No one should care about their health more than a patient. Yet, people around the world continue to smoke, eat poorly, forget to take medications, and overlook doctor visits designed to prevent illness in the first place.
Since the dawn of the internet, healthcare informatics have done everything, but get on their knees to encourage patients to drop their vices and take accountability for much of their own care but, for the most part, to no effective and efficient avail.
Now, in the midst of an ongoing effort worldwide to switch from paper to electronic health records, economic, social and — in some countries — legislative imperatives are driving patients across the globe to access healthcare in the palms of their hands.
iPhones to PC Tablets
Digital technologies from iPhones to PC tablets have gone main stream. Look around. In remote villages to cosmopolitan cities, in all likelihood, there's a mobile communication device within reach. More than 10 billion mobile communications devices are predicted to be in use around the world in the next few years, enabling more patients to access web portals that can answer many of the questions they have prior to entering a hospital or doctor's office or well after they leave.
Electronic health records systems can make medical care safer and more efficient for physician and patient alike. Imagine visiting a doctor's office and not asked to recall past medications, referring physician addresses, and your health status three months and four days ago. What's more, what if you happen to be in a foreign destination?
Now consider clicking a mouse or tapping a finger to jog your memory and access a mobile device that enables you to share comprehensive and vital data concerning your health, instead. In turn, your doctor can retrieve information perhaps, on a personal laptop — about your medical history that you couldn't recall anyway from lab results and screenings to prescription dosages and past surgery dates. That's what mobile communication and electronic health records can offer patients and providers anywhere, anytime.
Now, as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act enters its second phase, doctors, hospitals and clinics are mandated to offer for some, by as early as Oct. 1 — at least half of their Medicare patient populations online access to their own medical records.
The meaningful use provision of healthcare reform, a $27 billion federal incentive program designed to engage patients in their own care, threatens to hit healthcare providers where it hurts most in their pockets if they fail to meet provisions of the new legislation.
Hospitals that don't engage 5 percent of their Medicare patients to log in and enter their own medical data to meet federal requirement could miss out on Medicare and Medicaid government subsidies. So far, the response has been limited.
After all, patients have had little history of reaching out electronically to physicians compared to online communication and wireless technology which have been poised for years to transform the way healthcare is delivered, in both experience and cost.
Healthcare reform aims to make all parties patients and healthcare providers alike accountable for care. The emergence of bundled payments gives healthcare providers a greater stake in managing care throughout an episode and adds value to promoting patient-doctor communication online; in itself a daunting task.
From Theory to Reality
Personal health information technology is driving patients and their concerned family and friends as well to take responsibility for their health and, in the mean time, access more options to safe, timely, and affordable procedures and treatments at any medical tourism destination.
The Medical Tourism Association, which builds consumer awareness of effective and affordable international healthcare options, facilitates and encourages patient-provider communication through outreach initiatives like its Health & Wellness Destination Guides, Medical Tourism Magazine, annual World Medical Tourism and Global Healthcare Congress, numerous partnership and networking activities, online education and certification programs, and No. 1 rated Internet portal for healthcare consumers, http://www.medicaltourism.com among others.
Electronic record-keeping and mobile communications have moved patient engagement from the threshold of theory and into reality. But, the bottom line will remain as it has been — whether or not patients perceive value in tapping into a mobile device or electronic portal to enhance their own health.
Until doctors can persuasively educate, encourage and convince patients to get on board and online, the least utilized resource in medicine will stay untapped.