Electronic records increase health awareness

I think the concept of a patient-guided record makes sense in principle. Even now, patients often get reports or discharge letters from their doctors that could easily be made available to the other actors involved, primary care providers as well as specialists, in the form of an electronic insurance record.

Health insurance companies have to provide their members with an electronic insurance record, and thus give them access to their medical data. Its functionality will be different from one insurer to another at first, with just a few basic functions to begin with. But over time, all kinds of new functionality will be added, which will provide real added value for both physicians and patients and make using the record more attractive to everyone involved.

The doctor-patient relationship will continue to improve. Many patients are becoming more self-reliant and more concerned with staying healthy, and they are interested in better, more effective care of existing conditions.

The record has yet to prove its value

Records networks only function if all the participants benefit from them and the record begins to come alive. Populating the record can’t be complicated for doctors, and the work involved should be compensated appropriately. Otherwise there will be a lack of motivation to use it, and thus a lack of important content needed for effective treatment and preventing test duplication. The record has to comply with standards so that its contents can be processed in other systems as well. This is the only way that work processes can be improved. Some good examples of this would be issuing a medication chart at discharge from the hospital and transferring that information to a doctor’s office system. Doing that manually would cost extra time and effort.


Time saved or added expense?

Another criterion for whether the record can be successfully integrated into day-to-day practice is the amount of time it takes to use. The time that a physician has available to talk to patients is generally perceived as too short. If using the insurance record results in a patient being better prepared and bringing all their documents to the appointment, and if it also reduces administrative costs, then it would have a positive effect on physician acceptance. On the other hand, it would not be beneficial if a primary care provider instead has to spend too much time transferring test and examination data into a record, or even needs to add resources, like a medical assistant. Good, secure integration into practice administration systems is preferable, so that the entries needed to make up a complete insurance record can be generated at the push of a button. That means simple, secure, state-of-the-art solutions for authorizations, access management, and data protection. Also, doctors should not be constantly confronted with new user interfaces or changing processes when new functionalities are added. The issue of compensation should also be sorted out. And the doctor can’t be responsible for educating patients.


Benefits for my family practice

In my experience, many patients are interested in getting easy access to their data and managing it for themselves. Nowadays it’s not just the younger generation collecting their health and fitness data. If reliable digital services can be effectively combined into an insurance record, then it will be possible, using intelligent analysis tools, to detect risk patterns or pre-existing chronic illnesses earlier and monitor them better over time. But just making more data available isn’t enough of an added value for those involved.

Other digital services like ordering prescriptions online or referrals, which a lot of physicians already offer these days, could be supplemented with other applications in a record. That includes a digital vaccination record with automatic reminders, a drug interaction checker for patients, services that involve dietary counseling, instructions for preventive and follow-up care, or an easy way to fill out what used to be complex paper forms, like rehabilitation applications. My wish is that all of these things together will lead to better care for our patients, more effective doctor-patient discussions, and a lighter load for doctors’ offices.

I assume that easier availability and better handling of health data will make many people in this country more health-conscious. If it’s easy to upload information to the record — fitness data from wearable devices or reports of whatever kind — it will promote acceptance by everyone involved: patients, physicians, and pharmacists. The patient’s active consent is always the precondition for that. If a patient decides not to use the health record, that can’t put them at a disadvantage. It’s important to support and assist patients, because access to medical information without commentary can create confusion and lead to mistakes. A more informed approach to health could turn out to be the insurance record’s greatest achievement — assuming that it offers value-added applications, is easy to use, and meets standards for data protection and self-determination, and that the compensation policy for participating physicians is clearly spelled out.