The ah-ha moment

When technology finally catches up to real life
By Diana Manos
12:00 AM

It takes a rare and altruistic person to truly and deeply care about an issue before it directly affects their life. As a journalist, I would like to believe I care that much about what I report. I am obviously immersed in the subject of healthcare IT and have been for more than six years; I find it fascinating. 

However, I had an awakening recently, when healthcare IT truly touched my life, beyond what I do for a living. It actually touched my human, healthcare life  -  my real life.

The incident came when I visited the doctor recently. My doctor's medical practice, near my home in Washington, D.C.'s suburban Maryland, has been using electronic health records (EHRs) since I began visiting them several years ago. I thought this was avant-garde of them, and I was pleased to have an EHR. But, my ah-ha moment didn't really come until this most recent visit when I was offered login directions for a new patient portal. I immediately went home and logged in  -  not as a journalist, but as a consumer. I checked it all out. It provides a place for me to securely email my physician, and I did just that. I couldn't help myself. Direct email access to my physician! Wow. Doctors are so removed, so difficult to get ahold of. I recall countless times when just a simple email could have solved a problem for me, rather than me scheduling a doctor's appointment. 

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The portal also allows patients to make appointments online, another huge convenience, if you ask me. I made that appointment for the annual physical I've been putting off. And, I can even ask for a copy of my EHR, which I also did. I exercised all of my patient portal rights. I was duly empowered. I feel so much more in control of my healthcare and, more importantly, more interested in my healthcare  -  all this with the opening of a portal. Some might call it a magic portal.

This sentiment of awe and personalization of healthcare IT came to the ONC chief Farzad Mostashari recently, too. He has publicly shared a story about iBlueButton, a phone app that allows the downloading of Medicare patients' Blue Button EHRs for use by the patient and the doctor. 

In this case, Mostashari used it to help his father with a medical incident while visiting from out-of-state. Who wouldn't want to hold all the information needed in the palm of their hand, to help oneself or a loved one, share vital information with a doctor? Mostashari, with all his saturation in health IT and all of his involvement in its advancement, had an ah-ha moment, just like I did, when it personally touched his life. 

If all goes according to plan, it won't be long until everyone has a similar experience. All the stakeholders and all the healthcare consumers, one by one, will experience the actual touch of health IT in their lives. Technology advancement is growing exponentially. This is only the beginning. I'm surprised it hasn't touched my healthcare life sooner. 

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