Can technology transform health care?

August 6, 2014

We’ve all experienced it. You go to your doctor and fill out the same forms on a clipboard every time. A specialist wants to see your X-rays, so you have to drive across town to pick up a CD. Your son has an allergic reaction while on vacation and the ER staff doesn’t have access to his medical records. While technology has revolutionized just about every aspect of our lives – from how we watch movies and listen to music to how we shop and manage our money – health care has lagged behind in its adoption of technology.

Health care IT

While technology has revolutionized just about every aspect of our lives – from how we watch movies and listen to music to how we shop and manage our money – health care has lagged behind in its adoption of technology.

But that’s starting to change thanks in part to legislative and regulatory initiatives that are designed to lower costs and improve the efficiency and quality of our health care system. More and more physicians are using electronic health records (EHRs) and other forms of health information technology (HIT) that offer benefits for health care providers and consumers alike, including:

  • Better coordination of care and fewer unnecessary tests and procedures. When caregivers have access to your full medical record they can make more informed care decisions. An EHR can alert one physician to tests and procedures that another physician may have ordered, flag any serious allergies, and allow doctors to track prescribed drugs to prevent possible interactions.
  • Improved communication. Patient portals enable you to communicate directly and securely with your provider, saving missed phone calls and delays and allowing you more hands-on access to your personal health information.

In addition to making health care safer and more convenient, HIT can improve the overall health of our communities. By tracking aggregate data, researchers can identify disease outbreaks, quickly notify affected individuals about unsafe drugs or medical devices, and develop more effective, personalized treatment plans for managing chronic illnesses. And with tools such as telemedicine and remote monitoring, more people can access care from wherever they are, regardless of geography.

Integrating technology into the day-to-day practice of medicine is challenging, and there are logical concerns about who will pay for it and how privacy will be protected. But the benefits are clear; and HIT adoption among health care providers has increased substantially over the last several years. To keep this momentum going and to help current physicians learn to take advantage of today’s HIT tools, Texas A&M Health Science Center (TAMHSC) and Dell announced the creation of a health technology academy to provide customized information technology education.

Through the academy, TAMHSC and Dell will help increase the technological “literacy” of both current and future physicians and other health care professionals so that they can better integrate new tools and methods into the practice of medicine.

“Technology is changing rapidly and many of today’s physicians have a difficult time staying ahead of the curve,” said Jim Donovan, M.D., vice dean of the Texas A&M College of Medicine in Round Rock. “Our goal is to help physicians utilize technology to improve patient outcomes and make their practice more efficient. It’s an area where we can bring real value that benefits patients directly.”

According to Dell’s chief medical officer, Cliff Bleustein, M.D., technology isn’t the only answer to improving the health care system, but it plays an important role. “In an information-driven health care system, the right people have access to the right information at the right time. EHRs are just the foundation of what we are trying to do. Ultimately, we want to help caregivers make the most of technology to provide better, safer care.”

— Holly Shive

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