The 2009 Medical Innovations Summit is coming up at the Cleveland Clinic. You can check out the website at http://www.clevelandclinic.org/innovations/summit/default.htm.When I went to check out the top 10 innovations for 2009, I saw that one is “Private Sector Health Information Exchange.” Although many people walk into a doctor’s office and have to fill out paperwork, a system of electronic health records is getting established. This system could replace all paper medical records in the future. The benefits of this would be that both consumers and health care providers would have easy access to health care files. Oftentimes, when a doctor has access to a medical history, they can help their patients through both treatments and preventative approaches. It could also help reduce healthcare costs. It could decrease the need for administrative positions (although in the economy with the high unemployment rate, this might not be viewed as such a good thing). Joe Turk, the Director of Information Technology at the Cleveland Clinic says, “We think the ideal model is the consumer driven approach, where the consumer is in control of what information is gathered and stored at a central repository and who they choose to share it with.” This article shows that the use of digital media for healthcare communication, in the form of patient records, has many benefits.
However, I think in order for this technology to be successful, it will also need to be safeguarded. Issues such as identity theft could arise if individuals are able to view medical records that belong to other people. Also, if pharmaceutical companies find out family disease histories, it could influence the marketing of drugs. Pharmaceutical companies could advertize their products to individual people based on electronic records, causing a person to be pressured to buy medicine that s/he may never need. Access could also be an issue, since individuals without computers or the internet would not be able to view their healthcare files. For example, many older people, who usually have more health conditions, have trouble with computers. I know that my own grandmother would have a hard time learning the tools of the Web to view a digital medical document. I think it is also important to consider the context of the technology. Having electronic medical records in the U.S. would probably work very well, in our country where most people use the Internet. Yet, in rural areas of Africa and Latin America, where there is limited electricity and slow Internet services (if any), the digital patient records probably would not work very well. Another problem that could arise if all healthcare records are computerized is a blackout. If the electricity goes out, it will be hard for physicians and nurses to get important information that would enable them to treat a person (especially in an emergency). This is assuming that generators would be used to power medical devices rather than computers. What are your views on the digitalization of medical records? Should all patient records be inserted into an electronic database while every paper medical file gets shredded? How can this technology be made more accessible?