As consumer-directed health plans become more popular and as health care costs shift from employers to employees, consumerism—specifically, patients becoming intimately involved in directing their care—is growing rapidly. When consumers take responsibility for spending on care and the economic risk associated with it, they start to demand product quality and information. Sources such as CMS, NCQA, Health Grades and Angie’s List have exploded in popularity, while social networks using Web 2.0 technology increasingly address consumer health care issues.
However consumerism evolves, it will surely play an important role in the delivery of health care. All types of providers must plan for the dramatic shift in power as consumers apply their newfound information to obtain leverage over caregivers. Only organizations that adjust to this sea change, through innovation and emphasis on consumer issues, will survive.
The products and services that enhance the diagnostic and treatment capabilities of the physician at the point of care, while involving consumers in the management of their own care, offer health care providers a powerful tool to improve quality and reduce costs.
Over the past decade, effective diagnostic clinical decision support tools have been developed to assist physicians in the diagnosis and treatment of disease. Unlike atlases or other online medical references, these tools are based on actual patient symptoms, which generate a visual differential diagnosis that the physician can use immediately. Clinical decision support tools can also provide up-to-date treatment protocols reflecting the best available knowledge.
Empowering consumers with clinical knowledge assists in the delivery of safer, more efficient care that offers higher-quality outcomes. Empowering physicians with clinical decision support is an early “win” for the physician now deploying clinic room computers. This helps them better manage available patient information and provides more accurate diagnoses and more effective treatments. Only by working together to embrace health care IT with embedded clinical decision support can consumers and physicians positively impact health care reform in their effort to achieve better outcomes, improve access, and deliver affordable and safe care.