At the MacWorld Expo last week, hidden away in a far corner, I was pleased to notice a tiny booth for the medical office and records software product pictured above.The health care reform act aims to improve care and cut costs by providing incentives to get doctors and hospitals to use electronic records. If somebody thinks there is a market for such products that can be reached at a consumer electronic show, that's a good thing.
A searing oped in today's Boston Globe is reminder of why systemic changes that encourage and enable medical practitioners to talk to each other can be life saving. The author (a doctor) and her sister (a lawyer) just shepherded their very ill mother through a hospital admission. Because heart doctors don't talk to diabetes doctors and hospitals don't have integrated medical records, well meaning professionals very nearly killed the sick woman, sending her repeatedly into insulin shock.
Moreover, the lack of integrated records led to the scenario I've seen so many times when helping friends navigate hospitals: every doctor arriving on the scene starts over from the ground up asking the same questions about past illnesses and prescriptions. The sick person can begin to feel she is afflicted by lazy dolts who don't listen to what she has already explained again and again. Then she checks out and starts leaving out parts of the history, doctors miss important data, and even make it the patient's fault because she got frustrated by repeated inquiries.
Dr. Madeleine Biondolillo described how this happened to her mother:
Most of us don't have a doctor and lawyer in the family to get us through this sort of thing. We need the government to push doctors and hospitals to do what they seem unable to do themselves: integrate care so that the medical system passes information seamlessly. Part of this should include incentives to doctors in all parts of the system to communicate; electronic records should make communication cheap enough so the financial incentive need not be exorbitant.
There's money in the health care reform to encourage electronic medical record keeping. Will Congressional Tea Party Republicans cut those funds for so doctors go on endangering patients for lack of incentives to talk to each other?