The pandemic forced us to create new ways to live and work. As a result, we’ve grown accustomed to accessing almost everything we need from the comfort of our homes. Access to the best medical care shouldn’t be any different.
Successful health outcomes require informed patient advocacy, collaboration, and coordination
Healthcare professionals’ dedication and unwavering efforts continue to save countless lives, but successful health outcomes require that patients and partners be informed and empowered. Advocating for your health was a hot topic long before 2020. During the pandemic, it became essential.
Even with the best physicians and medical expertise, unexpected, life-changing events can happen. Consider this:
- 10% of all deaths in the U.S. are a result of medical errors
- 20% of medical cases are misdiagnosed
- 88% of second opinions result in major changes in patient care
- Approximately 250,000 patients each year are known to die from human mistakes, diagnostic errors, system failures, and preventable safety events each year
Many factors can lead to adverse health outcomes, such as incomplete and untimely information, challenges coordinating across complex healthcare systems, difficulties with system interoperability, and limited access to expertise.
As more companies jump into digital health, patient advocacy isn’t just about getting the best healthcare; it’s becoming increasingly important that your providers use the right tools to set your health up for success.
The Impact of Technology on our Health
Healthcare professionals still use fax machines—a lot. The reason may surprise you. As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, all public and private healthcare providers were required to adopt and demonstrate “meaningful” use of electronic medical records (EMR) by January 1, 2014. However, they still haven’t eliminated the fax.
As the United States approaches the tenth anniversary of this mandate, reports show that 70% of healthcare providers still exchange medical health information by facsimile, though many believe that number is closer to 90% of healthcare professionals.
Why does this matter? Fax messages can be hard to read. Medical professionals find it challenging to ensure records are received, completed, and processed promptly. Data privacy, security, integrity, and accuracy, are also critical concerns for fax machines. But medical offices still rely on them because electronic health records (EHR) formats can vary among health systems and even across departments in the same medical network.
The adoption of standardized formats is still sparse. Moreover, even those who do use a shared standard don’t always use the same version. For example, 95% of U.S. healthcare organizations that use the Health Level 7 (HL7) specification still run the version (HL7v2) that came out in 1988. Since then, two improved versions have been released, but their adoption lags. This problem of interoperability becomes even more complex when you cross international borders.
We mentioned several areas that can impact your health, with number one as incomplete and untimely information.
You may recall a time when you were waiting for your doctor’s office or hospital to send your medical records to a new provider. Or maybe the office forced you to physically pick up your records so you could carry them to your next doctor. For patients facing a serious illness, this is critical time lost.
Incomplete medical records can compromise patient safety
There’s a saying in medicine that goes like this: If it’s not documented, it never happened. Therefore, it is crucial for your health that your medical records be clear, accurate, legible, and complete.
Julie Taitsman, Chief Medical Officer for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, says she tells physicians that “proper documentation is important for three main reasons: to protect the programs, to protect your patients, and to protect you, the provider.”
A complete medical record must include the patient’s chief complaint or presenting problems, as this is the reason for seeking medical care. The chief complaint is also essential for billing and valuable information to have in your medical record if you change doctors or seek an expert second medical opinion.
Untimely information can lead to untimely care
Let’s take the case of a woman we will call Melissa. Melissa presented with swelling and pain in her leg. Following an MRI, the treating physician—an orthopedist—refused to schedule an appointment because the preliminary report said she was “fine.” Nevertheless, she continued to contact the doctor’s office about her chief complaint: pain and swelling. One morning months later, Melissa woke up and was unable to walk, so she returned to her treating physician. Trying to be a patient advocate for herself, she inquired about the MRI she’d had four months prior. The doctor still hadn’t received the complete report, so he requested the information from the imaging clinic while Melissa waited in the exam room. The report showed she had a small tear in her peroneus brevis. Because the doctor didn’t receive the report in a timely fashion and proper treatment was delayed, the patient was now unable to put weight on her leg and had completely lost side-to-side motion. The untimeliness of this report contributed to Melissa’s need for extensive rehabilitation. She could not walk for almost a year, missed a significant amount of work, and had out-of-pocket expenses for medical care, rehabilitation, and personal care.
Today, the dominant headlines in healthcare innovation may be remote robotic surgery, biosensors, 3D-printed devices, and Artificial Intelligence (A.I.); however, Melissa could have been spared such a painful and expensive year with something far simpler: Basic tools that provide patient transparency, efficiently manage patient records and facilitate physician collaboration. Those three things can have an immediate, profound, and far-reaching impact on patient care. These tools are not in some distant future. They exist now and are available to you if you choose providers who use them.
To err is human. But, when it comes to our health, some resources can reduce or eliminate human error. Our health and lives depend on it.
About the Author
Sergio “Serge” Gonzales is the MORE Health Solutions Architect and SaaS Product Owner for the MORE Health Physician Collaboration Platform™️. Serge works with our partners to deliver solutions powered by MORE Health that provide human-centered patient care that aligns with our partners’ existing people, processes, and technology. Serge combines his 20+ years of experience in technology and innovation with his background in microbiology and molecular genetics to help transform our future in healthcare.
About MORE Health
MORE Health is a global digital health company that gives individuals access to the best medical minds in the world. We are recognized as a leader in cross-border telemedicine for our Expert Medical Opinion service, delivered through proprietary technology created for physicians by physicians. In recent years, we expanded our services to include SaaS clinical tools that allow physicians and hospitals to provide remote second opinions worldwide. Contact us to learn more or to request a demo.