We all need access to information. In our personal lives, what’s more important than easy access to our financial and medical records?
In the case of financial records, these are generally all maintained online now. From your banking to your brokerage, from the online deposit of your paycheck to online bill pay. However, what about our medical records?
Generally speaking medical records are not available online and not easy to access. But why are medical records lagging behind financial ones in terms of their technology enablement? Is it that there is not bona fide need? Or is it that the technology is immature?
MIT Technology Review, July/August 2008, reports that “Google and Microsoft are offering rival programs that let people manage their own health information.”
Google Health (released in May) and Microsoft HealthVault (launched in October) “allow consumers to store and manage their personal medical data online. Users will be able to gather information from doctors, hospitals, and testing laboratories and share it with new medical providers, making it easier to coordinate care for complicated conditions and spot potential drug interactions or other problems.”
However, based on a 2007 poll “just 2 percent of all respondents said they had created and maintained medical records on their own computers, and just 1 percent reported using a ‘personal health record that is stored on the Internet.”
So the issues are?
- New software—Google Health and Microsoft HealthVault are relatively new and haven’t caught on yet.
- Paper records—“many doctors still do not use electronic records and others are unwilling or unable to transfer data to patients in electronic form.”
- Privacy—online medical data services are “not covered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), under which hospitals, doctors, and third-party payers typically cannot release information without a patient’s consent.”
- Sensitivity—“medical information—histories of mental illness, paternity tests, genetic information—can be far more sensitive than browsing histories or even financial records.”
From an enterprise architecture standpoint, these issues really do not make a whole lot of sense to me as being showstoppers to moving medical records online.
Firstly, there is a genuine need for medical records to be digitized and made more accessible and easy to use by patients and medical providers. Just think about being wheeled into an emergency room (possibly unconscious); wouldn’t it be nice if the emergency room physician could access your medical records before they start treating you from a pretty much blank state?
Also, have you ever wondered about the archaic paper filing system your doctor uses—you know the oodles of forms you have to fill out every time you go to a new doctor, the indecipherable notes your doctors jots down on freebee paper from the pharmaceutical companies (with their logos on it), the file folders with the colored stickers that office administers attach to them for tracking purposes, and the double and triple deep, wall to ceiling file shelves on rollers that they manipulate to store and access the records. Talking about crazy!
Further, the technology solutions are available. If we can manage the bits and bytes of our financial records discretely and securely, surely the same can be said of medical records.
I’ve got to conclude that there is a cultural issue here that is impeding the transformation to online medical records, and I don’t believe that the reluctance is coming from the patients’ side, because we are living and breathing digital information transformation daily and for the most part, we are addicted to it and love it. People are still screaming for more.
We’ve got to get the medical community to get off the dime; so that they recognize the importance to the consumer of their medical information and that they treat that information as belonging to the patient as opposed to being owned by them. Whether the medical community is holding back because they want to maintain the aura of medical mystery to what they do (have you ever tried to tell your doctor that you looked up something medical on the internet and see their reaction?) or that they want to hold onto their patients by controlling their medical records—either way we are not providing the patient/consumers the service they want and deserve, particularly when health and life are at stake.
Medical records are a prime area for transformation and they need a desperate dose of enterprise architecture to transform the sad state of affairs.