Posted by: coastcontact | July 17, 2012

This Machine Saves Lives

picture is copy from Businessweek

picture is copy from Businessweek

My health care plan is provided by Kaiser Permanente.  It is an HMO.  It also happens to be the top rated health plan of all kinds in the state of California.  That includes PPO plans.  This result based upon studies sponsored by Consumer’s Reports and another reported in Newsweek a few years back.

When I joined, it was thanks to an employer provided health care plan. I had no choice.  At the time I thought this is care for the masses.  The employer provides the least expensive plan but can say “we provide health care to our employees and their families.”

Over the years other employers offered other plans but honestly they really were not any better than Kaiser.  So when it came to Medicare I re-joined Kaiser as it was the least expensive.

A few years ago Kaiser implemented their electronic records and communications system.  That received my immediate attention.  Why? You will ask.

1. Exchange secure e-mail with your doctor’s office in my message center. You also can go there to contact our Member Services and Web manager.

2. Wondering if you should book a visit? Consult our interactive symptom checker, or go straight to scheduling in the appointment center.

3. View your past visit information, plus get your latest test results, immunizations, health care reminders, and more in my medical record.  The record shows the results of every test.  It is a complete history of my health care.

4. Get the facts about your plan and benefits, download forms, and more in my plan and coverage.

5. You can manage your prescriptions here, or learn about specific medications in our drug encyclopedia.

6. Doctors send their prescriptions via the connected system directly to their pharmacy.  No more hand written prescriptions unless you choose to fill the order at a non Kaiser pharmacy.  Kaiser’s medications are as cheap as any place including Costco and Wal-Mart.

7. Orders for tests and x-rays are communicated to their labs.  There are no paper documents.

In the June 25-July1 issue of BusinessWeek there is a five page spread in the subject of improved care and lower costs that can be achieved using computerized records.

The article opens with the care at the Kaiser hospital in San Jose, California.  While in the outpatient area a man appeared to be having an epileptic seizure.  Should the doctor send the man to neurology, as he would an epileptic patient, or to emergency? The doctor looked up the patient’s records on the hospital’s electronic health record (EHR) system.  In an instant he saw that the man had a history of twitching episodes from which he recovered quickly. The patient was put on a cardiac monitor and confirmed that the man’s brain was not the source of his medical issues. The patient was outfitted with a pacemaker in a matter of hours.  The doctor says that the man might have died if he had gone to a neurology clinic. The doctors there don’t have cardiac monitors and might not have diagnosed his condition in time.  This situation was a perfect example of the benefit of EHR.

Despite the obvious benefits independent doctors and smaller practices are resisting the use of EHR.  Researching the subject on the internet brought these negative comments from medical informatics , a New York Times blog titled The Doctor vs. the Computer, and Physicians’ Use Of Electronic Medical Records: Barriers And Solutions.

Then there is Mike Koriwchak an otolaryngologist who blogs at The Wired Practice. He posted this commentary on Kevinmd.com.

After 5 successful years with electronic medical records (EMR), I am convinced that the promise of EMR to improve physician practices and to improve the health care system is real.

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Responses

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