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New technology is popping up all over in the medical community, from new diagnostic machines, to new ways of administering drugs, to an almost endless supply of self-monitoring devices such as blood glucose meters. But a technology often overlooked is one that could have the most impact-electronic medical records.
Electronic medical records are not new. In fact, they have been around for years. However, the medical establishment has been slow to implement them. Smaller doctor offices of less than 10 physicians have been the slowest to adopt the practice, in part because they would bear the costs, but the savings would go to insurers. With President Obama's new federal stimulus package, however, the economic barrier will be lowered. The government plans to spend $19 billion in incentive payments to implement digital patient records-up to $44,000 per doctor. Practices will have five years to adopt electronic records before penalties begin.
Another reason that smaller practices have been slow to adopt electronic medical records has been the complexity of equipment and software. Enter the Doerr brothers: John Doerr, the well-known venture capitalist who was an early backer of Google and Amazon, and Dr. Tom Doerr, a physician and software designer. Together, they started The Essence Group, a combination of three companies targeting smaller physician practices to get them up to speed in the electronic medical record world. The Essence Group, says Dr. Doerr, is trying to combine technology tools, cooperative relationships between doctors and insurers, and financial incentives to create the "virtual equivalent" of an integrated system.
One of the main pieces of the puzzle in their vision is the iPad. The Doerrs are betting that the iPad will make electronic records far easier to use and less expensive. Earlier this month, they introduced a new product, Nimble, to allow doctors to manage patient information by connecting their iPads to data centers managed by the Doerrs' software company, ClearPractice.
According to the New York Times, doctors using Nimble do not need other computers in their offices because most of the software and patient information resides on remote computers in data centers managed by ClearPractice. The iPad connects to the patient data and software wirelessly over the Internet, as if in a computer "cloud," as this fast-growing model of computing is known.
What does this mean for you? Such upgrades could significantly improve the diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring of diabetes, as has been seen in the larger physician groups already able to afford electronic records. The electronic patient data is used to better manage patients with chronic conditions like diabetes, so they are healthier and less apt to require costly hospital care.
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