I get asked a lot why I decided to take the leap and start up this company. The comments almost always include the phrase “take the risk” and I still haven’t been able to determine why. To me, this was the most logical choice based on the options I had. I was being approached by enough organizations asking me to share what I have learned over the past few years that the best option was to share with everyone I could. So, here I am and here we are.
For me, this is a mission. I have been involved in healthcare for over 25 years, mostly emergency medicine. As an EMT, I learned how to treat a patient based on what I saw, not so much what I knew. By that I mean, I could see the patient, assess his symptoms and make an educated guess on the correct treatment. But there was always that risk that there was something I couldn’t factor into the equation. I knew absolutely nothing about the person in front of me. No health history: no idea if they might be allergic to the treatment was giving, if they had a condition that contraindicated the treatment, or whether they had just taken a medication that could cause what I was doing to have a different or unexpected affect. And so, the course of action was to weigh the risk vs. the benefit, and hope for the best.
Even when I started working in the hospital emergency department, we only had access to the records that were available in our facility. We could take the time to try and find more information at other facilities, but only when there was time. In an emergency, that is rarely an option, so once again, do the risk vs. benefit calculation and cross your fingers. I know I may be overstepping my bounds as an RN, and there are Physicians out there who would take offense at this line of thinking, but I am speaking as a collective. I have seen enough adverse events and closed calls to take that step and cross the line to stress my point. How much easier and less stressful for all involved would it be if we had all the information in front of us at the time these decisions need to be made? If we knew exactly what we were dealing with, or at least enough history to prevent something from happening?
I also had the unfortunate opportunity to see this from a patient perspective when I had a CVA (stroke). I got to experience first-hand the frustration of going from doctor to doctor and having to explain repeatedly what had happened, where my records were, what had already been done and so on. Eleven neurologists in 2 years, and every one of them had a different opinion and treatment. As my history grew, so did my Medical Record. Granted, the VA has in my opinion a fairly good EMR, it still did not connect to the UW (as far as I knew; if it did they didn’t use that functionality based on how many times I had to repeat myself.)
Being in Healthcare, I began to carry my records around in a notebook like all good patients do when they don’t want to spend their whole appointment explaining why they are there.
Jump forward a few years, and it turns out I wasn’t the only one thinking this way. After I was finally able to get cleared to return to work, it turned out I couldn’t continue doing what I loved. The last thing someone in distress wants to see is a nurse with shaking hands coming at them with a huge needle, so I had to find a way to compensate and stay in healthcare. I had the opportunity to move into IT, so I could stay working where I was, although not necessarily what I was programmed to do. (I couldn’t resist a small bit of IT humor) One of my first assignments was to work on the dreaded Meaningful Use program. It was just starting the 2nd year of attestation, and the amount of work it took to meet the measures was overwhelming. All I kept thinking was how much time was involved to get the EMR set up and what a waste it was.
But then came stage 2, and after reading the objectives and measures, something clicked. This was what has been needed for as long as I could remember: The ability to see a patient’s health record no matter where or when. It may be layered in a mass of government regulations, but the outcome was the best thing to ever be considered for healthcare. If you set aside for a moment the arguments about keeping the data all to yourself or they can take it to another health provider, imagine as a healthcare provider instant access to everything you need to know about the patient. The technology is here, how could you possibly complain about having this information?
This bring me back to my mission, and why I founded this company. I finally had a purpose again, doing what I love- helping people. I shifted my studies from nursing to IT, and learned how to make this a reality. One article I read recently called interoperability the “Holy Grail” of healthcare, but to me, it is more than that. My “Holy Grail” is being able to help patients by creating systems that get their information where it needs to be. I did if for one organization, and I want to share what I’ve learned with anyone who will listen. What you call interoperability, I call good patient care.