Governor Blunt has been on tour recently, promoting a new system for cataloging and sharing patient information between doctors and hospitals. According to Senate Majority Leader Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph:
"The amazing thing, if you listen to the hearing and the testimony," is that "there's widespread agreement that we need to do this. This is about changing the health-care system to focus on patient needs, to focus on wellness, prevention and be patient-centric. That's not a Republican issue. That's not a Democratic issue. That's a Missouri issue."
The idea is pretty simple: keep track electronically of a patient's past medical history, current ongoing treatments, potential future problems, etc., and make those records accessible to any doctor in the state treating that patient. This will ensure a continuity and consistency in treatment, making it easier for doctors to anticipate and react to problems quicker, catching and preventing illness earlier while its easier to manage.
The potential for savings is great, as most diseases, especially cancer, are most easily treated at their earliest stages, eliminating the need for more expensive and risky treatments later in the course of the illness. It will also enable doctors to more effectively collaborate in treating the same patient, avoiding problems with overlapping or conflicting treatments. As described by Sen. Shields:
"Every day you see the elderly person come in with a bag full of prescription drugs in a Ziplock. There may be 12 drugs in there, and three of them interact with each other, and then they wonder why they're sick," he said.
Electronic records will be an excellent way of overcoming these difficulties, saving patients and taxpayers money by eliminating the need for treatment of side effects from prescription drug-related complications.
With the cost of healthcare in America spiraling out of control, and more and more Americans finding themselves without coverage, something must be done to bring costs down and make care more affordable for everyone. Keeping healthcare systems at the technological forefront by combining Information technologies with medical technologies will help achieve this.