The massive rock paperweight that keeps our medical records in an ever-growing stack is fossilizing. Fast. As a result, congress, President Obama and insurance providers are shaking hands, creating partnerships and evaluating vendors to send our medical records into the cloud. Poof! Just like that…Up, up and away goes the latest results of your cholesterol test to that great big server in the sky. Paperless healthcare is supposed to create lower healthcare quotes for consumers. But will it?
“We’ve proven that paperless documentation can save costs for one of the most documented segments in the healthcare industry,” says Gerry Stone, founder of Redoc, an electronic medical records software company that specializes in documentation for physical and occupational therapists. “Believe me, if it works for Physical and Occupational rehab, it will work for the rest of healthcare.”
Stone has a point. He built his software platform from scratch 14 years ago, when electronic medical records were but just a glint in Bill Gates’ eye. Since physical and occupational rehabilitation is usually prescribed by health insurance plans to those who injure themselves on the job, Workers Compensation claims (and in the case of post-65-year-olds, repeated Medicare reimbursements) require an average of one hour of a therapists’ time filling out forms after each session. Stone has managed to reduce the hand-driven process of jotting down billing codes and treatment notes down to mere minutes by designing a simple interface of drop-down and text boxes, key shortcuts and the like. That was w-a-y before big Goliaths like Siemens, SAS and open-source companies jumped into the tepid waters of paperless healthcare.
Now that the President has essentially mandated paperless medical practices, the Cloud is gonna get a lot more crowded now. But how soon is now? Depends on who you ask. Software companies are courting their respective Congress persons and the President is waiting for the sky to open up and accept the first pile of medical paperwork. So far, there doesn’t seem to be any protocols drafted to guide how the information is documented, where and how it’s shared and who backs it up and how often. By the time the paperweight gets lifted, the ACLU and other privacy advocates will have their say on how private medical information is managed.
And what about HIPPA (Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)? When the medical records pile shifts to the servers, we’ll probably have an even L-O-N-G-E-R paper form to read and sign at the pharmacy counter. Figures.