This week my wife had to do preliminary meetings for a common procedure advocated by our company's top anchorperson. (For more on the headline go here.)
It was one of a series of meetings meant to result in a full work-up of her health, and keep her with me for many decades.
Most of the meetings went well. Our internist is associated with a hospital that has a full EMR system. Most of the day she breezed in, they had her information on file, the meeting was quick, and everyone knows what happens next, both medically and financially.
But all that changed when she hit the office of the doctor recommended for said anchor-approved procedure.
"They gave me this immense paper form, as though they had never heard of me," she complained over dinner. "It even wanted my bank account numbers."
I suppose she could have walked out and either not gotten the procedure or gone back another day to another doctor. But she was already taking a day off from work and decided to press on.
The doctor turned out to be very old-fashioned, with severe pre-procedure requirements I did not have to go through. Not only did she come out feeling humiliated, but the doctor then faced a big bill for having his staff put that paper form on to a computer and interface it with the payment system.
Many doctors are proud they are not electronic. They are not the main beneficiaries of the move to Electronic Medical Records (EMRs), why should they pay the bill for it? Had my wife had a bad meeting with a doctor who had an EMR, she might have been able to switch that day. What about customer control?
But doctors who resist the move to computerized records seem unaware of the cost and hassle their intransigence places on everyone else in the value chain -- insurers, hospitals, and (most of all) patients.
Getting a common medical procedure done should be easy. You should be able to go in, be known to the doctor, have your consultation, get the procedure, and walk away.
When paper gets involved it all breaks down. I know the issue is who pays as opposed to who benefits. I know doctors don't want to learn a new system.
But that's what the health IT part of the stimulus is really all about, and where the benefits really are. If it takes a little stimulus to make doctors less a pain in the you-know-where, I'm for it.