The Biotech & Healthcare IT Blog

Monday, June 20, 2005

Computers link doctors, rural patients -

Computers link doctors, rural patients - "Missoula heart specialist Mark Sanz flashed a slide on the wall Saturday that proved his point: It was a faxed copy of an old electrocardiogram, sent to his office from Seeley Lake some months ago when a patient there was having heart trouble.
That old test, when compared with a new one, might have given Missoula doctors some clues to the patient's problems. But the old printout was faded, and the fax further rendered it unreadable and unusable.
Saturday, St. Patrick Hospital showed off newly installed technology that could be the end of unreadable, faxed, blurry, late, lost and otherwise unusable medical records, at least for heart patients. It is the first phase of a program to digitally share and archive heart tests such as those called ECGs or EKGs, making them available on the Internet to doctors and hospitals in western Montana 24 hours a day, seven days a week. "

Switching to electronic medical records is necessary but costly

Switching to electronic medical records is necessary but costly: "With a few keystrokes on his computer, my internist called up the latest results for my cholesterol -- the good, the bad and the ugly kind. Striking another few keys, he showed me a report from an MRI test I had undergone. It was a matter of seconds before my other medical information appeared at his fingertips.
There was no thumbing through a folder with notes scribbled on slips of paper, or paper questionnaire seeking the latest information on any possible allergies, medications or surgeries. At a Manhattan radiology clinic, where I had undergone tests recently, I filled out a paper questionnaire. It was a familiar form -- it was the third time I had gone through the same checklist in three months. But the technician didn't even bother to take it from me, making me wonder whether the form was a pointless exercise.
By contrast, when my internist quizzed me about my health, checking for any changes from previous visits, he clicked 'yes' or 'no' to update the file appearing on his computer screen and dictated his comments directly into his computer.
That's the streamlined vision that health-care leaders and politicians including President Bush are pushing. They want physicians, hospitals and the rest of the industry to use information technology to improve patient care and become more efficient. But for now, practices like my internist's are IT islands in a sea of paper charts and faxed reports. Less than 20 percent of physician practices now deploy clinical IT systems that track a patient's medical history, including lab tests and medications, according to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."