An E Health scandal? The real E Health scandal is that we don’t have an electronic health system. In an age of Google and 4G smart phones– the health system still functions largely with paper and fax. What we need is a fully integrated complex data system that not only has patient information in it and allows communication between all providers and institutions, but also can automatically gather, collate, analyze and compare data. Yes, we have some doctors using electronic medical record systems and many hospitals have developed their own systems for electronic data storage, but most of these systems cannot speak to each other. In this communications era, it’s the electronic equivalent of Dixie cups and wet string.
We claim that we want a health care system. We can’t have one, and won’t have one until that system has an integrated medical record and communications network. It’s important not just for patient care but also to understand how the system is or isn’t working, how much it is costing, and to be able to compare throughout the system. And this type of data collection needs to happen behind the activity, automatically. The recent Drummond report talks repeatedly about efficiency, analysis, and measurement – how can we do this without a comprehensive, integrated health care information system? What are the obstacles?
Collectively we’ve avoided doing it because we thought it would cost too much, because it was perceived as a luxury. At the same time, the banks, grocery chains, and cruise lines have realized that it isn’t a luxury. While electronic banking, monitoring of grocery sales, and cruise line card systems provide user convenience, they are there primarily to create efficiency, provide security, and save money. In the health care field we have failed to realize that an electronic data system isn’t just about patient care, it’s about system care – that we will save money by avoiding duplication of tests and imaging, reducing manual data collection, and identifying money saving solutions.
Some have raised privacy concerns – they are real, however these can and will be effectively managed.
We are past the era of choice. This is an electronic era and every provider and every patient in the public domain must be connected. The system itself should have been built a long time ago with a central data system and common interface. That doctors can decide they don’t want to have a computer, that lab and imaging results are not digital and provided to a central access hub, that a medication list for an unconscious elderly patient in an emergency department at midnight is not available – none of these are justifiable any longer.
An E Health solution? It’s not a luxury; it’s a necessity. Let’s stop trying to reinvent the wheel when other industries are already light-years ahead. I expect that if we went to the banking sector, the grocery sector, the cruise line industry and told them what we needed, they would likely already have it.
Let’s stop wasting time.