September 17, 2013
For the most part, technology exists to make our lives easier. From smartphones that allow us to cruise the internet from anywhere to medical devices that monitor health, healthcare in particular has a lot to gain from technology, perhaps more than any other industry.
It’s somewhat ironic, then, that the healthcare industry continues to resist its submersion into digitization. While most doctors are using electronic health records now, healthcare still has a ways to go before it is as “modern” as other industries.
Despite this, health information technology is changing lives for the better. As we celebrate National Health IT Week, I’d like to focus on a few areas of healthcare that have been forever changed by health IT.
Electronic health records
Something as simple as locating a paper chart can send entire groups of people in turmoil. Until quite recently that was, sadly, normal, but more and more hospitals and physician practices have the ability to update records and share them with the appropriate people instantaneously. In other words, communication and education that happens during particularly stressful times is much more effective.
As mentioned above, in most cases, technology exists to make our lives easier. Unfortunately, that hasn’t always been the case with traditional EHRs. Despite its drawbacks, paper charting is familiar and simple to a lot of doctors, and transitioning to a point-and-click EHR is anything but seamless. However, voice technology has improved drastically over the years. A voice-powered EHR solves all the navigation problems caused by point-and-click EHRs and even saves physicians time in the process. Paperwork in healthcare is an endless burden, but voice technology makes charting much easier to handle.
One reason so many patients are on board with health IT is that it’s the “gadget” that allows them to monitor their care more easily. With patient portals it’s easy to keep the doctor-patient relationship open. Electronic health records also help keep doctors and staff on the same page, thereby eliminating costly and life-threatening mistakes. And while there is still much to do when it comes to interoperability, already we are seeing how communication across state or EHR vendor lines is changing care. The way medical records were handled in recent disasters like Hurricane Sandy are good examples of that.
There are countless other cases—from apps that correctly diagnose medical conditions to the ability to send prescriptions electronically—of technological tools that have improved healthcare (without adding to its astronomical costs). “We’ve taken a huge bite out of this defining challenge of moving health care into the age of data,” Farzad Mostashari, national coordinator for health IT, said in a recent interview. “There’s so much that’s happened in a really short amount of time for health care.”
It’s an exciting time for health IT.