If you could wave a magic wand, what would you change about health care?
When we think about health care today, the big word that comes to mind is overspending. Overspending and unnecessary expenditures are multifactorial, however there is a single cause that comes to mind that contributes not only to overspending, but also to compromising patient safety. There is such a thing that exists in medicine called “continuity of care” that health care professionals feel strongly about. Data access and data sharing are emerging fields that bring us a step closer to resolving the patient care continuum.
When patients establish care with a certain medical group and continue to visit that team for follow-up visits, patients establish a baseline for themselves – a baseline of lab values, diagnostic imaging such as x-rays, CT scans, etc., and other ancillary studies (2d echoes, pulmonary function tests, etc.). But when patients decide to leave one medical group and go to a different health care system, this becomes a problem since medical data isn’t easily transferred and thus becomes an obstacle for “continuity of care.” Typically, people have a limited understanding and capability to communicate their past medical history, imaging, interventions and results.
These diagnostic results serve to paint a picture of each patient’s health and nutritional status that allow providers to assess what has improved, deteriorated, or remained consistent in each patient at subsequent follow-up visits. As each of these results has a quantifiable value that is paid for either by the government, insurance company, or the patient, one can only imagine the overwhelming cost each patient has to bear every time blood is drawn or image taken. In these scenarios, physicians are confronted with two options: repeat all necessary tests to obtain an objective result that will guide their decision-making or trust the patient’s off-hand memory and recommend an intervention. Both scenarios severely compromise quality of care and the financial well-being of the whole system.
All of this extra expenditure and exorbitant costs could be avoided with a universalized electronic medical record (EMR). By forming bridges between data silos, it not only promotes continuity of care, but avoids other problems that arise when patients bounce from one health care system to another – overmedication, underdiagnosis, lack of follow-up appointments, and other complications which ultimately promote more harm than good. Interoperability tools like eClinicalworks, Allscripts or athenahealth, all cloud-based solutions are a great start. This change is pivotal to the promotion and maintenance of healthy living and preventative interventions that essentially serve to protect patients.