By Kimberly Lord Stewart
The digital age of medicine is upon us. Sophisticated digital technology tools like a Google contact lens can measure blood sugar from tears (see the story here), and biosensors can continuously monitor blood pressure opposed to the few minutes the patient is in the exam room. This level of knowledge allows for individual level of care that can reduce drug side effects, prevent illness and allow for precision care over generic therapies.
And while medical records have been digitized, the medical community is slow to adopt technology for both practice management and patient care. The reasons vary from lack of comfort with the technology, concerns about privacy and the overall conservative nature of the medical community.
The reluctance to digitize patient care and medical practices is costing physicians money, a lot of money, says Michael Jay Nusbaum, MD, Chief of Bariatric Surgery at Morristown Medical Center and Newton Medical Center, Surgical Director of the Metabolic Center of Atlantic Health and Chief Technical Officer and Founder of Giffen Solutions, Inc. Nusbaum says patient privacy is a valid concern. Something as simple as texting patients and staff may be violating privacy guidelines.
He says new advances in technology need to be considered when entering into the new world of digital medicine. But he says that technology can save money and allow doctor’s to take back control of their practice in a time when new regulations, insurance and malpractice costs are making many physicians feel out of control.
TP: In a profession that is very tech-heavy in regard to computerized surgical and diagnostic equipment, the medical profession has been reluctant to embrace other types of technology for patient interaction. Why is this?
I would not agree that the medical profession is reluctant to embrace technology, but I would state that the profession is reticent to become dependent upon technology. Prior to the advent of CT scans in the 70s and MRIs in the 80s, physicians relied upon their diagnostic skills to diagnose the problem with a patient. Soon after the advent of these tests, doctors became dependent upon those studies to make the diagnosis. The result was that there was a degradation in the diagnostic skills of physicians coming through training in the 80s and 90s. They became too reliant upon the imaging studies to make the diagnosis. This was a truly expensive wakeup call for the healthcare system.
Today, we see similar issues in the operating room. With the advent of advanced laparoscopy and robotic surgery, young surgeons in training are seeing fewer and fewer open cases. The result is that many are not obtaining the skills to perform open operations. The problem is that, in a certain percentage of patients, a laparoscopic procedure has to be converted to an open operation. Many of the young surgeons coming out of training today are not equipped with the skills or experience needed if they are forced to open a patient.
TP: Technology can be perceived as both a time saver and a hindrance, how can technology save money and time in medical practices?
Technology in a medical practice can be a time saver if designed properly. The problem is that many systems are designed by computer engineers who believe that they are setting up the most logical system. Unfortunately, most of these systems become impractical in the actual practice of medicine. They are also designed for the hospitals to optimize billing for products and services at the experience of convenience to the provider. We see hospitals installing such systems today. Systems not designed by physicians but by engineers. The result is that the same tasks now take much longer than they ever did before. However, technology like MedXCom, as well as other systems which permit providers to perform virtual house calls, save money for the health care system as well as save time for the provider and the patient. In addition, these systems save money, time and lives by providing the practitioner with critical patient information at the time they need it most… the time of patient contact. This accelerates the decision making process and helps reduce medical errors.
TP: One of the primary concerns is privacy. What are the safe-gap measures in place to make both patients and physicians feel communication is being kept confidential?
Unfortunately most medical practices are not aware that they are compromising privacy on a daily basis. Many office staff members text their doctors personal health information (PHI) to their smart phones, in direct violation of HIPAA. Many live operators do the same by texting the doctor PHI to their phones. What they need to do is get a product such as MedXCom or similar products where they can securely message their doctors and doctors can securely communicate with both them and their patients. Any system containing PHI needs to be secure. This means that the data needs to be encrypted on both ends as well as in transmission. New advanced communications platforms such as MedXCom do just that. In a similar situation to logging into your bank securely via an app on your phone, secure patient to provider communications platforms need secure apps where both parties log into the secure platform to communicate with each other.
Michael Jay Nusbaum, MD, FACS, FASMBS, Chief of Bariatric Surgery: Morristown Medical Center and Newton Medical Center and Surgical Director of the Metabolic Center of Atlantic Health. He is also Chief Technical Officer and Founder of Giffen Solutions, Inc. Giffen provides guidance and technology solutions for improving health care, communication, and compliance through innovative technology with MedXCom and MedXCom Patient. Learn more at www.medxcom.com