The potential for transforming healthcare delivery to increase access, improve outcomes, and reduce cost are tremendous, but far from guaranteed. As a nation we’ve just invested over $30 billion in establishing a technology infrastructure for change. This is only the essential first step. Sustaining the current momentum is going to be a huge challenge. Achieving value from our investment is going to continue to demand an equally significant investment. Change fatigue is already setting in; it’s like rolling a rock uphill. We’re only halfway there, and it’s critical to keep up the pressure to get the rock to the top.
We are only beginning to see the value of electronic health information. The transformative power will be in sharing health information not just in collecting it electronically. That’s because haring information will drive collaboration and help break down today’s silos of care.
To gain a better appreciation, we can look back at where organizations were with their use of information systems before the internet was made available for commercial use in the late 1980’s—when we were absolutely amazed at the possibility of buying books online. The internet opened the door to easily and inexpensively sharing information among organizations, across boundaries, and indeed globally. Who ever imagined that when banks started putting little metal boxes in the side of brick walls to let us withdraw cash that within 15 years, we would be doing almost all our banking electronically and able to access our funds anyplace in the world and withdraw it in the currency of our choosing. Or that Walmart would transform retail with supply chain management or that we would be making our own airline reservations, or watching events half way across the globe unfold before our eyes on our TV’s or computer screens. Or sharing videos globally as easily as sharing a photograph used to be –or to share selfies with family back home as we vacation. Patients will become the major drivers for change. Just as they have come to expect that they can purchases anything they need on line, obtain services online, share information and communicate through email or social media—all on their mobile devices–consumers will expect the same conveniences and options for meeting their healthcare needs.
From a patient perspective, it makes so much sense to have a comprehensive health record available anywhere, anytime from the point of care and to which you can control access. It’s hard to imagine that patients won’t demand it. To be able to talk with or email your elderly mother’s physician in California and access her health records when you are in South Carolina and her primary family caregiver. We’ve all seen great examples of the new possible. The challenge now is to make it the new normal!