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 Viewpoint

When will healthcare IT actually improve the patient experience?

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   By Phil Colpas, Managing Editor, March 2011

HMT1010_Phil_Colpas

Did you ever get the feeling that no one even looks at the reams of paperwork we're forced to fill out each and every time we visit a medical facility?

See if this scenario sounds familiar:

You enter your doctor's office, approach the glass window, greet the people behind the counter, sign in and receive a clipboard filled with several sheets for you to fill out and a pen that works intermittently, at best.

Among the questions asked are the same things you filled out the last time you visited your doctor's office, and every time before that. These include: address, phone number, emergency contact, current medications, allergies and the reason you are there.

You dutifully fill out all the paperwork — again — and take your place in the crowded waiting room, competing with the other patrons for a four-year-old Mademoiselle magazine that you normally wouldn't be caught dead reading.
You wait for a good hour past your appointment time — your blood pressure rising with each minute you are made to wait — and finally receive the call you've been waiting for.

In my case, I hear, "Phillup Call-pass?" Close enough.

The nurse asks how you're doing. You try to be nice, but you're thinking to yourself, "How do you think I'm doing!? My appointment was an hour ago!" (In no other industry would this inability to keep appointments be deemed acceptable, let alone the rule.)

You are weighed. Your blood pressure is taken. ("It's a little high." "Really? I wonder why that could be.") Then the nurse proceeds to ask all of the questions you just answered while filling out the reams of paperwork in the waiting room; she ends with, "Why are you here today?" You dutifully and patiently answer all queries. Again.

You then are left alone in the examination room to wait some more. It is at this point you realize that you have merely graduated to a private waiting room without even four-year-old magazines to entertain you as you wait for the elusive doctor, who clearly isn't very good at keeping appointments.

When the doctor finally does grace you with his presence, he looks through a plethora of handwritten notes and asks, "Why are you here today?"

This evoked a memory remnant of an editorial from several years ago by a former editor of HMT, who was bemoaning the archaic state of medical records when she went with a friend to a veterinarian's office. For Fido, everything was state of the art, fully computerized and smooth as silk. Appointment times were kept, all data was completely electronic and paperless and Fido's owner was given an itemized bill at the time of services.

I think the next time I need medical attention, I may try the canine hospital down the street

Enjoy the magazine. Until next time, here's wishing you good healthcare IT.


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