Has your office gone paperless yet? The day of the electronic office has arrived. Computerization, software and electronic technology are revolutionizing the chiropractor’s personal office as well as the way in which healthcare will be delivered in the future.
Before computerization, all chiropractors kept office and patient records on paper and used cumbersome manual filing systems. The economics of healthcare in the 21st century will mandate an end to that inefficient, costly and archaic system. Through the efficient use of clinical software, a virtual paperless office and electronic patient records are quickly becoming the norm.
Members of the healthcare profession never anticipated a transition of this magnitude. The practitioner, who is already continually monitored for effectiveness of outcomes, resources, evidence-based data and clinical efficiency, will now be pushed to the next level as he or she will be required to understand and apply the advancements in computer technology.
The electronic capture of patient data means the information will be available for a variety of uses without redundancy or duplication of effort. The industry will learn to expect that comprehensive, easily accessible, transmittable and shared clinical data be available. The only way to deliver this service economically and effectively is through the use of electronic patient records, using comprehensive and intuitive software.
In the 21st century, the healthcare industry will demand that clinical data be instantly accessible to all the providers. The new practice management programs will capture the vital clerical data, such as insurance and demographics. The programs will also capture the patient’s entire clinical history, including referrals, previous treatment therapies, laboratory work, X-ray data, and any information valuable to the patient’s health and welfare.
This clinical data will be delivered through digital technology. The information will be instantly transmittable via fax, Internet and intranet to another doctor in the same office, or at another location. Thus, for the first time, the patient’s records will truly “follow” him or her. This type of system is cost-effective and presently available.
However, a complete transition to the electronic age will not be without some obstacles. Old habits are difficult to break, and the healthcare profession can be resistant to change. The software and the technology must be fail-safe and must provide significant security, and possibly encryption, to maintain the confidentiality of patient records.
For ease of use, all information systems should be voice-activated and respond to fluent speech. Keyboard access will eventually be a thing of the past, with advanced display capabilities, wall-mounted devices that look like decorations, and on-command information that will appear on wall-sized display screens of high resolution. Above all, the software should be easy to use and intuitive in nature, or the average healthcare professional will be reluctant to adopt its use.
In the healthcare environment of the future, electronic medical records will be available wherever a patient seeks care. The electronic medical records will be in a multimedia format, including X-rays, other images, and lab data, viewable by episodes of care. The data will be documented on the patient’s medical records regardless of the physical location where the information was gathered. The patient’s clinical problem list will act as the master index for all information.
Both the doctor and the patient will benefit from this technology, through:
- instant access to the patient’s complete healthcare history;
- better treatment choices and outcomes;
- statistical evaluation of different therapeutic interventions providing evidence-based data;
- financial savings (presently, it is estimated that 26% of healthcare costs are related to clerical services and paper management).
A significant obstacle will be the possible division between practicing healthcare professionals who are technophiles versus technophobes. The disparity between these two groups will continue to grow. Those who endorse and use electronic technology will have instant access to patient files, vast clinical databases available on the Internet, and all the data in the scientific community. These capabilities will most assuredly affect the doctor’s therapeutic choices, interventions, prognosis and outcomes, all to the benefit of the patient. The logic follows, then, that doctors who fail to make the transition to the electronic age may become less effective and may experience therapeutic outcomes that are not as successful. The question could be asked: Will this affect the standard of care?
The decision about whether to convert to an electronic office is no longer a question of choice. It is a question of when.