RealTime IT News

An Active Hand in The Healing Process

Patients are calling for a way to be more involved in the health care process by using the Internet. And it's the goal of a handful of hospitals and health care providers looking for a way to make it happen.

This not only includes billing and administrative issues, but clinical and diagnostic areas as well, according to experts.

"We are constantly looking for innovative ways to improve the patient care experience and patient safety issues that are associated with health care on a daily basis," said Marvin Reece, manager of network and telecom services at Health First, a hospital group on Florida's Space Coast that serves more than 60,000 residents.

"The technology is here to help us do our jobs better and more efficiently."

Keeping patients better informed is rapidly becoming mandated, as medical insurance costs escalate and hospitals comply with tougher rules regarding keeping patients informed and accountable for the medical decisions that are made.

Developing quick and reliable ways to get information out to patients and the public are also needed, as health care professionals wrestle with the possibility of global pandemics.

"It's all about extending these connections to the patient level," explained Gerry Verner, CEO of AnyWare Group (AWG), a medical solutions developer. "Once you start putting the technology in place, your customers start finding ways to use it."

AWG developed a pilot system for the Atlantic Health Sciences Centre in New Brunswick, Canada, which channels potentially sensitive information to the right people and maintain security.

Currently in its second phase, AWG's Role Oriented Access Management (ROAM) system creates a portal for each user and encrypts communications between the hospital and end user, said Verner. It allows diabetes patients to use computers to access hospital data related to their condition.

The system also lets patients send blood test results to their doctors and chat with others involved in the program. The technology can also be tweaked to automatically alert doctors if a patient's results are suspect.

Although it handles only a handful of chronic patients right now, the project will expand in June to support 75 new patients per month.

"It helps make the patient more accountable," explained Jill Barton-MacPhee, administrative director for internal medicine of the Diabetes Education Program, at the Atlantic Health Sciences Centre. And, "if we can avoid one renal failure and one stroke, then we have done a good thing."

The Internet obviously plays a big role in keeping consumers up to date on the latest medical data.

Surveys have shown that up to 90 percent of consumers regularly turn to the Web to search for medical information on a specific condition.

According to IDC, the majority rely on general medical info sites such as WebMD and up to 59 percent visit health-plan and hospital Web sites for guidance.