Doctors and patients must connect.

Another of my posts over at the World Health Care Blog

 Contrary to popular belief, I don’t believe that the internet is isolating. The internet actually connects people more and better both online and offline. Despite the scare that air travel was going to be harmed by internet communication, air travel is at an all time high. The so-called Web 2.0 movement has made purchasing and connecting with others easier and almost idiot proof. Instead of technology holing us up in closets staring blankly at LCD screens, our society has found that humans still need the physical presence of other humans — and now we have even more means of communication to connect with others. We text our friends to meet up at a bar. We send out “spam” email to our parents with daily photos of our new kiddo and their new grandchild. We video chat with our wives as we’re out on the road traveling. We meet our future wife on the internet and meet up for coffee because technology has allowed us to find other singles in our neighborhood.

Technology connects us and makes our lives more meaningful.

The healthcare industry does not yet understand this.  They don’t understand that humans want to connect with other humans – preferably humans they know and like. They don’t want to connect with corporations, especially corporations that have a cringe factor to their brand – notice there isn’t a single healthcare brand in the Top 100 brands.  They don’t want to connect with websites. They want to connect in meaningful, advantageous ways with people they value.

It’s trying to. I think. But doctors are too busy to care and they aren’t paid for accessibility and communication. Therefore, patients haven’t even been given the option.

There should be two main players in healthcare — doctors and their clients. Technology should be used to enhance the old-time, personal doctor-patient relationship — not cheapen it by using technology to connect you with some random doctor who doesn’t know you and vice versa. It’s unsafe and cheapens our profession.

Convenient Care Clinics and online video and IM visits with random doctors have arisen as a response to the deficiencies of our current policies that do not pay for intelligent care and instead pay for volume and more intensive care. They are excellent business opportunities to meet demand for patients who will take anything because their doctors are not accessible or available.

But they fracture our healthcare system even more.

If our policies and, therefore, our doctors do not respond to healthcare user demand, our healthcare is going to get more and more impersonal with less and less qualified caregivers. In effect, our safety is being threatened by cheapening the once coveted doctor patient relationship.

People get sick and need care when they need care. Giovanni Colella, former founder and CEO of Relay Health, said “People do not care if they communicate with their doctor, they just want to talk to a doctor.”

Of course Giovanni. When people are desperate and in need, they’ll take the best thing available. And when people aren’t given the option to communicate with their doctor, they’ll search for the next best thing. Healthcare users aren’t as dumb as the healthcare industry thinks (well maybe they are because real information that could transform them into true consumers is systematically and intentionally kept from them to maintain current business models). Since their own doctor isn’t available, they’ll take anything. When you’re starving and only rice is available, you’ll eat a hell of a lot of rice.

But you’ll eventually get kwashiorkor.

Technology has revolutionized every other industry except healthcare. I could develop the Killer App of healthcare and NOBODY WOULD USE IT.

That’s fine. You’ll be left behind as we create The New Digital Divide of Healthcare using technology to enhance a personal doctor-client partnership with your own personal neighborhood doctor. The age of using the internet to provide only simple text and impersonal, “jack-of all trades, master of none” information died on September 24, 2007.

Healthcare is personal. Healthcare is private. Healthcare is about a close doctor-client partnership to optimize the physical and mental health of both doctors and their patients. Doctors…we deserve it. Every day, we face life and death decisions. Our minds and our professional environment need to enhance our ability. Patients…you deserve it. Everyday, you should be happy and healthy so you can go about your business in this lovely world.

Doctors and patients — healthcare will continue to slip away from both of us and into the hands of a decreasing number of oligopolies.

We need to take it back. We need to partner with one another. We need to use technology to organize our needs. It’s not going to be cheap, it’s not going to be easy, but it’s going to be the best thing we’ve ever done to make our nation and our world a happier and healthier place.