Health IT Pulse

Jul 13 2012   11:04AM GMT

For me, it wasn’t straightforward joining Walking Gallery

Don Fluckinger Profile: Don Fluckinger

behavioral health
patient advocacy
Regina Holliday

I’ve been marked by patient advocate Regina Holliday. It is truly an honor and a privilege to wear one of her painted jackets when coursing through the world of health IT conferences. And way better than a tattoo.

She hits upon a thorny issue in her blog post on her depiction of my story, which she titled “Folding.” Though Holliday approaches journalists to participate in her Walking Gallery of HIT-inspired paintings – borne from an incident in which a venue invited her to exhibit her works and then forbade her to hang anything on the wall – they often decline the invite.

Jacket about to come off Reginas easel.

Jacket about to come off Regina's easel.

Why? As she puts it, they “feel constrained by the rules of their profession.” Namely, it may tip the scales of objectivity and create perceptions that a reporter has an agenda – and trouble down the road if some faction of readers challenges that reporter’s ability to tell a story without tilting it one way or the other because they’d previously revealed a personal detail.

It’s not my job to advocate for any particular position in the health IT world. It’s my job to relate events as they unfold in as careful, unbiased a telling as my abilities permit.

Another factor in the decision is a matter of focus. Those jackets are attention-getters. Journalists – at least many of them – can’t be part of a story. Some of us consider ourselves akin to court stenographers, or perhaps more aptly, translators of an event’s proceedings for an absentee readership relying on the reporter to be their eyes and ears on the scene. Pros take pride in maintaining at least some semblance of anonymity.

You put on one of Holliday’s jackets, you’re no longer a stenographer or wallflower. It took a lot of hand-wringing – internal dialogue – to convince myself to trade in that status.

In the end, it turns out, what made up my mind was the realization that we’re all patient advocates, for both ourselves and our loved ones. Doesn’t matter if you’re the CEO of an EHR vendor, one of the “nails ladies”, a federal health policy author, a street sweeper or, like me, a HIT reporter. Or anyone else. That’s the underlying point of Holliday’s works. You exist, therefore you are a patient advocate.

Granted, at times here on the Pulse blog we get into opinion-driven editorials. But you’re not going to see me rail on about what I perceive to be a nasty proposed rewiring of the next DSM, which will likely make my son Patrick’s already rocky school life become even rockier. It appears the medical classifying establishment will disenfranchise him from a pretty good support network my wife and I been able to cobble together under the present version. It will send us scrambling to find other ways to keep this really smart, really good-hearted kid learning and otherwise engaged, which may eventually require uprooting the whole family and moving to a new home in a new state. This stuff is way more real than some proposed regulation that will get adjusted by lobbyists seven ways between now and when a final rule published in the Federal Register.

No, you’d never see me write that piece. I’m writing it in other ways, far removed from the headlines of SearchHealthIT and the conferences at which I’ll run into you. In fact, I don’t mind if you, dear reader, don’t particularly care about my story. I’m out and about telling your stories of technological innovation and workflow management inspirations that keep patient care quality up, and we hope saving a few shekels in the process. I’m telling your stories, not mine. It pays the nonstop bills these diagnosticians, psychologists, social skills group organizers and various other specialists keep mailing us.

My story really doesn’t figure into anything we do at SearchHealthIT. But it’s always there, lurking in the background. Or, as you’ll soon see, on my back. That’s the beauty of Regina Holliday’s work: It’s a constant reminder that we’re all patients. It’s a reminder that patients inhabit the center of all the work we do in the HIT world – not bits and bytes, profits or losses, customer metrics, awards or status, or market share wins. Don’t forget it. If you do, chances are one of her 150-something (and counting) hand-painted illustrations will come strolling by and remind you of your mission.

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