Increased adoption of electronic health record (EHR) technology by hospitals and other providers is reshaping health care, converting unwieldy paper medical records into digital records that can be available when and where the health information needed. At the same time, there has been an explosion in the number of consumer health applications available, from 2,993 in February 2010 to 13,619 in April 2012.
In Iowa, EHR and other health related technology is critical. With many small, rural hospitals and relatively few large medical centers (and only one major academic medical center), the ability to move and share health care information quickly is important in a state like Iowa.
In addition, high-speed networks that make EHR technology most useful also support other capabilities, like sharing complex medical images and telehealth, which helps bring medical specialists, such as mental health professionals, to areas where they are hard to find (like Iowa). Telehealth also makes it possible to monitor patients remotely, an important capability in a state with many older residents who live in isolated areas. (University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, along with 11 other Iowa hospitals, recently received a $7.7 million federal grant to optimize EHR use and telehealth technologies to improve communications with patients, their families and the local providers they will see after discharge).
This is why IHA is heavily invested in the Iowa Rural Health Telecommunications Program, a joint effort of 82 Iowa rural and urban hospitals, IHA and the Iowa Communications Network (ICN) that is connecting hospitals to a dedicated broadband fiber network using existing ICN infrastructure.
Although EHR technology is becoming more widespread, adoption of this technology is low – only 10 percent of Americans have downloaded a health application on their mobile phone to manage some aspect of their health. And, despite the fact that two out of three people would consider switching to a physician who offers a way to access their medical record through a secure Internet connection, only 17 percent of Americans have ever asked their provider for electronic access to their medical record.
The bottom line: Technology has transformed the way Americans bank, shop, travel and communicate; yet, health care has lagged far behind. Part of the reason seems to be lack of demand from consumers, who may not fully understand the usefulness of EHR.
In response, the federal government, through the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), has posted a three-minute animated video (above) for consumers. The video explains how widespread adoption of EHRs and other technology is helping to give the U.S. health care system a 21st -century upgrade that makes the system smarter and more responsive to the needs of patients, their families and their health care providers.
ONC is also sponsoring a video contest, where Americans are being asked to share their EHR stories and why having access to review their health records has improved their quality of care or the care of a loved one. A grand prize of $3,000 is being offered.