The Unintended Consequences of Health Care Advances

By Rashaad Bhyat

The past several decades have seen tremendous advances in medical care. As a society, we often celebrate these results and applaud how innovation has improved our health and our lives overall. But what is often overlooked are the unintended — and often unnoticed — consequences of these advancements.

The Unintended Consequences of Health Care Advances

More research has led to a better understanding of the ailments people face. Plainly speaking, this means people are living longer than they ever have before. But they are also living longer with issues like diabetes, heart disease, respiratory illness or even cancer — often managing more than one disease or illness at the same time.

These medical advances have greatly changed the community of patients a family physician sees in their practice. On any given day I see patients who have two, three or four separate medical issues with medications and treatment needs for each. The unintended consequences include a much busier workload for primary care providers, more time needed for each patient, and in the long-term, an unsustainable situation.

To be sustainable, we can’t keep on practicing medicine the way we always have — we need to change the way “we do business.”

A big problem in the health care sector is that too many new technologies have been introduced, making our workloads more burdensome — adding more administration not less — because they aren’t designed to fit into the clinic’s workflow. Would you want to book a flight online if it took you three times as long?

The bottom line is that increasing clinical workloads combined with mediocre technological tools are a recipe for physician overload. But when technologies are created with the clinician user’s pain points in mind, that’s when the magic can happen.

A perfect example is PrescribeIT®. With ongoing input from physicians and pharmacists, the national electronic prescribing service is transitioning prescribing from a paper-based system to one that is fully electronic and secure. It does away with inefficient faxes and time-consuming phone-based follow up. In particular, using the secure two-way electronic messaging feature, concerns about dosages or potentially dangerous drug combinations can be quickly resolved.

In addition, technologies that grant patients access to their own health information — like lab results or immunization records — can also ease some of the burdens in busy primary care practices. Not only can these tools increase patients’ engagement in their own health, they may free up time for providers to focus on patients with complex medical needs.

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About the author
Rashaad Bhyat

Rashaad Bhyat

Dr. Rashaad Bhyat serves as Clinician Leader on the Engagement team at Canada Health Infoway. He is a family physician with a passion for digital health, advising Infoway on numerous initiatives across Canada since 2011, including virtual care, EMR adoption and optimization, electronic prescribing, remote patient monitoring, and increasing patient access to health records. He currently practices in an EMR-enabled family medicine clinic in the Greater Toronto Area.