Improve documentation to drive down healthcare costs

For many people it’s a problem to read and understand the confusing instructions that come with some medication. Last year over 125,000 Americans died simply because they didn’t take their pills or follow doctors’ orders. On addition to all those deaths, thousands more experienced continuing ill health or required additional hospitalization. Healthcare professionals call this “patient noncompliance,” and it’s a very expensive problem. In 2012 it cost the public an estimated $289 billion.

An expert advocates for improved documentation for patients

According to Thomas Goetz, changing patients’ behavior is the key to preventing these needless deaths and illnesses. Goetz is a recognized expert on healthcare issues and a former executive editor of WIRED Magazine. He believes we need to improve documentation provided to patients.

Speaking at a medical conference two years ago, Goetz called on the laboratories and healthcare providers to improve documentation. He urged them to adopt plain language and user-friendly formats that will help patients take action to restore and maintain their health.

The call for change has been largely ignored

Goetz is right. The laboratory reports and drug information given to patients are written in the language of clinicians or pharmacologists—doctors sometimes have trouble deciphering their contents. No wonder patients can’t understand or act on them.

Improving the documentation so patients receive clear, personalized and actionable information is a great idea. It could help us all become healthier and drive down our healthcare costs. Unfortunately, despite Goetz’ advocacy, little has been done to improve the usability of patient information.

It’s time to solve the noncompliance issue

It’s time for the healthcare industry to tackle this problem—and Information Mapping should be the industry’s tool of choice. Medical laboratories and pharmaceutical companies have used the Information Mapping method for a long time, but nearly always with the goal of increasing internal efficiencies. Why not apply our expertise in simplifying and clarifying complex information to solve the patient noncompliance issue? I can’t think of a more appropriate application for the Method, or one with a bigger potential payoff. Saving lives, improving public health, and reducing costs for all of us—what a great opportunity to make a change for the better. Let’s get started.

Want to find out more about how poorly communicated information causes problems for individuals and organizations? Download our free white paper, The Cost of Bad Information.

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