NYC paying doctors to convert to EHR

New York Center is paying doctors to convert to electronic health records and subsidizing the cost of implementation. President-elect Obama pledged during his campaign to spend $50 billion over five years on electronic health records. The New York Times gives a good overview with a couple of examples of the advantages of ehr to the doctor, the patient and to the general population (as to why the city is subsidizing the cost).

We know that at these fancy schmancy systems, they can do these things. But here in New York, we’re trying to do this for the storefront in Harlem,” said Dr. Farzad Mostashari, a health department epidemiologist who is spearheading the New York effort. “As of now, about 2 percent of solo and small practices have electronic health records. This is really hard stuff to do. We have boots on the ground.

For the doctor, it helps him quickly review the patients record.

Particularly for less experienced doctors, the system provides what Dr. Jesse Singer, a health department records expert, described as CliffsNotes-style advice on how to handle medical problems based on a patient’s age, sex, ethnic background and medical history. It prompts doctors to provide routine tests and vaccinations, advises them on appropriate treatment and medication for certain conditions, and warns of potentially dangerous drug interactions.

When given access patients can interact with the doctor’s office electronically, too.

They can request appointments electronically, check lab results or chart how well they are doing in, for instance, controlling cholesterol, blood pressure or blood sugar.

Many in the medical world have long chafed at the notion that patients should not see their charts, and city health officials see the interactivity as a potentially powerful tool to push patients to take more responsibility for their well-being. Just seeing a readout of their vitals at various intervals could help, Dr. Singer said.

Social networking for patients

Since I started working at UAMS, I have been paying closer attention to healthcare and medical sites. I ran across an interesting website last night– patientslikeme. Basically it’s a social network for people diagnosed with serious illnesses. The site says

Thousands of patients with ALS/Motor Neuron Disease, Devic’s NMO, HIV, Mood Conditions, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), MSA, Parkinson’s Disease (PD), and PSP use PatientsLikeMe to better manage their overall health, treatments, and symptoms.

It’s truly an amazing concept for an online community where people can share everything from diagnoses and treatments to how their families are handling their condition.

What healthcare sites do you trust?

John Naughton from the Guardian looks at which health care sites you can trust as a follow-up to Microsoft’s cyberchondria study. Most of the data he quotes is old, but the general premise comes down to the fact that you have to be very careful how much trust you put in healthcare websites.

Jeff Jarvis follows up on the conversation looking at medicine as information. Jarvis advocates “doctors should act as curators, selecting the best information for their patients and making sure they are better informed.” I like the concept of the doctors helping us sort the good from the bad, but I’m not sure how most health care practicioners feel about losing control of the information.

Do you have cyberchondria?

Do you have cyberchondria? Are you always googling what’s hurting today to figure out what you have and coming up with a new fatal disease every new day? For example, when you searched for headaches did you see all the articles about brain tumors or find the ones about caffeine withdrawal? Although the chance of having a brain tumor is small, you probably found those articles first.

Well, you’re not alone. A recent study of more than 500 Microsoft employees who answered a survey on their medical search habits revealed that more than half said that online medical queries related to a serious illness had interrupted their day-to-day activities at least once. In the study on cyberchondria the researchers examined how medical searches can be made to give more relevant results. Health information professionals should try to create search engines that are able to detect medical queries and offer advice that did not automatically make Web searchers fear the worst.