For those looking for faster adoption of IT in health care, Aetna is taking a nice step forward with their new plan to electronically alert doctors to patient care needs. Using Aetna’s claims information on patients the health insurer will be able to inform a doctor if a patient is allergic to a medication recently prescribed or if a patient is due for special tests. For example a patient with diabetes needs an annual exam with an ophthalmologist, when the Aetna system realizes an annual exam has been missed it will alert the patients PCP so that an appointment can be arranged. This is a great system, and its good to see the insurance companies leading the way with regards to implementing health care IT. Admittedly the system is not perfect, alerts will be made through a special physician website but physicians will also need to be notified via phone, fax or e-mail but even as currently constructed this is helping physicians to run a more efficient practice.
One of the issues that has come up recently with implementing technology into health care is the unrealistic desire that systems like the one Aetna has created, electronic medical records, Google Health, or SavvyDoc need to be perfect technologies. This can range from questions of integrating into other systems or questioning the usefulness of technologies simply from each specialists perspective. Each of these issues and others need to be covered by new technologies but this will happen in time and will require a period of trial and error. As the medical field is one of perfectionism, and rightly so, there tends to be resistance or a wait and see attitude for new technology. But even the most dangerous drugs, have to be tested on humans at some point and I believe we have reached this threshold with health care IT. Waiting for the perfect technology is a lot like waiting for the proverbial magic bullet cancer drug. Additions to the framework of already useful technology will make for an awesomely powerful IT solution but they are the icing on the cake and should not be viewed as barriers to implementation. When IT is able to adapt seamlessly to various specialties or patient situations and fully integrate across electronic medical records, billing software, appointment software, personal patient records etc. then the health care IT space will truly be mature and we at SavvyDoc will need to find another cause in health care to champion.