Online platforms and electronic medical records are making a huge impact on healthcare. Health IT is an essential part of the evolving practice, and spine surgeons are seeing the impact.
Here are five observations on how health IT is changing spine care from Kern Singh, MD, co-founder of the Minimally Invasive Spine Institute at Rush in Chicago.
1. Electronic medical records are a must-have. Most hospitals have an EMR system, and the automated technology helps gather crucial data for the patient as well as quality and outcomes statistics. Smaller practices could get away with less sophisticated technology in the past, but it’s becoming necessary.
“Make sure you allocate a certain amount of revenue for EMR,” says Dr. Singh. “If you haven’t, you’re behind the game. It’s become mandatory and required to report on quality, and if you don’t, you’ll be punished by the insurer.”
2. Communication is easier and faster between specialists. Mobile technology, EMR and automated technology platforms allow physicians and specialists to communicate quickly and access patient information easily in a HIPAA-compliant manner.
“With IT advancement, we are able to access imaging studies quicker, get them from multiple institutions and receive data quickly to determine the best care,” says Dr. Singh. “It also allows us to get additional input from other specialists for our cases. It can streamline the process as well because we don’t have to track down X-rays or our colleagues.”
3. More documentation often means less face-to-face time with patients. The increased data input has clear advantages for tracking patients and delivering care, but it also places a barrier in the patient-physician relationship. “The documentation is more electronic and tiresome now and there is less face-to-face time with the patient,” says Dr. Singh. “We also have to spend time making sure the billing and coding for care is accurate. That’s becoming extremely important now.”
4. Mobile technology can increase the patient’s access to care. There are several mobile technologies and platforms to connect physicians and patients. Dr. Singh is using a new app that transcribes messages left on the office voicemail into a text messages and emails.
“I’m sent the patient’s message via email and text. The message includes the patient’s contact number and other patient information so I can seamlessly contact the patient back,” says Dr. Singh. “Then we can give the patient and immediate response.”
5. Physician grading websites are gaining steam, for better or worse. There are several websites inviting patients to rate their physicians and leave comments about their experience. The website also includes the physician’s contact information and background. Whether the physicians want to be “online” or not, these sites create profiles for patients to voice their opinions.
“Doctor grading websites are becoming more powerful, particularly for the educated consumer,” says Dr. Singh. “More and more patients are finding me through the internet. Patients are becoming more sophisticated and seeking out physicians they prefer.”