Verizon Business calls its service The Verizon Health Information Exchange. No snappy acronym there, but it does have a tone of significance. The idea is to store patient records in a standardized format within a Verizon data center. Access will be via the Web. Also, health care providers that subscribe to this service will be able to easily share patient records.
There are several important advances here. Electronic medical records are not new, but there are multiple incompatible formats. That’s the tower-of-babel problem we used to have with computers. The entry of a major service provider like Verizon offers hope that their standards will become industry standards, much the same way as IBM nailed down personal computer standards just because of their sheer size.
Another breakthrough is the adoption of Web-based access. Web browsers have matured as secure portals for shopping, banking and other sensitive applications. Mechanisms, such as encryption, are available to ensure patient privacy. By using a common Web browser instead of a proprietary terminal or software package, users will have an enormous range of options for using this system. That includes PCs and MACs, iPads, mobile phones, and perhaps embedded systems built into medical equipment like scanners or X-ray machines. The mobile opportunity is especially interesting for physicians on-call or out in the boonies.
Another option allows medical providers to keep their records stored locally like they do now, but permit access through the cloud so that other doctor’s offices or hospitals can access those records when needed. This should make it easier for wary medical providers to put a toe in the water before fully committing to send everything to the cloud.
Health care automation and electronic medical records are ushering in a new age of faster and more informed health care. Hopefully, easy access to comprehensive medical information for each patient will help reduce the need for every provider to run the same battery of tests, reducing costs across the board. Before this can happen, though, systems for easy record sharing, like the Verizon Health Information Exchange, will need to proliferate. At the same time, many providers will need to upgrade their access bandwidth so that they can quickly upload and download large files that include detailed images.