The view from an MD. Part 2 of a 2 part series authored by Justin Barnes, Vice President, Industry & Government Affairs, Greenway and Dr. Bill Crounse, Senior Director, Worldwide Health, Microsoft. If you missed part 1, please read it here.
Anyone who’s practiced medicine, as I did for nearly 20 years, knows that a significant portion of what we do as clinicians with our patients is inform, assure and instruct. In primary care, as much as a third of our time is spent just talking with our patients. That doesn’t always require physician and patient to be in the same room, yet we continue to practice that way because it is often the only way we get paid, and frankly the technology and tools haven’t been available to easily do it any other way. Both of those impediments to more seamless communication with our patients are now fading. Health reform begins to change the payment formula and technology and mobile devices have advanced to the point that we now have a range of ways to easily and securely communicate and collaborate with our patients.
As Justin notes, the expected and dramatic growth in the Medicare population will force all of us to pursue new ways in which technology can be scaled to meet the new demand. This is where technology can play a vital role.
To help meet the demand of the growing Medicare population as well as the influx of 30-40 million newly covered individuals from the Affordable Care Act, technology must deliver unprecedented scale to cover both the physician and nursing shortage that our country faces. That scale must be provided in a simple, cost effective manner that seamlessly integrates with the existing infrastructure.
Beyond the Electronic Health Record, additional technologies can be extended and integrated into the EHRs that grew so quickly in just a few short years as a result of the HITECH act. These technologies will enable our clinical community to scale their services to a population that may not be in close proximity to their provider or may be difficult to reach given a lack of transportation or traffic congestion. In the very near future, solutions like unified communications, secure email, and the Cloud will all be used to help achieve the scale that will be demanded of our caregivers.
For many clinicians and practices, this transition to new payment systems and advanced technologies will be challenging. Change is hard no matter what your industry and change in clinical practice is especially difficult with all the demands we place on our healthcare providers these days. None-the-less, for all of the reasons stated, this change is necessary if we hope to provide scalable, higher quality more convenient and less costly care to our patients.