Last week, I posted that the health sector hasn’t modernized and isn’t transparent. When ever you visit a new doctor, you have to fill out tons of the same paper forms, and its difficult for one doctor to get information from another. In addition, the doctor has to pay various secretaries and administrators to handle all the paperwork. Today, one startup has raised money to help improve things:
One Medical operates 9 doctor’s offices in San Francisco and New York, and will open 5 more this year, expanding to Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C. Patients can schedule appointments online, request prescriptions, get lab results digitally, and see their personal health summary online. Doctors can access medical records electronically (One Medical designed its own electronic medical record with doctors and patients in mind, not administrators). One benefit of having digital medical records is that patients can visit any office since every doctor has access to their records.
New patients can join online, and pay online. It even has its own iPhone app for scheduling appointments. Simple questions which can be addressed via email or the iPhone app are done digitally instead of requiring an in-person visit. And when patients do go in, the offices are bright, airy and modern.
While most businesses have made great use of computers and the internet, the health sector has lagged behind. This not only makes them less efficient, but makes things less transparent for the patient. They do not have easy access to the information relevant to them. This helps keep the health sector less competitive and less accountable to the patient. For example, when a dentist takes X-rays, the patient almost never receives a copy of them. That way, he just has has to accept the word of the dentist on faith and trust that he really needs whatever treatment the dentist suggests. But if the patient received a copy of the X-rays, he can gather other opinions about the issue from people that don't have any financial stakes in the question. Just the fact that the patient could access such information would make the dentist be more careful when deciding about an issue.
There are many other areas within the health services that should become more open. The most fundamental one is probably pricing. When a person wants to buy a standard product or service, he normally gets a price or estimate before deciding on the transaction. Yet in health services, this is often not the case. Only after he receives the service does he find out about the price. This information-hiding practice prevents fair competition from happening and helps keep health costs so high. The current health industry has little incentive to change, so people may need to look elsewhere to help patients get more access to their relevant information.