As the state of health care continues to maintain a top position in the news each day, the need to understand what issues are out there, and what's being done to improve them, is important to everyone.
While there are as many diverse opinions as there are people, no one expects the average Joe or Jane to understand the intricacies that are bandied about throughout the ecosystem of companies and government agencies trying to make the quality and cost of health care better for Americans.
But there are some areas and terms the average person should be aware of, and without getting into excruciating detail, I will try to help.
If we truly believe that technology can help foster a better health care system, then the first area that needs to be addressed is getting everyone's medical history into something called an Electronic Health Record (EHR).
The EHR allows doctors, hospitals, employers, insurers and government to easily share medical information on patients.
So, for example, if you are on vacation across the country and have to visit the emergency room, doctors can look at X-rays, find out what medications you might be taking, etc., giving them all the pertinent information they require prior to diagnosing and treating your illness.
Now at this point, you should be asking yourself about the privacy of the information. Suffice it to say that the information is secure and private, and something I will address in an upcoming letter.
Okay, so it's private, but how does the medical information get into the EHR?
Whenever you visit a physician, specialist, laboratory, hospital, etc., it is incumbent on them to enter the information into a patient's Electronic Medical Record (EMR) - which is different than the EHR. The EMR is actually the legal record created and the source of data for the EHR.
The EMR is a component of a local stand-alone health information system that allows storage, retrieval and modification of records.
Sounds good, but the adoption of EMR's has been slow - which then impacts the EHR - and progress than can be injected by the adoption of technological innovations that support improved health care.
According to sources, the slow adoption of EMRs by physician practices, the impractical nature of a national health information network, the difficulty of creating interoperability standards and government inaction are some causes of the delays.
Next time you visit your family physician, have to go for a blood test, or for some other medical procedure, make sure to tell them that you want the information updated on your EMR so you know that your EHR can be shared with others in the medical community.