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Monday, June 20, 2011

HITECH Crossroads

Have you ever met Leah Marcotte?

 She is young and slight.   I met Leah at a meeting at Department of Health and Human Services.  She is very involved in providing the medical student perspective to the ONC and CMS.  She focuses a lot of her energy on HITECH and Meaningful Use. 
HITECH Crossroads: Leah's Jacket
And she is blank slate.

I mean her jacket was a blank slate.  You see Leah just dropped off her jacket with my front desk. Her first name written on it and she left no patient story.  I even got her last name wrong.  (I confused her last name with Leah Wiseman.)  I put Leah’s jacket in the pile of jackets another artist could do, if they arrived to help in the final hours before the show.

In the early evening of June 6th Robert Filley arrived to help.  Robert is an amazing artist with a degree in fine art and I put to work on some jackets that matched his style.  His style is serene and filled with vibrant color.  In the late evening his wife arrived.  She offered to get us food, but instead I asked her to paint.  “Oh, I am not an artist,” she said, as her eyes went wide with apprehension. 

I said, “Don’t worry! Remember I teach art.  You will be fine.  Just paint the background.   Here, I will even draw the outlines of where to put the sky, the grass and the roads.”

I am so glad that she was brave enough to pick up that brush and paint the background of “HITECH Crossroads,” because I can think of no one better than Anita Samarth to that job.  

In case you do not know, that amateur artist at my dining room table is the President and co-founder of Clinovations.  In a firm belief that we tend to do a pretty good job of describing ourselves, here is Anita’s bio from the Clinovations site:

“Ms. Samarth is the President and Co-Founder of Clinovations with more than 15 years of experience in the healthcare and technology industries. She is currently leading EHR/PHR benefits realization efforts and methodology for Clinovations and its clients and working as a SME for an AHRQ project synthesizing findings from six state/regional HIE efforts. Recently Anita led TA activities for the AHRQ National Resource Center for Health Information Technology (2005-2009), led SMEs and authored select American Health Information Community (AHIC) Use Cases for ONC, and led certification development for Electronic Prescribing and Interoperability for CCHIT. “

So for an hour, the three of us painted.  I was painting Christine Kraft’s jacket, Rob was painting Carol Torgan’s jacket and Anita was painting Leah Marcotte’s jacket.  And then it was the Witching Hour and it was time for them to stop painting and head home for some rest.  Then I looked at Anita’s painting.  It was amazing.  The sky roiled with confusion.  I knew exactly what must be painted to finish this piece.
HITECH Crossroads: Leah Wiseman's jacket
I painted a female patient staring in confusion down a highway to infinity.  Upon the horizon is a street sign listing the various paths.  The sign is slightly askance.  Our patient walks in the middle of a highway labeled PHR (Personal Health Record) this shall soon merge into HIT (Health Information Technology.)  I wonder is our patient in danger of being run over by a speeding motorist in the PHR lane?  No, I decide, it seems as if this path is mostly abandoned. 
HITECH crossroads
Upon the horizon, the sign directs us right to an EMR (Electronic Medical Record) or left to an EHR (Electronic Health Record.)  From the patient’s perspective, the EMR/EHR road cannot be seen at all.  All the patient can see is a slightly bent sign on a lonely road beneath heavy sky.  She doesn’t even know what those acronyms mean.

This is Leah Marcotte’s Jacket: HITECH Crossroads.  She is bright and funny, but in the pictures from Walking Gallery she is anonymous. The only picture I have of her is her back.  If I search for her on Google, I only find transcripts of phone calls or medical student rotation lists.  On twitter her avatar is an egg.  Where is Leah's Face?
Photo of Leah Marcotte taken by Aaron Richardson
You see, Leah personifies her jacket.  She is important.  She has a voice.  And people like Leah will create the future in medicine.  We may not see her face.  We may not know her name.  But she is creating the background of our HITECH reality, with as much power and emotion as Anita did.  And if we want full consumer participation in EHR adoption, we shall need patients and caregivers to as brave as Anita was.  They must be willing to pick up the brush even if they feel out of their depth.  The first  step to creating a Masterpiece is being given a chance to use the media.  We are all artists inside, let's paint a healthy connected tomorrow.

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