BY Jason Province
We live in a time where you can control many aspects of your life from a computer, your phone, or even the daily appliances we use. It is safe to say that in our lifetime that almost everything will be hooked up to a computer of some form and change many more aspects of our lives for better or worse. I look at the advances in technology in just the twenty-seven years of my life. Cell phones are no longer the size of shoes. Televisions have not only decreased in weight and size but can now connect to the Internet and work off of voice commands. Cars can now parallel park for you or even drive themselves – like the Google Car. We have the Internet, which has opened up communication to the world, and we can even see one another through video chats whereas when I was first born, this was impossible.
It isn’t just appliances or gadgets we use in our everyday lives that have benefited from advances in technology. The various health fields have seen vast improvements in testing, prevention, and cures for many diseases and injuries. Where at one time the flu was often deadly is now simply handled by going to the doctor or the pharmacy and getting some flu medication. They even have the flu shot now, which can help in preventing the contraction of the virus. With these advances in the health fields we have seen more hospitals and specialty clinics open up and larger groups of people are getting help and taking bigger roles in their health management. Stemming from this growth came the collection of patient information in vast amounts. So came the era of the Electronic Health Record. Before EHR systems were set up, doctors kept information on paper. Doctors couldn’t just send a prescription to a pharmacy in minutes or look at test results or notes on patients from one another without a phone call or handing over files. This took time, resources, and caused preventable errors.
In 2004, President George W. Bush pushed the objective for getting our health information in EHR systems.
“By computerizing health records, we can avoid dangerous medical mistakes, reduce costs, and improve care.” President Bush, January 20, 2004. (http://www.providersedge.com/ehr_news_views_quotes.htm)
He continued the push for EHR systems along with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson and many others.
“Third policy that’s important is to apply modern information technology to our medical system. Doctors practice 21st century medicine, they still have 19th century filing systems. And this is an important issue. One reason it’s an important issue, because when a doc writes their files by hand, you generally can’t read the writing. That leads to inefficiency and error. In hospital there is more risk of preventable medical error when records are handwritten, instead of being cross-checked on a computer. Oftentimes doctors duplicate expensive tests because they do not have access to previous results. In other words, the medical system has not taken advantage of information technology…” President Bush February 15, 2006. (http://www.providersedge.com/ehr_news_views_quotes.htm)
Between 2001 and 2011 the use of EHR systems grew from eighteen percent to fifty seven percent. Communication between doctors and patients has improved drastically with online bill pay and scheduling (http://www.healthit.gov/patients-families/electronic-health-records-infographic). Currently underway is a program called OurNotes where patients will get access to their EHR, will be allowed to make notes in their files and can even ask questions directly to their doctors. We are even now awaiting a decision by the U.S. government on converting the files and records for our military into a more effective system. Companies bidding for this contract are IBM partnered with Epic, Google with PwC, General Dynamics Information Technology, DSS Inc., and Medsphere, Cerner with Leidos, Accenture Federal, and Intermountain Healthcare, and lastly Computer Sciences Corp., partnered with HP and Allscripts (http://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/report-urges-dod-choose-open-her).
With the creation and use of the EHR system we have corrected many errors and mistakes that were preventable and have allowed ourselves a higher quality of healthcare. Who knows what great leap will come next in the Healthcare IT field, but bet it involves the newest technological fad in automation technology.