Electronic Health Records are a good thing, except when they are not. Being disabled, medical professionals are a major part of my life. Interactions with them, for the most part, can’t be avoided. I consider myself a geek and reasonably wise to electronic communication means. I even have a working knowledge of HIPAA and all that entails. Coming to grips with the utter lack of EHR implementation at the consumer level is difficult to deal with. One of the providers has a reasonably popular medical specific web portal. It’s not very functional, but it exists. Another group is part of the region’s largest system. My mind struggles with the concept of a total lack of confidence in modern medical communications and associated technology. Having a secure HIPAA compliant communication portal, app, or even Whatsapp, which is 100% encrypted, suitable for transferring files that can be imported into the record keeping that all facilities are mandated by law to control. As the nation nudges toward a single payer system, despite current politics, inefficiencies become sore wounds and costly. The lack of portable EHR with a common format for the secure interchange of data will come back and bite the clients who are in no position to weather the outcomes. Nobody, not even TPTB, wins in that environment.
Recently, I had a doctors appointment with my family physician. What is interesting about this event? He carried a tablet with a keyboard dock with him as he discusses with the patient. All of our conversations are transcribed and available for reference. The rest of the office only has the standard technologies; desktop computers, printers, faxes, that sort of thing. I printed out the most recent list of medications, and the staff either scanned or typed the information in their systems; couldn’t tell which, and it didn’t occur to me to ask.
As I was researching this post, there are few events in life that haven’t happened to someone else, this being no exception. As early as five years ago, this entered my view:
Healthcare facilities need to work with providers to make it easy for them to deliver excellent care. This includes having ready, instant, and continuous access to complete patient records – access resulting from compatible EHR systems and dependable computer networks. Standards must be set and enforced that allow compatibility across systems. A start has been made in this direction, but it needs to progress quickly yet carefully (Tong, 2012)
If any of my interactions are any guide, these lessons were not learned nor executed. And that is a shame really. Anything close to a potential utopian solution must have the free and fair interchange of Electronic Health Records while automating as much of the nonclinical minutiae of the American Health Care system; even if it remains a continuation of the Affordable Care Act.