Practices treat online appointment requests, HIE like a novelty act

John Lynn, keeper of--among other sites--the EMR and HIPAA blog, took the words right out of my mouth in a recent post about why healthy people, without chronic or complicated ailments, should keep a personal health record. "So far I really haven't heard a good answer," Lynn wrote.

Lynn, whom I met for the first time at the Mobile Health Expo in Las Vegas last month, nearly got a compelling answer from Jeff Donnell, president of NoMoreClipboard, maker of one of those "untethered" PHRs that I've said time and again there is virtually zero market for right now. Donnell demonstrated to Lynn how he can send an appointment request to his doctor, with PHR data attached, from the NoMoreClipboard web portal.

The problem with that is that many--I'd venture to say most--medical practices won't know what to do with the information. "Of course, since Jeff's doctor wasn't on NoMoreClipboard, his appointment request and health record were faxed to his doctor's office. He got a call from the doctor and scheduled his appointment. The story certainly doesn't end there," Lynn explains.

"When he arrived at the doctor's office he wondered if they'd have his record or not. They handed him the standard clipboard to fill out all the paperwork. He still said nothing and dutifully filled out the paperwork. No one said anything about the record he'd sent until he was with the doctor and the doctor realized that Jeff was the one that sent in his PHR. I guess it was the talk of the office when that fax came in."

Yes, the president of NoMoreClipboard still couldn't shake the clipboard. The idea of scheduling appointments online and sending records electronically is so far-fetched for a physician like Donnell's that it went over in the office like a novelty act. Today in the Also Noted section, we highlight a Practice Fusion survey showing that just 16 percent of providers send patient data electronically for referrals. That suggests that health information exchange truly is a novelty in so many settings, even though it's a prerequisite for "meaningful use" incentives.

The same week Lynn wrote this item, I posted a similar thought on my own blog. Just as many airlines charge extra to book flights over the phone or at the airport to reflect the added labor cost, medical practices should make online scheduling the default option and let people pay a fee if they want to talk to a live person. Give patients the option of entering their medical histories online with the incentive that it will save them time when they get to the office.

Whether you're the president of NoMoreClipboard or just an average patient without your own health IT company, the goal should be no more clipboard. Why does healthcare always seem to default to the old, inefficient way? - Neil