Despite the dramatic and overwhelmingly positive changes in how we live digitally, there remains a persistent group of deniers bent on preventing the digital evolution of healthcare.
The deniers' refrain includes several pseudo-reasons:
• Healthcare is too complicated;
• Physicians won’t change;
• Healthcare data is too sensitive to be stored in an easily retrievable place; and
• Healthcare organizations can’t or won’t adopt adequate safeguards.
Among all our activities of daily living, healthcare remains the most stubbornly unmodern. Organizations still use faded paper forms, multiple nonstandard registrations and health histories, and complex bills that can confuse even the staff members who produce them.
Despite the lack of enthusiasm, we are on the verge of healthcare modernization that will transform the healthcare experience. Here’s just some of the evidence:
1. The rapid adoption of electronic health records (EHRs) by physicians.
2. The dramatic expansion of telehealth.
3. Online access to the best and most current healthcare research.
4. Fitbit, Apple Watch and all the marvelous new toys that allow us to track our daily (good and bad) activities.
5. The conversion of radiology to digital imaging, with the ability to share images and reports to tablets and phones.
6. Digital home monitoring of weight, blood pressure and glucose.
7. The use of avatars for remote monitoring of rehabilitation in the home.
8. The early and highly effective conversion of pharmacy prescribing,
routing, copay collection and refill reminders.
Seven things required to continue on the path toward modernization
The path to modernization for healthcare will continue to prove daunting. It will require:
1. Prices that are simplified and based on final products or services. For example, a hospital bill for “one left knee replacement” rather than six pages of inputs with no obvious connection.
2. Standard protocols for exchange of health data among physicians and between physicians and customers.
3. Personal health records in standard formats owned by the consumer.
4. Online appointment scheduling.
5. Provider directories that are current and consumer-friendly.
6. Standard patient registration and health histories, completed once and updated as needed.
7. A commitment to addressing the very real and complex security issues.