The healthcare future is here

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT'S IMPORTANT — Digitizing the medical records of 150 million patients means that nearly half of the entire population of the United States will have its records stored electronically next year. It's an ambitious goal, but more importantly, it's a major step toward the transformation of the healthcare system toward an electronic, digitized model.

(THE NEWS: Surescripts, Epic partner on electronic health records. For the full story, click here.) 

Already, by the end of last year, 58% of office-based physicians were using electronic prescribing, according to Surescripts, as well as 91% of retail pharmacies. And in July of this year, Minnesota was ranked first in the country for use of e-prescribing in Surescripts' seventh annual Safe-Rx Awards, with 61% of prescriptions routed electronically in the state. Meanwhile, Massachusetts and New Hampshire showed the highest rate of physician adoption of e-prescribing, with 86% each.

In February 2012, a study by management consulting firm Accenture found that the United States has become a leader in the use and adoption of healthcare information technology. The study compared the United States with Canada, Australia, England, France, Germany, Spain and Singapore. At that time, about 62% of specialists in the United States were using electronic tools to improve administrative efficiency, such as electronic scheduling and billing, compared with the global average of 49%, while the percentage of U.S. physicians entering their notes electronically during and after appointments was equal to the percentages in other countries.

Most notably, however, 54% of physicians in the Accenture study were sending prescriptions electronically, compared to an average of 20% for the other countries.

In other words, the future is here — and health care is on the front lines of it.

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