With the debate over President Barack Obama's healthcare reform bill raging on Capitol Hill, some physicians are carving out their own path to reform that involves eliminating barriers to care and improving the doctor-patient relationship through the use of technology.
"The health system has been moving in the wrong direction," says Sean Khozin, MD, MPH. "People talk about healthcare reform, but no one is talking about what happens between a doctor and a patient. We have to pay much closer attention to the way that doctors and patients interact and transact and enhance that process because that's where care is delivered."
Khozin's futuristic Brooklyn, NY-based practice is unlike any other. It is powered by Hello Health, a secure, Web-based platform that includes a practice management system, an electronic medical records system, and a social networking tool that allows physicians to communicate with patients both online and face-to-face. Another Hello Health practice is scheduled to open in the West Village. Both practices serve as the beta testing grounds for the product, which was developed in collaboration with a Quebec-based technology company called Myca.
Creating improved access to care
According to Khozin, ER overcrowding doesn't happen because of the uninsured. It happens because patients can't access their primary care doctors when they need medical attention.
"Despite the fact that you have to wait at the emergency room for five hours, at least you get seen the same day," he says. "In my practice, you get an appointment the same day or within 48 hours."
After a patient establishes a relationship with a Hello Health doctor, he or she can use e-mail, video chat, instant messaging, or phone to reach their physician to ask questions, obtain test results, and to conduct other matters which would typically require an appointment in the office.
"We establish a relationship with a patient and we do a lot of the follow ups and care coordination online," says Khozin. "We cut down on the number of unnecessary visits while giving patients different channels of communication with their doctor."
Patients still have the option of scheduling an appointment if they have a problem that requires attention, but he has found that most of the time he can conduct patient follow up visits remotely.
While not all patients feel comfortable using technology to communicate with their physicians, Khozin says they learn over time and with his encouragement. He expects that more and more people will begin relying on technology to communicate with healthcare professionals.
While video-chatting with your physician may sound out of the ordinary now, Khozin predicts that it a few years it will be commonplace for a large segment of the population. In fact, today's young generation will more than likely expect this type of communication in the future because of the way that they have embraced technology and integrated it into their lives.
For example, the company is conscious of how popular smart phones have become. According to an April report by Manhattan Research, the number of physicians using smart phones more than doubled to 64% over the past year. In response to this growing trend, the company is in the process of developing applications for use on the Apple iPhone to address the needs of patients and physicians who want to communicate using smart phones.
"A smart, health IT company builds products for devices that people already have."
Khozin currently uses his iPhone to e-prescribe, review test results, e-mail, and graph and trend disease information for patients while they are in the office.
He says that with diabetes and heart disease on the rise, physicians need to engage patients and pull them into the process of care by allowing them to use online tools to better track their health and communicate information remotely.