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Monday, March 21, 2011

It’s Time To Go Digital With Your Healthcare!

You’ve probably heard the phrase “healthcare is going digital.” If you’re like most folks you’re probably confused about what that exactly means.

Even President Barak Obama, in January’s State of the Union address, proclaimed the importance of our healthcare system entering the digital age. It makes sense too. Banking, gaming, journalism, music, social networks, even dating…it’s all pretty much gone digital to some degree. But healthcare, for most of us, is still done the old fashion way.

Let’s simplify this a little. When we hear the President and others say that healthcare needs to go digital, they’re generally referring to your patient information being converted to digital format. That means your doctor purchases an Electronic Health Record system (or EHR), and converts their warehouse full of paper records into this system. And yes, someone has to actually type all of this in! For a lot of reasons - like steep costs of purchasing a system and the hassle of converting decades of paperwork - many doctors are reluctant to change. To date, only about 30 percent of U.S.-based primary care docs have adopted such a system.

But your primary care physician will eventually convert his or her paper records, and you’ll FINALLY not have to stockpile that six-inch-think manila folder documenting every check-up, shot, prescription, and lab test you’ve ever had. Instead, you’ll have that entire medical history in a single database, triggering alerts for allergies and unsafe interactions when prescribed a new drug, and checking for previous labs and X-rays to prevent duplicative tests. To accelerate this process, the U.S. government is providing $27 billion in incentives over 10 years to motivate this transition to paperless, awarding up to $44,000 to each doctor who displays effective and meaningful use of these systems. So if your doc hasn’t considered the switch…he will soon.

Until such time, patients can avoid waiting by joining a personal health record system, like Google Health and Microsoft HealthVault, or become a member of a telehealth platform like InteractiveMD. While all of these centralize your health data, InteractiveMD allows you to share this information with a remotely located licensed doctor for instant diagnosis and treatment from anywhere in the world. This means getting access to care quicker and easier, and getting healthier faster. A truly powerful application of digital medical information.

What do we mean by saying “healthcare is going digital”? Changes for our doctors…and major advancement for you and me as patients.

~ Alex Price

Friday, March 4, 2011

Americans Demand Online Healthcare

Although telehealth and healthcare IT are by no means novel concepts, at first glance they can appear culturally shifting and disruptive technologies for many users. If you consider telehealth as the modern facilitation of age old practices like the house call or midnight phone call, then it becomes easier to accept as a viable means of connecting doctors and patients. Traditionally, if your child were to awake screaming during the night and you had the luxury of a close family physician; you would call and receive immediate advice resulting in either a home remedy or a trip to the emergency room.  However, using the latest technology, well defined operational work flows and an expert team of telemedicine trained physicians, today’s telehealth consult can be significantly more comprehensive and include video, high definition imagery, electronic health records management, and a historical account of the patient’s health. Whether or not we realize it or not, these advances in healthcare have already become a cornerstone of our overall health and wellness system. The question is how quickly some segments of the population will adopt these advances culturally.  

As a champion of telehealth I’m excited to see supporting data that the US population is moving in the right direction when it comes to adopting innovative healthcare technology. A recent, “Health Care Check-up Survey,” conducted by Intuit Health and published in Healthcare Finance News highlighted the growing expectation for their doctor to be available online with a focus on the development of patient portals and communication technology. According to the survey data a surprising 73% of respondents said they, “would use an online communication application to pay medical bills, communicate with their physician or physician’s office, make appointments and view lab results.” Even more surprising is that, “more than 40% say they would consider switching physicians in order to obtain such access.”
Payers’ are pushing telehealth as evidenced by partnership announcements over the last twenty-four months by Wellpoint, Aetna, and UnitedHealth with telehealth providers to reduce costs and increase service. Nevertheless, it will take the patients’ embrace for the telehealth technology shift to really take hold. "Patient anxiety is rising," said Steve Malik, president and general manager of Intuit Health. "They want some measure of control, convenience and better communication with their doctor. Doctors who offer secure online solutions can meet this patient demand while increasing office efficiency and enhancing the doctor-patient relationship."

-Ghen Sugimoto