E-medicine Disrupts the Healthcare Business
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Emedicine Disrupts the Healthcare Business

Where does the physician fit into the new model for healthcare delivery?

Or does the model necessitate the codification of the ephysician? And will corporate executives, health system administrators or programmers dictate the scope and function of the ephysician? Should medical students and residents begin to reimagine themselves as ephysicians to ensure relevance in their immediate future?

Electronic health is “an emerging field at the intersection of medical informatics, public health and business”  and “a state-of-mind, a way of thinking, an attitude, and a commitment for networked, global thinking, to improve health care locally, regionally, and worldwide by using information and communication technology.” 

– Gunther Eysenback, editor, Journal of Medical Internet Research

High-tech solutions in healthcare have had plenty of hits and misses, and the next wave may be incorporating popular consumer electronics.

The electronic health record (EHR) is one ehealth component that has not been widely embraced by its primary users and has a dubious record for improving patient health. Physician dissatisfaction with EHR increased from 2010 to 2014. This rising discontentment drains resources at a staggering rate.

Healthcare organizations spent an estimated $37 billion on EHR in 2015. Physicians spend approximately one-third of their time documenting patient data in the EHR. The use of EHR for data input by physicians attenuates the potential and misdirects the intent of emedicine. Physicians prioritizing the computer over the patient in the exam room are essentially treating the chart, not the individual.

Existing household technology may offer a solution. Amazon aims to put Alexa in physicians’ offices, freeing them from typing and redistributing their time for increased patient contact and care. 

Beyond medical equipment manufacturers, pharmaceuticals and healthcare providers, the ehealth market includes technology companies producing wearables and media companies. Healthcare systems need to recognize that their competitors and collaborators are not limited to other systems. They now include Apple and YouTube.

The technology and information genies have not been freed from their bottles. They have shattered them.

Apple has added health monitoring tools to its line of mobile devices. This positions the patient as the initiation point of data collection, often occurring independent of physician collaboration. Similar data drivers occur with YouTube and other sources of online health content. Patients can match their symptoms to those being discussed at length by healthcare providers on medical channels. They transport this information to their next appointment, with expectations of specific tests or treatments. Without a coordinated strategy, the physician becomes merely a link in the service supply chain and no longer functions as a clinician. 

Where does the ephysician fit into this rapidly evolving dynamic? The quaint description of primary care providers being gatekeepers is woefully antiquated. The technology and information genies have not been freed from their bottles. They have shattered them, ensuring that they will never return to their former dominant status.

The hub-and-spoke model of healthcare offers a more responsive framework. This new design redirects the flow of patient care. Instead of waiting for patients to arrive in a diseased state, the ephysician actively connects with healthy patients to sustain their well-being. Prioritizing proactive interactions with patients provides ephysicians with the insight to acknowledge and access patient perspectives on their data collection and usage.

The elements are within the grasp of physicians to determine if the “e” preceding their title represents “electronic,” “explorer”, “entrepreneurial” or “extinct.”