Question: What do ransomware, malware, the lack of medical record interoperability, power outages, floods, hurricanes and tornadoes have in common?
Answer: They make it impossible for doctors to access their patients’ electronic medical records — which can have disastrous and costly consequences for individual patients, families and our society as a whole.
The irony is that this is an unintended consequence of one of the most successful, albeit forced, programs to quickly move an entire industry from paper records into the modern age of electronic records. The theory was that when all providers keep electronic records and they are linked together via electronic networks, patient records will be instantly available anytime, anywhere patients require care. Regrettably, it’s not that simple.
The theory didn’t anticipate the problems that have emerged and, despite the fact that taxpayers spent $31 billion to fund this program and care providers invested perhaps another $150 billion to make it work, it doesn’t. And it doesn’t appear that we are even close to solving these problems.
We have focused almost exclusively on linking provider record systems to achieve interoperability but aren’t even close to achieving it on a national scale. Hospital CIOs have attempted to defeat malware by locking their systems but this doesn’t always work and may even block their providers from accessing important patient information. We are now paying attention to ransomware but have no real solution short of paying a ransom. And we have all but ignored the effects of natural disasters which are happening with increasing frequency and disastrous consequences.We just accept them.
So where does that leave us? We can “stay the course” which, I submit, will never ensure that patients’ records will always be available when they are needed, or we can look for a different approach that does.
Happily, there is an approach that not only solves these problems in one fell swoop but will have highly desirable additional “intended” consequences. And the best news is that such an approach is readily available today!
The approach is to give patients copies of their records from all their providers that they can conveniently carry with them and give to care providers anytime, anywhere they need care. It’s just that simple! It is the ultimate “distributed” solution and can work in any unexpected situation as long as an available computer has power or can be recharged.
The “intended consequences” are even better. Providers can enjoy total interoperability and deliver better, coordinated, lower-cost care. And patients can participate in their care decisions and save deductibles and copays when mistakes and unnecessary visits, tests and procedures are avoided.
In short, by “giving power to the people” — in this case their medical records — we can overcome the problems that make it impossible today for care providers to access their patients’ medical records and deliver quality care, and everyone benefits!
Merle Bushkin is Founder & CEO of Health Record Corporation, creator of MedKaz®, the patient-focused personal health record you carry in your pocket. Prior to entering the world of healthcare IT, he enjoyed an extensive career as an investment banker with Bushkin Associates, specializing in mergers and acquisitions, and earlier as a corporate executive and management consultant. He graduated from Harvard College with an AB in Economics and Harvard Business School with an MBA degree.