Healthcare and efficiency

The healthcare industry has always been considered a laggard compared to other industries with respect to technology. We all know the plethora of challenges and reasons why healthcare providers have struggled in implementing technology – one of the largest reasons may be the reluctance of doctors to change and the feared negative impact on their overall efficiency.

However, in today’s Wall Street Journal article “Getting Health Care at Wal-Mart,” the authors point out how the new in-store health clinic model being introduced at retail stores, drug stores, and supermarkets “relies heavily on technology to increase the efficiency of care.” In fact, one company, Take Care Health Systems, is introducing a model seen in the travel industry, from which its CEO had come.

“When patients arrive, they check themselves in at a touch-screen computer terminal – much like an airline self-check-in kiosk – where they can swipe a credit card and enter basic information about their symptoms and family history… The patient’s sign-in information will be transmitted electronically to a computer terminal inside the treatment room, where the nurse can enter additional information about the patient’s symptoms and conditions as he or she talks with the patient. The software system will eventually generate a diagnosis and a recommended course of treatment [which can be overridden by the practitioner]. When a prescription is written, it will be transmitted electronically to the store pharmacy, or another pharmacy. The system will also create an electronic medical record for each patient that can be transferred to a primary care physician.”

Ahhh, imagine that… technology actually increasing efficiency? It’s particularly interesting that the clinic model does not rely on physicians, but rather nurse practitioners. For many families, the availability of efficient, walk-in medical care is quite appealing.

October 5, 2005

3 thoughts on “Healthcare and efficiency”

  1. Professor Clayton Christensen talks of Disruptive technologies that change the value proposition in a market. When they first appear, they almost always offer lower performance in terms of the attributes that mainstream customers care about. Mini clinics are an example of this theory! It’s my opinion that soon physicians will be complaining about seeing too few patients per day, instead of too many. This is an example where change is good.

  2. I will never complain about seeing too few patients.

    I need the extra time to care for patients who actually need my help.

    The mini-clinic phenomenon is helping to peel back the lid off another of our dirty little secrets, i.e., that most patients don’t need a doctor.

    Let those who REALLY need more than a a touch screen and an N.P. come to see me.

  3. The use of technology in this way is really a “gee-whiz” kind of thing.
    We have an EMR in our office, but still have patients sign in the “old-fashioned” way. There are many people who are confused by electronic displays.

    One thing you can count on at your doctor’s office (so far, anyway) is that information about you won’t be sold or used in a way unnecessary for your care.

    And chances are, WalMart will freely release your info to other WalMarts, but not likely to competitors, and maybe not even to your doctor.

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