One of President Obama’s major initiatives will be to bring the US health care system into the 21st century. Our lagging health care infrastructure has lead to massive medical inefficiency, high premiums to the average citizen and an overall ‘leaky faucet’ effect that is contributing to the pool of problems our economy faces. The Obama administration has proposed a five year, near $100 billion dollar, initiative to fix our health care system through innovative new technology that includes creating electronic versions of all health records.
Although creating electronic health records is a huge step in ‘leveling up’ our health care system to meet modern day information technology standards, there is also the less celebrity concept of implementing high-tech network technology towards health care. It will be one thing for doctors and patients to have access to medical data, and another for them to communicate that data.
From the Cisco System’s blog:
“Web 2.0 technologies are beginning to change the practice of medicine,” says Lynne A. Dunbrack, program director for Health Industry Insights a market research and advisory firm in Framingham, MA. “We now have a significant number of doctors who grew up with the Internet, and they want to use online collaboration technology to keep up with the relentless demands for ever-greater speed and efficiency.”
Medical communication technology still needs to catch up to the rest of the Web 2.0 technology , whether it be the ability for patients to easily browse a number of potential doctors or primary care facilities, or the functionality to allow a doctor to instantly access and update a patient’s records via their iphone. Although medical technology has advanced in leaps and bounds as far as its primary purpose- diagnosing and repairing patients, it still needs to embrace a new wave of communication and network technology.
This may be a difficult task. One barrier to the health care stimulus’ task of digitzing records is simply doctors and medical specialists are used to the old way of doing things. It can be extremely difficult to fully transition from the paper to digital world because it is a 180 degree change in the every-day routine and process of the work. The same goes for embracing new health care networking and communication technologies.
However, the advantages to utilizing these new technologies will far outweigh the hurdles of changing old ways. Cutting-edge video conferencing can allow multiple specialists to collaborate and diagnose on a level never before possible. ‘Medical-networking’ platforms can allow for patients to easily communicate with their doctor’s and nurses on a personal level, but prevent over-inundation of the available medical resources.
The first step to leveling up our health care system is for the medical community to change their mindset, and realize that any significant change for the good requires crossing a number of hurdles. The second step is rewiring and revamping the hardware and network infrastructure of medical facilities across the country. The barrier to entry here is the enormous cost and risk for both public institutions and private practices to make the digital leap of faith. There are ways to soften this blow as well.
Large network providers, like Cisco Systems and Juniper networks, can aid public medical institutions by providing the necessary network hardware infrastructure in bulk. Private practices are scared of technological change because it seems like a risk (and investment) that could set them back some years, or worse, sink their business. However, some of the costs that private medical institutions and practices will incur can be lowered by purchasing used network hardware and computer equipment, such as a used router or refurbished server.
Although costly, if US medical institutions change their mindset and network infrastructure, it will put us well on our way to 21st century health care.