It had been awhile since I had visited my doctor. When I walked up and announced myself at reception, the attendant handed me an orange-colored rugged, touchscreen tablet PC and asked me to sign in.
After logging in, I was surprised to find all of my billing information already lined up. I was able to update my insurance information, sign my releases and HIPAA forms, all within minutes. I did not have to fill out any of those dreaded forms!
Once in the doctor's office, I noticed a change as well. Though the doctor still had a manila folder with my blood pressure readings from past visits, he was also using a desktop PC with a 22-inch screen, which appeared to have all my records.
"So, you've converted to electronic health records?" I asked the doctor.
"Yes," he grinned. "But it's expensive and I'm not sure I like it."
"But you are getting incentive payments, right? Meaningful Use credits... You are applying for that, aren't you?"
"Meaningless Use," he laughed. "They really didn't think this through. The things they are asking us to report on are meaningless."
"Did you connect to the health information exchange?" I pursued, "You know, Maryland has already connected all hospitals to the health information exchange. You can also practice telemedicine and get reimbursed for that now."
"Oh, I didn't know that," the doctor replied. "Although I'm not sure that I could check a patient's symptoms through a Webcam."
"Perhaps not, but some things could be done through telemedicine. Anyhow, Maryland is also building a health insurance exchange."
Before I could finish, the doctor perked up. "You mean anyone can buy health insurance through the exchange?"
"Yes," I said. "And if someone wants to become a consultant or loses a job, they don't have to lose health insurance."
"Now that would really be helpful," the doctor added thoughtfully. "I know several patients who would be able to get back into the workforce if they could get treatment for their illnesses, which are preventing them from working. It's a vicious cycle -- they cannot work because of their illness and because of that they cannot get health insurance and proper treatment. They have been to several insurance companies who will only insure them if they can exclude paying for the illness they have, so they remain sick and cannot get back into the workforce. The insurance exchange will really help people."
The doctor and I were almost finished with our visit. He took out his pad to write me a prescription. "Don't you use e-prescriptions?" I asked, puzzled.
"Yes, I do."
"Then order in my prescription through e-prescription. Don't you like being able to just order in a prescription?"
"Yes, that I do like. But sometimes it doesn't go through. If you go to the pharmacy and expect to pick up the medicine right now, it may work better to have that piece of paper in hand," the doctor warned.
"Well no, I will just visit there or call in to make sure they got it. I can wait to pick it up tomorrow," I volunteered.
As a technology person, I resolved to let technology work for me. The doctor asked me which pharmacy I wanted to use, and I watched him make a few clicks. It did not even take two seconds before he got up with a smile and said, "Okay, it's done."
It was a short, 10-minute drive to the pharmacy. I walked up to the counter excitedly and asked if my e-prescription had been received. The pharmacist asked for my birthday and then my name. I volunteered my prescription card. She squinted at the screen through her glasses.
"Did my prescription come in?" I asked.
"Yes," she nodded as she squinted closer at the screen after waiting what seemed like an eternity to me.
"When can I pick it up?" I asked.
She squinted some more. "Let me see where it is," she replied finally and went around to the bin and picked out an envelope. "Come around to the other side and get in line," she said.
"You mean it's ready? I can pick it up now? Wow, I love this new world of technology-powered healthcare!"
And thus ended my first visit to the doctor in a technology-powered healthcare world.
— Mansur Hasib has served in CIO/CISO and other leadership roles in the public, private, and education sectors.