Health Care Providers Slowly Becoming Tech Savvy
Using technology to "make health care more efficient" -- one of the "main reasons" Congress in 1996 passed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which requires providers to shift their billing and medical records from paper to an electronic format -- is "easier said than done," the Boston Business Journal reports. Doctors and hospitals "were anything but" integrated before HIPAA, according to Brian FitzGerald, director of the health care consulting practice with Edgewater Technology Inc. in Wakefield, Mass., who has developed "integrated information technology systems" for physician practices and hospitals for 15 years. "Historically, physicians and hospitals didn't talk to each other because their incentives are different," he said. While doctors in community practices "get paid" when they send patients to the hospital for tests, hospitals "save money" by "getting the patient home as quickly as possible, he added. Still, FitzGerald said that providers can "overcome those basic differences" through the Internet, which can cut costs and allow doctors to monitor hospitalized patients from their desktop computers.
In addition, FitzGerald said that "next-generation" Web sites for doctors' groups and hospitals will allow "patient-doctor interaction." The Business Journal reports that the "next big trend" in health care will likely involve disease management. Physicians will be able to monitor chronically ill patients through email and the Internet. However, FitzGerald said that technology "is only as good as its user," noting that hospitals and doctors have been slow to embrace information technology. Still, he said that patients could email triage nurses for questions about lab results or to schedule an appointment and could visit "disease-specific" Web sites to find information about the latest research and treatments for their illness (Connolly, Boston Business Journal, 4/30).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.