Patient-centric e-health services, including personal and electronic health records, remote monitoring of patients, electronic physician-patient communication, and patients seeking health information on-line, represent a new vision of healthcare’s future according to a recent position paper from the American College of Physicians (ACP), in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

ACP’s new position paper demonstrates how the physician community is recognizing the role integrated healthcare informatics will play in supporting an expanding role for patients and consumers in the healthcare system of tomorrow. “E-health activities have great potential to improve the quality of patient care, reduce medical errors, increase efficiency and access to care, and achieve substantial cost savings,” said ACP President David C. Dale, MD, FACP. “Furthermore, e-health is a critical part of the patient-centered medical home model of care, which in coordination with the other components, is the future of the U.S. health care delivery system.”

The position paper is important for pathologists and laboratory directors, since they must be ready to support physicians as they intensify their use of integrated healthcare informatics. Even more than today, tomorrow’s electronic links with referring physicians will help labs forge lasting partnerships with their physician clients.

The position paper is significant for two additional reasons. First, for years, other industries have adopted information systems at a pace that outstripped the rate of adoption information technology in healthcare. The ACP’s position paper observed that, “Despite this rapid expansion of information technology into daily life and business, the healthcare industry has been slow to adopt and optimize the use of technology to improve quality and business workflows.” In affirming this point, the position paper indicated that at least one segment of the physician community, the 125,000-physician members of the ACP, are ready to embrace technology.

Second, physicians have been criticized for failing to adopt electronic medical record systems, and the ACP calls on physicians and other stakeholders to recognize the potential that information technology holds for transforming healthcare.

In addition to citing the potential the IT holds for healthcare, the ACP position paper also acknowledges the barriers to more widespread adoption of information systems in healthcare. For physicians, the challenges of implementing e-health systems can be substantial in part because IT is expensive and the return on investment is not always certain. “For physicians, the financial costs of purchasing systems and incorporating e-health offerings can be considerable,” ACP said.

ACP recommended investment in demonstration projects to assess how e-health activities can support the relatively new concept of the patient-centered medical home. A patient-centered medical home is an approach to providing comprehensive primary care for patients of all ages and medical conditions. The ACP position paper also includes 16 specific recommendations in four areas related to the general use of technology in health, telemedicine, patients’ use of information from the Internet, and patients’ use of personal health records.

Given the credibility of the American College of Physicians, its description of a healthcare future that includes the concept of a patient-centered medical home should not go unnoticed by the laboratory medicine community. It describes an environment where more laboratory testing will be done by patients and in home-care settings. At the same time, the information and results from these tests will need to be captured by not only the electronic patient health record, but also by the laboratory professionals serving that community.

For More Information:

“New E-Health Recommendations from American College of Physicians Aim to Improve Health Care Quality, Safety, Efficiency, Efficacy, and Access”