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Healthcare Information Technology: Where is Your Office?

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

Person pointing at transparent technology screens displayed in front of himListening to the voice of the customer - what patients say they want from your practice

A doctor's office told us recently: "We don't have email or Internet connection in the office."

It was a bit of a surprise to us-most of the practices we consult with routinely do have Internet and email, many with their own website.

It seems that the medical profession is not keeping up with other professions in using "Internet-based solutions to communicate with customers and manage customer information-in this case, patients and their medical information," according to a poll by The Wall Street Journal and Harris Interactive.1

It turns out that most doctors have Internet access (89%), but restrict how it's used. Numbers crunched by a different study of the AMA say that over 90 percent use email to communicate with family and friends, but only about 5 to 10 percent of doctors use email in patient care.

Marketing Feedback: The voice of the customer

In the future, physician practices that choose to invest in and use health information technology could find themselves at an advantage. These preferences may not all be possible or practical at the moment, but it's prudent to hear the voice of the customer.

Patients would like to see medicine move toward greater use of electronic communications, and given a choice between a doctor who provides such services and one who does not, more than half believe this would influence their choice of doctors.

Most adults say that they would like to have access to electronic medical records and other electronic means of communicating and transferring medical information. Here's what most don't have but would like:

  • use email to communicate directly with their doctor (74%)
  • email reminders when they are due for a visit or some type of medical care (77%)
  • ability to schedule a doctor's visit via the Internet (75%)
  • receive the results of diagnostic tests via email (67%)
  • access to an electronic medical record to capture medical information (64%)
  • a home monitoring device to send medical data to the doctor's office via email (57%)

So...Why not?

While it's reasonable to expect some of these changes eventually, generally, the technology already exists. There are, however, some important questions that need to be resolved.

For one thing, the public that wants better use of communications technologies is also concerned about patient privacy issues, as are doctors. Other key concerns include questions of reimbursement for email uses, as well as legal and ethical questions.

It's intelligent marketing to be aware of prospective changes in both technology as well as what it takes to maintain the service levels of the public. Practices that make prudent use of health information technology will win a marketing advantage.

1 Online survey of 2,624 U.S. adults, ages 18 and older, conducted by Harris Interactive(r) between
September 5 and 7, 2006 for The Wall Street Journal Online (www.wsj.com/health)

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