The medical field is far behind most others in technology deployment. Unlike car sales, Amazon.com, or even real estate, there are few sophisticated customer support systems (some exist in HMO’s such as GroupHealth). I have good insurance, but I can’t email my doctor, I can’t see my own medical records easily, I don’t have anyone but myself who knows all of the various support systems for my health. Appointments have to be made by phone when the doctor’s office is open (but I can book a table at almost any restaurant any time).
I recently attended a Washington Software Association meeting entitled “Health 2.0.â€ Since the WSA deals with technology, I went imagining I might hear about technology used to deliver healthcare – maybe nanotech monitors like I’ve written about in some of my stories.
The conversation turned out to be about far more basic — but maybe more important — topics. For example, putting at least some of the patient’s information actually in the hands of the patient.
I love the idea of a centralized health record, a single location that I can go to and get the reports from my general practitioner, my dentist, and my ear, nose, and throat doctor. I’d like someplace to look up test results and track my own cholesterol year to year without resorting to digging out the paper copies of annual tests I get sent via snail mail. Early versions probably won’t include what my massage therapist, my clinical psychologist, or my physical trainer have to say, should I have any of those. But it’s a start.
I left convinced of two things. Patient relationship technology is getting a slow start, and I’ll be glad when it does get here. I’d like a future where I can see and manage at least most of my health records in one place. Where the Time “Man of the Year,â€ me, has some control.
I’m pretty sure it’s going to be five to seven years out for those of us on traditional health plans. Partially available now — and more like three to five years out for robust systems — for people with the better managed health care plans.