How the Internet Changed Healthcare
In the last two decades, the majority of us, from Generation X to Generation Z, have become extremely dependent on the internet. In fact, in the last ten years alone, you might have noticed how offices, stores, shops and dining places such as Starbucks, Chipotle, Target, AMC theaters and even airlines now offer complimentary Wi-Fi for its patrons. We shop online and pay for things with credit cards. Homework and exams are mostly online.
What’s the pattern here? All of it is reliant on the internet. The internet has become a crucial part of people’s lives and when it disappears, they tend to not know how to function. But most of those examples are comforts; they’re not necessary (unless you have a teenager at home). But there are places, with products, systems and programs that need the internet to work. For instance, hospitals and health care practices.
If you’re in the healthcare industry or just someone who has been to a doctor in the last five years, you notice this. Your appointment was most likely set up online. If it’s not your first visit, you probably have a patient portal account where you can make appointments, view your history, view test results, pay the bill and even communicate with your physician. When you’re at the practice, your insurance card is taken and verified online. During your consultation, notes and information is taken down and saved on to an EHR system. If a test is required, it can be scheduled immediately. If you’re prescribed medication, it’s automatically transcribed to your pharmacy.
Nowadays, other than it being very costly (even with health insurance), the difficulty in getting appointments and care in certain key fields has become much easier. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the widespread adoption of EHR systems were a big part in making this happen.
We have written several articles about the benefits of EHR systems. Why? Because we believe in them. For instance, we’ve talked about the importance of Unified Patient Records(UPR); about telehealth making care convenient; having the ability to file insurance claims and manage billing. This is because of EHRs.
But what if we suddenly were to lose access to the internet for an extended period of time? In our last blog, we talked about mental health care and how important medication history and medication dosage is to someone suffering from a serious mental illness. We might end up with something tragic happening because of the loss of the internet.
What about all of the people who need to refill medication? What about those who just need to have a five minute telehealth communication with their physician? How will they confirm patient data?
This sounds like a nightmare to us, but it is a reality for a lot of people around the world, including in the United States. If you’ve seen documentaries about or visited places like rural India or the African country of Congo, you probably aren’t shocked by this.
They face a lot of challenges. We’ve explained over and over about the importance of having a UPR. These people, they experience the difficulties of not having one. Because of shoddy memory, or difficulty communicating properly, the healthcare provider won’t be able to give optimal care. Worse, they might make things worse.
Before anyone writes this off as the reality of living in poor countries, it might be of interest to know that more than 60 million Americans don’t have access to or cannot afford broadband internet.(( Molla, Rani. “More than 60 Million Urban Americans Don’t Have Access to or Can’t Afford Broadband Internet.” Recode. June 20, 2017. Accessed March 20, 2019)) It’s not a “they” problem, it is an “us” problem.
The 60 million number is important to remember, because that represents almost 20% of America’s population. What percentage of those people are bed-ridden and can’t go to the care provider’s practice? How many need ambulatory care? What if an emergency situation presents itself and the healthcare responders are not able to connect to an internet source and access patient data?
At blueEHR, we have our own solution. To explain it simply, imagine this scenario: you’re somewhere overseas on vacation. Because of the data rates, you have your phone switched to airplane mode. During the trip, you take several pictures and videos. You are also able to view your old pictures and videos; You are able to read your old text messages; You can make new events in your calendar. That data, at that point, is only saved on your phone. If you lose it, all of those new pictures and videos are gone. But, as soon as you have access to the internet again, your phone will sync with the cloud and your data will be backed up and safe. Now, even if you lose your phone and get a new one, you can have all your information back; In essence, you can duplicate your phone, without losing the integrity of the content in your phone.
This is what we are currently providing to our clients. If you need to give care to a patient who lives somewhere without the internet, download the patient data (which is a quick and easy process) on to your blueEHR software integrated portable device, such as a tablet or laptop, and now you are prepared to go. All the necessary patient information is available to you, making sure that the patient receives the best possible care. It’s also important to know that you can also create forms and input data into the blueEHR platform. And just like with your phone, as soon as the device connects to an internet source, it becomes part of the cloud.
Is this a long term solution? Yes, it absolutely is. The internet is not going anywhere. Twenty years ago, on Friends, Chandler and Joey were making fun of Ross for talking about computers. Now, the majority of people walk around with one in their pockets and they use it obsessively. But that doesn’t mean that those without the same access are suddenly going to get it. Until they do, there needs to be a plan in motion to take care of their welfare as well; blueEHR is that plan.
blueEHR is a company that was founded by the idea of providing care to people and making care accessible to everyone. This is just one of the ways we’re doing that.
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