There may be a time, in the not so distant future, when all of our medical information is stored across a paperless healthcare network. If the thought of your personal information being stored on someone else’s computer makes you nervous, it would benefit you to understand why many physicians are following suit with the new federal initiative to go paperless.
A paperless healthcare network is one in which your health care providers have gone paperless, relying on electronic medical records to store your data, and that of other patients. In addition, this software allows for better, more accurate billing, communication and tracking, both of patients and staff.
The issue currently surrounding these networks is that all software doesn’t “talk” to another. For instance, if you have an accident while on vacation, your electronic records from home may not be accessible to the hospital you visit, even if the hospital is using an electronic system as well.
In order to curb, and eventually eliminate, this problem, the US Department of Health and Human Services has begun trying to remedy the situation. Standards are being constructed that include: content-exchange, vocabulary, transport and security. Once these standards are adopted, we will truly have a nationwide health information network.
Now that you have a better understanding of what a paperless healthcare network is, it’s time to understand how it can benefit you:
1. Easier Exchange
If you move, or simply decide to switch doctors, there will be no more waiting to have records faxed or copied. Your current physician can simply have your records emailed to your new doctor. In addition, when we have a national system, your records will be kept in one place, no matter how many doctors you use, or have used. You can also have your records with you, wherever you go through iTriage, a mobile health care application that enables users to store their health records through Microsoft Health Vault.
2. Better Security
People who are wary of computers may find this hard to believe, but electronic records are more secure than their paper counterparts. Electronic records can be stored offsite, reducing the risk of loss, theft or even damage. If you’ve ever experienced the wait time at a doctor’s office when your paper chart has been misplaced, you’ll know what a benefit this actually is.
Many patients experience several minutes, to hours, of wait time at pharmacies as techs attempt to decipher their physician’s handwriting and verify prescriptions. Rather than being handed a slip of paper by your doctor or nurse, your prescriptions can be sent to your pharmacy electronically, eliminating any question of what the prescription is or who it has come from. Additionally, with an electronic record, you will no longer have to worry about potentially harmful drug interactions because you can’t remember what you’re currently taking. iTriage may also help you avoid prescription errors, as the app enables you to save your medications, set dosages, and alerts to remind you when to take doses, and when to fill your prescription.
Do you have someone in your house that routinely throws out important mail? Do you take appointment cards from your physician only to misplace them and forget about your upcoming appointment? With health software, patients can be reminded of any upcoming appointments, lab work, or even the necessity to schedule an annual exam, electronically. This will benefit both patient and doctor, as more people will maintain medical compliance.
An electronic health network is looming just over the horizon. The time to educate yourself is now! The next time your doctor walks into the exam room with a laptop in hand instead of a paper chart, praise him or her for taking part in the wave of the future.
Connie Prescott is a conservation writer who works with NRDC and other organizations to protect our health and environment. Currently she is helping spread awareness of several suggested changes to the CMS Notice of Proposed Rulemaking among health care providers to help them know more about the current Meaningful Use Guidelines in an attempt to improve the overall healthcare system.