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.