Healthcare Is A Journey and We're Providing a Roadmap
Raise your hand if you remember TripTiks?
Before Google Maps, before Garmin, way back in the stone ages (or maybe, paper ages) of paper road maps, AAA had this service for travelers. You'd tell them where you wanted to go and where you'd be leaving from, and AAA would print you a booklet with all the maps you'd need to get from Point A to Point B. It would also point out alternate routes, and suggest places to visit and things to do along the way — your whole trip in one package.
Now wouldn't it be great if we could do something similar for a patient facing a long course of medical treatment?
Consider the case of a patient who comes into a doctor's office to ask about a lump in her (or his) breast. Maybe it's something. Maybe it's nothing. The patient doesn't know, and has absolutely no idea what comes next. The next few weeks, months, and even years will include visits to multiple providers, to specialists, to imaging centers for an Xray or mammogram, and so much more. There will likely be biopsies and other tests conducted— each followed by days of waiting for results, during which time the patient is left wondering "what if?" and "what comes next?" If worse comes to worst, there will be additional treatments. Surgery could be indicated. Radiation treatment. Chemotherapy.
It can be quite simply a terrifying experience. What's more, the amount of time a patient will spend in a doctor's or specialist's office, able to ask questions and receive advice in person, will be vanishingly small when compared to the time the patient must spend on their own, waiting and wondering. An average patient might spend 10 or perhaps 15 hours a year in a doctor's office — but more than 8,750 hours outside that office, worrying.
How can we ease the burden of those 8,750 uncertain hours? At Leidos, we're working to create a sort of roadmap to guide a patient along the journey from sickness back to health.
We want to assemble all the information a patient needs, and provide a view of the entire journey at one glance: What are the major waypoints along the course of treatment? What should the patient expect to happen at each point along the way? Ideally, we want to give patients a clear view of how long to expect to wait for the results of various tests. We want them to be aware of the various options available, and of the average recovery time for one procedure as opposed to another. We want to apprise them of what they'll be able to do while recovering, and which activities to avoid, so they can make an informed choice of one treatment option over the other. We also want them to know that his or her care team is using the same clinical workflow to orchestrate care. They're all working off the same playbook for the best chance at recovery.
The more we can involve a patient in choosing the course of treatment, and the clearer picture we can give of the road that lies ahead, the more engaged that patient will be in the course of treatment — and the better the chances for a successful outcome at journey's end. While I personally wish no patient and family would need to make this journey, the reality is that today, many will begin it. We hope to bring more transparency to the process as we all work towards healthcare redesign — for this disease process and for so many more. Let the journey begin!