The following is a guest post by Carole Hodsdon, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of MEDecision, a leading provider of collaborative healthcare management solutions.
It seems as if we’re inching ever closer to a wide-scale proliferation of electronic health records (EHRs). The much talked about American Recovery and Reinvestment Act contained major incentives to encourage the meaningful use and adoption of the promising technology. Add to the equation some variation of healthcare reform which will further promote the digitization of medical records, and it’s safe to say we’re on the cusp of a significant technological revolution in healthcare.
And that got me thinking…where exactly do personal health records (PHRs—remember those?) shake out in all of this? Will we ever see significant uptake to the extent that there’s a legitimate demand for them? Products such as Microsoft’s HealthVault and Google Health created a lot of buzz when they appeared on the scene in recent years, but it appears that people haven’t exactly been waiting in line to open accounts. Will they ever?
The simple answer is yes. And when they do, look out. Here’s how I see it playing out.
In a few short years, our currently younger, tech-savvy and web-dependent generations are going to become better acquainted with the healthcare system. Whereas they now maybe see a doctor once or twice a year for basic services like a physical or a flu shot, they’ll soon start catching up to us older folks who utilize healthcare more frequently, even if it isn’t for themselves. As their parents’ medical needs grow, many will undoubtedly become primary caregivers and enter the system that way. Already used to executing the rest of life’s serious business digitally—banking, taxes, job hunting, dating, clothes shopping—almost on cue, they’ll begin seeking products and services that enable them to manage their health (or that of loved ones) the same way. Collaboration among all stakeholders will be critical to easy-to-manage healthcare.
So there’s your demand. It’s going to be an enormous opportunity—and an equally large challenge—for health IT. As much as these current whippersnappers depend on technology to make their lives easier, to a degree they also want it supplied to them, and they want to be assured of its value. In other words, if they have to create their own PHRs by inputting data themselves, it’s not going to happen. Just as they expect their paychecks to magically appear in their checking accounts every two weeks and their car payments and utility bills to be paid in the same automated fashion, so too will they expect ready-made health records that not only contain an accurate medical history but also suggest to them what they might be thinking about in the future based on their past. The information can’t just be data; it needs to be smart and meaningful. It needs to make a measurable, if not quantifiable difference in their lives.
We have to be ready. There isn’t going to be much of a ramp-up to this revolution. It’s going to happen rather abruptly, and the HIT industry can’t afford to wait and react; we need to start preparing now. The industry has already begun laying the groundwork to capitalize on this opportunity. Interoperability, collaboration and health information exchange have been and will continue to be dominant themes. This is exactly what it’s going to take to support the demand that rises in the wake of the PHR big bang. We need to ensure that we can facilitate the exchange of clinical data among all parties in the healthcare ecosystem so that each can have mutual access to actionable, real-time information that creates a complete picture of the patient. This will be the lifeblood of successful PHRs—essentially meeting consumers where they want to be met in whatever technical format and through whatever device they choose.
I suppose you could simplify things by thinking of it this way: when the Wii generation starts needing healthcare in a few short years, it’s up to us to ensure that they have an app for that.
As executive vice president and chief technology officer, Carole Hodsdon is responsible for the overall formulation, implementation and management of technology strategy at MEDecision, a leading provider of collaborative healthcare management solutions. Learn more about MEDecision at www.MEDecision.com. Follow the company on Twitter at @MEDecision and on Facebook at www.MEDecision.com/Facebook.