who need to cope with what is happening to their own bodies and minds.”
- Patient care – and hence the charting of medical data — must be oriented towards a single purpose: individualized medical problem solving for unique patients.
In other words, the Weeds consider the longitudinal, comprehensive, person-centered, individualized, collaborative care of the medically complex patient to be a fundamental base scenario around which we should design healthcare, and healthcare information systems.
“Any system of care that depends on the personal knowledge and analytic capabilities of physicians cannot be trusted.”
Finally, I’ve come across a really spot-on analysis of what ails healthcare, and some proposals that have serious potential to improve healthcare for people like my patients. Come to think of it, implementing these proposals would surely improve care for all patients.
The analysis, and the proposed fixes, are detailed by Dr. Lawrence Weed and his son Lincoln Weed, in their book “Medicine in Denial.” (The quote above is from this book.)
The book is a little long, but for those who are interested in leveraging technology to make healthcare more consistent and more patient-centered, I’d say it’s a must-read and must-discuss. (I’m a bit surprised that this book doesn’t seem to have many reviews, and that Dr. Weed’s ideas are not more often cited by those advocating for digital health and patient empowerment.) In particular, the Weeds’ book provides:
- An excellent description and analysis of two huge fundamental problems in healthcare. One is the way we persist in relying on fallible physician minds to manage the process of evaluating, diagnosing, and managing medical problems. The other is our lack of standards for consistently documenting and organizing information related to our evaluation and management of patients. Both lead to idiosyncratic, disorganized healthcare that generally serves patients poorly, especially those who are medically complex or have multiple chronic conditions.
- A proposed method of using computers and technology to consistently connect patient data to medical knowledge, leading to better diagnosis and medical management.
The authors’ recent book, Medicine in Denial, briefly mentions the subject matter of this post — the effects of fee-for-service payment. This post examines the issue in more detail, because of its importance to health care reform.
The medical practice reforms contemplated by Medicine in Denial have large implications for a host of policy issues. As an example, consider the issue of fee-for-service payment of providers. The health policy community has arrived at a virtual consensus that fee-for-service is a root cause of excessive cost growth in health care. Payment for each medical service rendered seems to involve an unavoidable conflict of interest in physicians: their expertise gives them authority to increase their own payment by deciding on the need for their own services. This conflict of interest has driven countless attempts at health care regulation. These attempts usually involve some combination of price controls, manipulation of incentives, and third party micromanagement of medical decision making. For decades these attempts have proven to be hopelessly complex, illegitimate in the eyes of patients and providers, often medically harmful, and economically ineffective.
Because regulating the conflict of interest has proven to be so difficult, the health policy consensus is now that the only escape from the conflict is to avoid fee-for-service payment. But this consensus misunderstands the conflict’s origin. The conflict of interest arises not from fee-for-service payment but from physicians’ monopolistic authority over two distinct services: deciding what medical procedures are needed and executing the procedures they select. The conflict does not disappear when payment switches from fee-for-service to its opposite–-capitation. Indeed, then the conflict becomes even more acute–-physicians have an incentive to withhold their expertise from costly patients who need it the most.