Healthcare Provider Data: Lesson from a Cat

My daughter's cat taught me a major lesson about healthcare as I described here. Pretty amazing. But Jack the cat also thought I should learn about the advanced databases that providers and insurers maintain about each other. While not as brilliant as the inter-provider EMR interchange breakthrough I've described, the databases have a similar effect to the brilliant gamification strategies for wellness implemented by leading hospitals, but take a whole different approach. The depth and extent of innovation in this industry never fails to amaze me.

Jack's learning environment

As I described before, the terrified cat was outdoors and I had to pick him up to bring him inside. He was scared, so he scratched and bit me. I saw my doctor and got a mis-prescription for antibiotics. Then I needed an X-ray to see what was going on inside the hand that was painful after weeks. That's the situation.

Jack the cat decided this was an opportunity for me to learn about databases and get some extra exercise, no doubt as penance for failing to pet him well or often enough.

The search for the X-ray provider

First, I got a referral to a provider that was way far away from where I live. How did this happen? The doctor claims she called me to find where I live twice and got no answer. Hmmm. I guess the information was mysteriously missing from my records and no one thought it was important to get it, and I guess the fact that I only got one message, and it had no request for where I live was just ... whatever. So I decided I better get active, rather than waiting another couple of days for a referral.

I went onto the Anthem site -- the provider of my health insurance in spite of their horrible computer security track record. I discovered a provider that is covered by them just a couple blocks from where I live:

That should be an easy walk. After more fumbling with the doctor's office, I finally got them to give me a referral.

Here's the place to which I was referred:

Same place. Good. I called them up, and they said no appointments were required, just show up with the referral. I walked right over, but they weren't in the building directory. Hmmm. I asked the person at the desk, who had clearly seen confused and lost people like me before. She told me they've moved, and gave me the new location. Great!

I went back home, and discovered that someone else at my doctor's office had also given me a referral, only to a place that actually has an X-ray machine. So out I walked again, and got my medicinal dose of radiation.

Anthem didn't know that they'd moved. The people on the phone at the X-ray place had no idea. One person at my doctor's office did know -- but another one didn't. In normal life, companies that acted like these did -- my doctor, the X-ray place and the insurer -- would be out of business. But as we all know, healthcare isn't normal life.

Big Data and Blockchain

What happened with me was no big deal. Business as usual in healthcare, and in this case had no consequences beyond getting me to walk more, which is a good thing whether I decide to do it or I'm tricked into doing it.

But let's consider the consequences of this trivial episode.

Where are the Big Minds, the elite in healthcare, spending their oh-so-valuable time and effort? Lots of things, of course, but two of the big obsessions are Big Data and Blockchain. Each of these, for different reasons, is a holy grail of technology for healthcare, if you pay attention to the talks, conferences, articles and real dollars invested.

Big Data is a focus because the leading thinkers and influential, powerful people are convinced that if all this healthcare data is poured into a giant Hadoop data lake and poured over by ultra-modern machine learning tools, we'll discover important things that will make us all healthier.

We already knew that EMR's are riddled with data problems; now Jack has shed light on problems elsewhere:

  • If the data is missing or wrong, no amount of bathing in Data Lakes will cause accurate results to pop out. Bad data in, bad results out.
  • If there are protocols that have been proven to be the best for treating patients and doctors simply refuse to follow them, nothing improves.

Blockchain has attracted the attention of leading figures among the healthcare elites because of its awesome promise to solve the problem of data interchange and effortlessly created universal health data -- on which Big Data can proceed to work its magic.

BUT ... if no ones cares or is allowed the time to get the data accurate and complete and the data is no good, spreading it around hardly helps anything.

As usual, all the attention goes to the highly visible frosting on the cake, while the underlying layers of the cake rot from inattention.

The consequences of extraordinary cat knowledge

This valuable knowledge about provider databases and the reliability of doctor decision making came from just a couple days of cat-sitting our daughter's cat. The experience was so rich that we decided to get a cat of our own, Priss:

We eagerly await the medical knowledge that Priss will bring our way!