What makes perfect sense to a physician may completely confuse an otherwise-intelligent patient, and a health plan might disagree with both. Eliminating miscommunication is what information therapy is all about.
"It's shocking how often we're not on the same page, and it can cost lives," says John Wasson, M.D., director of the Dartmouth Medical School Center for the Aging, Hanover, N.H.
He could be talking about nearly any aspect of healthcare, but in this case he is referring to information therapy, an uncommonly powerful piece of physician-patient interaction.
Wasson and other thought leaders helped lay ground rules for healthcare information exchange at the second annual conference on information therapy, held last month in Park City, Utah.
Information therapy, the brainchild of Boise, Idaho-based health information service Healthwise, is the notion that targeted, timely, evidence-based medical knowledge can help meet specific needs of a patient or caregiver as part of the process of care.
"There's a new expectation of care in the 21st century," says Paul Tang, M.D., chief medical information officer at Palo Alto (Calif.) Medical Foundation. "Patients prefer custom-tailored information--'This is what my doctor thinks about my condition right now."'
Healthwise envisions information therapy eventually becoming a reimbursable service. No payer or purchaser goes that far quite yet, but many see the value of information. "I would argue, let's pay for outcomes, and it would take information therapy to get to those outcomes," says Samuel Nussbaum, M.D., executive vice president and CMO of Anthem, an Indianapolis-based Blues licensee, and president-elect of the Disease Management Association of America.
N. Marcus Thygeson, M.D., medical director of Definity Health, St. Louis Park, Minn., says information therapy can be an "integral part" of consumer-driven healthcare. Better information leads to better decisions, which produce higher-quality care and lower costs, he argues.