UK newspaper, The Telegraph, has a story today that encourages medical practitioners to make greater use of Skype and SMS to help keep patients from missing their scheduled appointments. Not a bad idea and one that is in major need of acceptance, as they cite missed appointments and the inconvenience that the missed appointments can cause.
Having been married to a very tech savvy doctor until recently, I know how hard she tried to integrate technology into her practice, and all the roadblocks she ran into. Here in the USA it starts with HIPPA, the regulations surrounding privacy of patient information. Ask a medical assistant to email you your information they'll respond with they can't, because it's not secure. Then they will ask for your "fax" number or offer to mail you the documents. Have your bookkeeper call up the doctor to ask questions about the bill, and they will decline talking with them, citing no permission.
But it goes beyond HIPPA. For the most part medical practices have not been tech centric, but that's changing and changing fast. Today's medical school graduates have grown up digital. They are used to using technology to research, learn and even help heal. That's why no forward thinking graduate from a leading medical school will want to to go back to using a dictaphone for notes, when an iPhone will do the same, or better job. They are used to using Skype to stay in touch with their friends from college and medical school, and it's how they want to communicate with their distant peers.
So, what's on my short list of making medical practices more technology deploying?
1. Collect mobile numbers for patients
2. Have practice management system tied into an SMS system (two way) to notify and remind patients of appointments
3. Develop a simple "appointment" app for leading smartphones that lets you manage, schedule and cancel your appointments--this would be great for physical therapists via links into the practice management systems.
4. Have apps for notetaking that can automatically attach to the patient's medical records. It's faster and in the doc's own words.
5. Oh yes. Wi-Fi in the office, with a patient access network that's public, and the practice's own that's private. Many better commercial grade Wi-Fi access points let you do that today.
6. A space for a patient's Skype name in the patient records, and Skype on the desktop. Wouldn't it be easier for everyone?
What's your suggestion?