Medical records and why aren’t they electronic

I’m sitting in a doctor’s waiting room right now and I’ve just experienced something that I’m sure we all have time and time again: as a new patient, you’re required to fill out pages and pages of questionnaires, all of which I’ve done before at other offices.

Now, understand this: I’m writing this post from my iPad while connected wirelessly to the Internet. Why, oh why, can’t I just have an electronic file of these documents (on a USB key? Downloadable from my Dropbox folder?) that I just hand to the nurse? The last 15 minutes worth of me filling out documents could have been completed in less than ten seconds.

The worst part is, the documents that I filled out are just photocopies or print-outs of the exact same documents from other offices. Some even show the remnants of White Out marks where a previous doctor’s name was removed and a new one added.

The question becomes: what’s the hang-up? Is it a format issue? Is it a price issue? I would have to imagine that keeping electronic records must be infinitely cheaper than paper ones. Hell, you could store of of them in the cloud, that way they can be accessible from anywhere.

I know Google is working on this and I hope they can make some headway. I’m tired of doing the exact same thing my parents, and even grandparents did. Ask me and this is one of the biggest drivers of outrageous medical costs and it needs to be fixed now!

11 Replies to “Medical records and why aren’t they electronic”

  1. Ugggh. Agreed. I find that Doctors offices are all WAY Behind the curve tech wise.About a year ago I decided to get rid of my wallet. I scanned all of my important cards into my iPhoto and set them up in my uPhone. When I need to show a costco card, or my car insurance or any other thing I used to carry as a piece of plastic or paper, I now just bring up the digital image of it.Then I had a doctors appointment – they asked for my insurance card because they needed to photo copy it. I said 'Ill do you one better – give me your email address and I will email you a copy instantly. You can either file it electronically or print it out, if you need a hard copy'."Sorry" I was told. "We dont have an email address"How on earth can a business in the year 2010 not have an email address?Its insanity I tell you.

  2. I'm not saying it's easy, but nobody's even trying. Why can't they make it an 'opt-in' -type system. Meaning, the night before the appointment, I have the option of going to their website or downloading the forms, filling them out electronically and either submitting them right there or printing them and bringing them in? I guarantee that alone would save thousands of hours of labor. Add to that the savings of photocopying and/or printing all of those documents and it could be a huge windfall.

  3. It's *definitely* not as easy as it sounds. I work in information technology for a huge medical college, and we're *way* ahead of the curve and it's *still* tough.It *is* a format issue. There are several EMR (Electronic Medical Record) companies competing, and none of them talk to each other. Well, they do, using a standard transmission format, but shoehorning the data from one to the other is a *massive* task.It *is* a matter of cost. I'm sitting in a cubicle in an office that occupies an entire floor of an expensive Manhattan office building. My entire floor does pretty much nothing all day but implementing what you desire. Your average independent practice can't afford little old me, and certainly can't afford my entire floor of programmers, data analysts, and MDs.It is *not* however, a major driver of medical costs. Medical records are typically dealt with by inexpensive front-office staff, and not very expensive clinical personnel. There are savings to be had, and improvements in care to be made (which is why we're doing it) but it's not going to cure runaway medical costs by any means.

  4. as far as filling out paperwork, I either fax it or send it thru the mail, the patient brings it with them. I have seen some drs. that have forms on websitethat you can fill out and bring with you.

  5. Broward Health (Brow General/Coral Spgs Medical/etc) has some kind of linked computer system because the pediatric oncolgist at BG could see my daughter's blood results from CSMC. But I guess that's probably standard within most large hospital systems these days.

  6. That's great info Jason (and everyone else). Thanks for participating in the discussion. It's just unfortunate that, as a patient, I keep going through the same exercise over and over and filling out the same forms. It's too bad that they can't just agree on a format and move forward. But, as they say, the best part about standards is that there are so many of them 🙂

  7. what's rellynsad is that you spend allll that time writing and filling in blanks then they scan it into a document folder and shred the paper. BTW-Lemme know if I should start adding "MD" after my name

  8. Ehealth initiatives are part of reform, but there's still a lot of work to do in both getting the systems up to speed and educating the public as to why this is a necessity whose time is long overdue. I met with a tech company in Spain that just automated the health records of Andalucia's 8 million people, and the results are impressive.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.