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