Intermountain CEO: Digital health doesn’t have to conflict with human touch

Businessman video-chats with doctor on laptop
Intermountain CEO A. Marc Harrison, M.D., said treating patients with telehealth "may be the most empathic thing we can do for them."

Patients want it both ways: They want better access to new technology and digital health tools that offer more control, but they also want an empathetic doctor to address their concerns. 

Intermountain Healthcare CEO A. Marc Harrison, M.D. says it’s possible to address both needs if the healthcare industry is willing to rethink the way it measures patient progress.

In an op-ed for Healthcare Informatics, Harrison highlighted several initiatives at the Salt Lake City-based integrated health system that aim to keep patients out of the hospital. A telehealth initiative offering critical care helps treat patients at home, which—despite the lack of human touch—“may be the most empathic thing we can do for them," he wrote.

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As data plays a larger role in healthcare, Harrison notes that healthcare providers would be best served by measuring progress based on personalized patient goals as opposed to traditional biomedical metrics. Recent research shows a personalized care plan that includes treatment goals can improve the quality of care for patients with chronic conditions.

“Intermountain started integrating these sorts of goals into our new electronic medical records beginning in 2017,” Harris wrote. “For me, that's a revolution because we can actually start to work our technological solutions and our biomedical solutions to better serve what patients want for their own lives.”