Everybody wants to cut the costs of health care, and a new study shows the most effective way to cut medical costs is for all health care providers to have access to data from a health information exchange, on which a patient's medical information is stored electronically.
Essentially, that means prying the clipboard out of your doctors hands, eliminating those bulky moving racks of paper files which are often seen behind the doctor's receptionist, and placing all of a patient's medical information on a database open to hospitals, medical clinics, and doctors, 1200 WOAI news reports.
Gijs Van Oort, who heads Healthcare Access San Antonio, the agency which is working to move medical records into digital format locally, says that makes the basic medical encounter amazingly more efficient.
"Physicians are being able to go to a central source when you can learn, for example, that the patient is allergic to penicillin, the patient is allergic to 'x,' you can avoid any of these complications," Van Oort told 1200 WOAI's Berit Mason.
Researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina say simply having access to a patient's full medical history saved an amazing $2,000 per patient. The money is saved in many ways, from cutting the amount of time that physicians and nurses have to spend examining patients, to reducing the need for duplicative tests, where additional tests have to be ordered because one doctor does not have access to tests performed by another physician.
"We now have a regional source where data is being aggregated from most of the different facilities in the community," Van Oort said. "We are able now to produce a single, secure record of a patient for any emergency room physician here in the community."
Researchers say having health information on line electronically has other benefits too. Babies and children, for example, are more likely to be up to date on their vaccinations when parents are able to access health records on line.
Researchers in Hawaii and Oregon say babies and toddlers are far more likely to be up to date on 'well child' doctor visits and vaccinations when their parents were able to go on line and access their children's medical history.
Electric medical records are required by federal law, but that law is not part of the controversial Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.
Van Oort says metro San Antonio is doing a good job of getting its records digitalized.
"Most of the major hospitals really keep track of their patients clinical information in an electronic format," he said. "But so far, that electronic format still sits within the hospital."
He says it is important to make sure that information in doctors' offices is digitally transferred. Many doctors are balking due to the costs and time demands required to make that move.
Van Oort says in many European countries, patients simply carry a health card, which has all of their medical information encoded on a magnetic strip, which can be swiped by whichever facility the patient enters.