The real health care change we need

A sea change is needed in doctors' attitudes everywhere concerning the value of tools we here take for granted. Doc, I know you have a Blackberry, maybe even an iPhone. Do you know you can reach me on it?

Apple iPhoneThis has nothing to do with politics, or policy, or how we pay for healthcare.

It's about how we can save money and make things better, regardless of our policy or payment system.

Simple stuff like e-mail. Whether from a fear of lawsuits, privacy concerns, or mere Luddism the medical profession's use of basic technology tools still lags badly.

This is not just an American problem. The King's Fund, a UK think tank,  is out today with a report saying that country's National Health Service can dramatically improve service through the use of day-to-day technology.

We're talking here of things like SMS, e-mail and the Web, the same tools retailers, restaurants and travel sites use to maintain contact with their customers.

I mention the study because the British have a single-payer system, one which is quite different than the American system. But the situation here is identical.

My doctor has a lot of excuses. HIPAA is a favorite. But I still can't connect with my doctor via e-mail the way I can with my kids' teachers. The only way I can schedule an appointment is with a phone call.

A sea change is needed in doctors' attitudes everywhere concerning the value of tools we here take for granted. Doc, I know you have a Blackberry, maybe even an iPhone. Do you know you can reach me on it?

A whole new world of social networking is developing, patients learning on their own, learning from one another, and doctors are divorced from it.

What made some sense a decade ago makes no sense now.

  • Every doctor should have a Web page with an e-mail link.
  • Every doctor should be willing to answer an e-mail from a patient.
  • Scheduling systems need to be accessible by patients.
  • Hospitals should maintain SMS contact with families in case of emergency.
  • Payment systems need to be integrated to eliminate the drip-drip-drip of post-visit bills.

Simple changes like this will save money, but more important they will improve care. We're here, online, doc. It's time for you to deal with it.

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