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Reducing Healthcare costs - Digitization of Patient Records

Ever had a look inside the records store-room of your physician? When I got a peek into the record room for my healthcare physician sometime back, I was overwhelmed with the sheer amount of physical files and paper I saw. Took me back to my visits to government offices in India a long time ago, when paper files were almost ubiquitous in the recordkeeping stores, and the musty smell of paper was all pervasive. Recordkeeping in India since then has moved many echelons ahead, and computers have replaced those physical files.

So is my physician, in these current times with his tons of paper records, an anomaly in the healthcare industry? Apparently not!!! Seems like paper records are more the rule than the exception in this industry. As per studies, almost 91% of independent and small practice physicians in the US still primarily use physical paper records.

Now that is a lot of paper consumption, and more importantly, a wad of overhead cost:

-          Every time I visit any doctor for the first time, even if I was referred to one, there is a replication of endless paperwork for gathering my medical information and history, followed by duplicate medical tests.   With healthcare costs being as high as they are, all this overhead cost for duplicate data gathering is a criminal wastage.

-          Paper record silos in the doctors' storerooms reduces the efficiency for everyone  involved in the healthcare process - from the patient to the doctor, to the Insurance company right up to the Pharma company trying to come up with latest drugs.

It is in this light, that the mandate (in the healthcare reform bill passed in US) to have patient records digitized in the next 5 years assumes significance. The ultimate aim is to have a national repository and electronic database for health records. Hopefully, with data being more readily available a big chunk of the overhead costs will be eliminated. 

The sourcing and procurement phenomena prevalent in all buying organizations today, started with the need to reduce costs by eliminating the paper documents and the inefficiencies associated with them. That moved on and developed into the advanced Sourcing and Procurement processes, marketplaces and solutions that have saved tons of money for all of us. I wonder if the digitization of health records can spawn a new era of Healthcare marketplaces and sourcing, which reduce(s) costs for all the involved stakeholders. Or maybe eventually breed a marketplace, where providers and corporate consumers can come together in a way similar to the sourcing marketplaces that exist for buying organizations today.


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