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31 Jan 2012 / Julie

witnessed: the future of medical information is here

I’ve seen the business end of more than a few medical facilities in the last few weeks and one of the things that struck me was the shift in technology that’s apparently happened while I haven’t been looking.

I feel that even a year ago it was unheard of to know your doctor’s email address – let alone think you could email them and HEAR BACK from them via email (your mileage may vary). As far as I was concerned, doctors just didn’t use email; customer service, be damned.

I used to have to speak to a human to schedule an appointment. Now, I can schedule (or reschedule) one online at 3am when i’m thinking about it instead of waiting for business hours and hope I get through.

Probably the biggest shift I noted, though, with my recent visits is the records management piece. At one place, I signed my HIPA forms, read the financial assistance information, and other documentation at a privacy-shielded computer at the corner of the front desk. I even signed everything like I was signing for my credit card at the grocery store.

Even if the forms weren’t 100% electronic, EVERY. SINGLE. OFFICE. had one of these guys. I mean, I have one too (similar model) and it’s the greatest tool i have to handle the household paper monster – and maybe i’d just been going to really old-school docs before – but i feel like i went from seeing these nowhere in docs offices to seeing them in every. single. one. Rock on, medical professionals. (I should have been a portable scanner sales rep within the last five years.)

That scanning piece also helped a ton when needing test results being sent to another doctor. I remember as a kid, my mom always asking for results to be faxed somewhere in addition to getting a copy for herself so she could manage things if the communication failed somewhere without having to re-contact anyone.

At another office not only was my paperwork all electronic but my scans were also right there on the monitor for me to see and the doc to manipulate (think the arrows, circles and lines sports casters draw for us to understand what’s going on in a football game). Coloring, contrast and enlargements were possible right there in front of me. No more mental images of the doc holding patient-confusing xrays to the florescent light.

Even at the Maryland Library Association Conference in May, Dr. Jay Parkinson will be speaking about all this – People would visit his website; see his Google calendar; choose a time and input their symptoms; his iPhone would alert him; he’d make a house call; they’d pay him via Paypal; and he’d follow-up by e-mail. IM, video chat, or in person. Doctor of the Future, indeed. (See his talk at TEDxMidAtlantic in 2011)

It’s a brave new world, folks.

All that said, not every office was as high tech, high touch as the next. Phone menus continued to be long and arduous and sometimes getting a person, almost impossible on the first try. But big strides are happening and it’s awesome.

Still, all this tech can’t replace a doctor that takes their time with you, answers your questions (or better, explains things before you ask or when you can’t ask) and provides reassurance or comfort. Some things, only humans can provide.

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on a side note – i feel like i’m the only one who reads all those admittance forms straight through before i sign them. Docs, summarizing it for me is helpful, but doesn’t mean I’m going to skip the reading piece. If you want me to sign, (and sign and sign and sign.. i may have only signed more for my mortgage) then I have to read. Patience, please.

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