Monday, August 06, 2012

Cold War Vets Blog Guest Post

Welcome to today's guest poster Cheryl Jacque, the contributor to, an online resource for people interested in health administration education or in the advances made in the field, explores how technological advancements in healthcare are leading to better care and lower costs. This post is offering advice on how to use a new e-mail feature in a VA healthcare system exemplifies Cheryl's description of the ways in which advances in electronic medical records, or EMRs, can lead to better care for participants, especially U.S. veterans who often receive treatment from a variety of medical centers. It is informative post about IT and Veterans Healthcare

Healthcare Administration Focuses on Technology to Lower Costs

Healthcare is in the midst of major changes. While the Affordable Care Act consistently makes the headlines, for military veterans and their families, advances in medical information technology provide a most dramatic impact to quality health care. The global proliferation of the Internet, smartphones and even social media technologies spur a major increase in the availability of real-world data in healthcare, illustrated through the dramatic upgrade in Emergency Medical Records systems and even advanced point-of-care technology. Customers and pharmaceutical industry regulators alike have speculated that faster, more available data technologies could be used to drive down costs and protect patient safety.

A 2005 report from the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit institution that analyzes government policy and decision making, states that adopting interoperable EMR systems could produce efficiency and safety savings between $142 to $371 billion. "The U.S. healthcare industry is arguably the world's largest, most inefficient information enterprise," says the report. "Most medical records are still stored on paper, which means that they cannot be used to coordinate care, routinely measure quality or reduce medical errors." Before the savings can be expected, hospitals will be expected to invest millions to get EMR systems operating, causing some hospital systems and insurance companies to drag their feet.

Yet, for many medical patients, the benefits can be massive. U.S. veterans for instance, often suffer from various maladies as they age, necessitating frequent visits to various health facilities at different locations. An integrated EMR system would coordinate information between insurers and health institutions, ensuring consistency. When a patient's address is changed, for instance, it is automatically updated in the EMR system.

Since the RAND study, healthcare has already made major leaps forward in information technology. The explosion of smartphone usage has allowed doctors to utilize more than 1,000 medical applications for the iPhone alone, many designed to aid physicians even at the point-of-care. "iPhone-based decision support with checklists are a great benefit," says Peter Waegermann, vice president of development for the mHealth Initiative Inc. to Healthcare IT news. "Current iPhone apps of this kind are the very beginning of a long process – perhaps 10 to 15 years...The benefits are better quality care, greater efficiency and lower healthcare costs."

While medical and IT professionals stress the importance of managing expectations, the results of EMR and point-of-care information technology have already illustrated encouraging results. Since deploying EMR in 2007, Midland Memorial Hospital has already seen an improvement in quality of care, including a 27% decline in deaths among heart attack patients and an 88% decrease in central line bloodstream infections.

Already,increased patient data availability has allowed medical practitioners and healthcare specialists to characterize diseases and patient populations more quickly, develop new products and therapies, and assess products and therapies already in use by observing drug safety. For families of U.S. veterans, many of whom have already suffered a great deal of anxiety, the peace-of-mind brought about by faster, more accurate information gathering among medical professionals represents the greatest benefit imaginable.

Sean P Eagan

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Former Chairman American Cold War Veterans
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