Imagine this scenario: your spouse, child or loved one is critically ill and is transferred from hospital to hospital, in search of that “House-like” diagnosis that will bring a cure, or at least remission. Think about the physical pain, the mental anguish, the uncertainty.
Now, layer onto that getting pushback from each hospital on releasing medical records. One hospital says it will forward the records in with 21 days, another says it will release the records, but at a cost of $1 per page, a third simply stonewalls.
Twenty-one days, really!? One dollar per page!? Are you kidding!?
Maybe it’s because I work in the technology industry that every time I walk into a doctor’s office and see the archaic shelves of paper files, I cringe. Hopefully, the doctor’s medical training is more up to date than his or her filing system. It makes me think of the time broke my nose and went to the emergency room. There were two entrances, “Walk In,” and “Ambulance Only.” Under the "Walk In" sign, someone had scrawled, “Walk In, Crawl Out.” I almost turned around and went home.
As Lauren Drell notes in a recent post, there’s no ONE place to find anyone’s complete and comprehensive medical history. As a result, each time you go to a new doctor, you spend time filling out forms you’ve already completed at your previous doctor’s office, not to mention the forms often ask redundant questions. The new doctor may then take bloodwork or conduct other tests that your previous doctor already completed. Why? Because in our litigious society, doctors are terrified of malpractice suits (don’t get me started), but also because the process for sharing medical records is paper-based and slow.
What if the medical records system was digitized and all critical information was in one place that any doctor with the correct security? That place should, obviously, be the cloud.
Happily, the Obama Administration realizes this and has earmarked $20 billion under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), to accelerate the transition to electronic healthcare records.
Such systems actually already exist, but they are inefficient and difficult to use, as well as incredibly expensive – approximately $50,000 per doctor each year. It’s actually easier and cheaper to use paper. But Lauren Drell highlights a newer company, Practice Fusion, which has already taken 120,000 healthcare professionals digital, uploading more than 22 million medical records in the cloud. These are now accessible anywhere there’s a digital connection to medical professionals with the appropriate security credentials.
Practice Fusion is aiming toward medical record nirvana: each person having a single medical record from birth to death, containing all information, stored in a HIPAA-compliant location.
The company’s CEO, Ryan Howard, notes that nearly 200,000 people die each year from preventable medical errors. Comprehensive medical records could dramatically reduce that number, translating to lower malpractice premiums.
Patients gain more control over their health, medical professionals can rapidly understand critical medical information whether in an office, helicopter, ambulance or operating room. Doctors are able to serve more patients with better-quality care based on a complete picture of each patient’s history.
Digitizing records also holds promise for public health professionals, enabling them to study trends in patients with specific diseases or disorders. Organizations such as the CDC can study more effectively control disease outbreaks by identifying commonalities among those afflicted.
Critical to an effective, cloud-based Electronic Medical Record (EMR) solution is high-quality software that facilitates the rapid discovery and transfer of critical records, files that are often enormous. High-quality software also helps protect files from cyberattacks. Automated software analysis and measurement solutions assist developers in creating EMR solutions more efficiently and cost effectively as well as monitor team performance.
Maybe the reason House is so cranky is he’s sick of dealing with paper records?