What Can We Do Today That We Couldn’t Do Five Years Ago in Health IT?

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As I’ve been seeing the flood of creativity and innovation that can be seen at the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas, I’ve often been witness to the amazing things that are possible today that wouldn’t have been possible five years ago.

There are so many examples of this happening throughout the IT world. A simple example is how many things are now possible with a mobile device that has always on mobile internet access (3G and 4G), an accelerometer, GPS, video camera, and voice recognition. 5 years ago we had little pieces of each, but now we have all of those items easily packed into one device. Think of the innovation that is happening that would have never happened if we didn’t have those technologies available.

I started thinking about how this applies to healthcare. What things can we do now that we couldn’t do five years ago?

Some of the technologies above are perfect examples of technology we have now that wasn’t available five years ago. A company like AirStrip Technologies wouldn’t even exist without the technologies mentioned above. Yet, because of those technologies, they’re now taking healthcare data mobile.

Five years ago we were at a pitiful EHR adoption level (10-20% depending on who you talked to). Now we’re at a much higher EHR adoption level. What is healthcare doing to capitalize on this increased adoption of EHR? What amazing things can we do now with EHRs in place that we couldn’t even consider before?

One example might be patient portals to access your clinical information. Before an EHR, the patient portal didn’t make sense because it didn’t have the EHR data to back up the portal. Once you have an EHR, it’s much easier to put up a portal that’s integrated with a patient’s record. That’s a simple example, but hopefully we’re going to see a lot more dramatic options. If we don’t then something’s wrong.

I guess the key message is that incremental progress in multiple areas combined together can lead to extraordinary breakthroughs. We need more of those in healthcare.