During the recent U.S. Presidential Race there were several recurring issues that were hot topics on the plate of every candidate. At the forefront was the issue of health care in the United States. Debates raged around the issues of privatization over national health care, insurance and pharmaceutical costs to an already struggling system.
There are some however, who are not waiting for politics to provide the solutions. This group is looking to reduce the costs of health care one challenge at a time. More importantly by providing all of us the methods to take back our health from an industry that seems in complete disarray. In this arena anything is possible.
One of the key elements highlighted in the incoming President, Brack Obama’s health care plan is to focus on modernizing the U.S. Health Care System to lower costs & improve quality of care. The idea is simple; Health information technology investment aimed at reducing unnecessary spending that results from preventable errors and inefficient paper billing systems. In his administration’s plan, they are predicting that this will contribute in cutting the typical family’s heal care costs by $2,500 (US).
This term “modernization of health care” is not solely part of his heath care policy, but also it is documented in his Administration’s Technology policy paper. This is exciting news for the Technologist. One area of focus is that of migrating the management of medical information from a paper-based process model to that of an electrical one. This could prove to be a boom in many areas of Technology and as with any surge in a new technology field, getting in early is key.
Historically, pharmacies have been the public’s exposure to controlling their medical services. In reality, this was nothing more than acting as a messenger for the physician by delivering a paper prescription to a pharmacy then picking up their prescription. The evolution commenced with the expansion of pharmacy services as more and more traditionally retail stores opened their own pharmacies. Now these traditional pharmacies are fighting back by going electronic. First by establishing networks across their pharmacies providing a convenience of picking up prescriptions from any one of their stores.
CVS has recently raised the bar and positioned themselves inline with the incoming Administration’s goal of moving towards the electronic management of medical information.
CVS now allows the patient to manage their prescriptions on-line to include access to historical prescriptions which could be made readily accessible for the patient to provide to their physicians. On top of this, additional services have been made available to include information for the patient on Diet & Nutrition, basic Medical information and the ability to look up medication in their Drug Information Center.
If you haven’t noticed by now a trend is emerging. A trend that started with the likes of WebMD years ago. Actually treating individuals with respect and providing information to them to allow each person to take responsibility for their own Health Care. CVS and others are now taking this from the simple WebMD Informational approach to that of actual practical usage. At the end of the day in any instance it all revolves around the management of Health Care data.
What might appear to be an interesting retail battle shaping up for your personal health care management needs might actually be nothing more than a marketing exercise for a much larger player. One that has years of experience in the management of information and data. That 800 pound gorilla in the room also known asGoogle.
Currently running in BETA, Google has introduced Google Health. According to the website, Google Health claims to put you in charge of puts you in charge of your health information. safely, secure, and free.
- Organize your health information all in one place
- Gather your medical records from doctors, hospitals, and pharmacies
- Keep your doctors up-to-date about your health
- Be more informed about important health issues
Not limiting themselves to simply providing an individual with the ability to manage prescription information, they have created the Google Health Advisory Council with membership spanning the Medical Industry, Government and Retail industries to focus on the difficulties individuals and health care providers face everyday with the current limitations in operating in today’s medical environemnt.
Google is also reaching out, looking for partners to assist in developing the means for individuals to access not simply prescription information but all medical records for management in one location. Giving the individual a power that continues to elude the medical industry to this day.
Naturally, the two most protective areas of anyone’s life are: finances and medical information. Google Health is an undertaking that would have never made it this far without an extensive set of policies designed to address the protection of this sensitive information. It is far too extensive to go through here so if you are interested in understanding how your information will be protected you can review Google Health’s Privacy and Policy page.
The main navigation menu for Google Health provides you with a quick jump to any information type that you wish to manage.
This is primarily where key information about your health is documented and stored. From here you can also explore other personal health services offered through partnerships with the likes of Blueprint for Wellness, Cleveland Clinic MyConsult, DestinationRX, Trialx.org and others. The others are links to information that you provide to your profile.
But wait…. There’s more!
It is one thing to have all of your medical information conveniently located in one place. But another to actually do something with that data. Information is only truly as valuable as the functions you can perform with it. This is where it begins to get “Fun.” Through APIs and security Google offers the opportunity for 3rd party services to interact with your profile information. As a test and for example, I created a profile with the fitness site LIVESTRONG.COM. From this site I can manage meals, workouts and track almost anything I choose on a daily basis in the day-to-day active lifestyle I am attempting to develop. At the same time they also offer a convenient iPhone application which I can use to track meals when out and about, not to mention actual workout information in real-time. Yes, more information relating to my personal health.
It is at this point where you gain the benefit through linking the information in LIVESTRONG with that of Google Health to again give you a centralized set of data to provide you with more control of your own health.
At the end of the day, that is what it is all about. Taking back control of our lives. For far too long we have all relied on the medical industry to tell us what we should do, what medication we need to take (despite the rumored kick-backs some physicians get for pimping products.) More importantly, we as responsible individuals need to become more informed on general health issues so that we may be able to focus on preventative medicine rather than become victims of an expensive health care system that appears more focused on operating as a business than as providers of a valuable service to humanity.
It is refreshing to know that this issue is finally getting the attention it deserves and my hopes are that the efforts of CVS and Google spawn a new era in a healthier society. For more information on what the more extensive Google Health program offers head over to Google Health and take the tour.