The Impact of Computers on a Medical Practiceby Edward Mercer
As in other industries, the introduction of computers in the medical field has had a transformative impact on the way medical practices operate and provide patient care. From administrative tasks to medical procedures, computers serve to simplify patient interactions, streamline record keeping and improve some diagnostic and treatment technologies. Of course, nothing can replace the human touch of excellent patient care, but computers at least allow health care professionals to simplify some office tasks and focus on their patients.
A medical practice requires an enormous amount of administrative transactions, including processes such as receiving payments from public health care systems and making claims to insurance companies. In the United States, Medicare and Medicaid payments can be transferred directly to a bank account in the health care provider's name, while the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services require that certain claims be filed electronically, a practice also adopted by several insurance companies. Designed to accelerate claims and reduce overhead costs, this paperless system requires that medical practices make use of Internet-connected computers.
Scheduling and Patient Interactions
Beyond claims and billing, medical practices also use computers to communicate with patients and schedule necessary visits. Using the same information technology used in most professional offices, medical practices can be easier to reach and provide certain information automatically through email, a website or patient newsletters. For outpatient care, digital communication can address simple questions such as dietary recommendations and medication regiments without the need for phone calls and follow-up visits, while computers also include calendar and scheduling applications that can help a practice get organized to see the patients that do have to come back in.
Knowing a patient's medical history is absolutely critical to providing appropriate care. Computers facilitate record keeping and calling up medical histories by making data entry and transfer easier. This allows health care professionals to create entries on a patient's history in convenient digital formats that can be saved and sent to other health care providers with a few keystrokes. In addition to reducing overhead costs, effective digital medical record keeping can even save lives, ensuring that doctors have complete information about patient allergies and previous conditions before taking any action.
Diagnostics and Treatment
Many modern medical devices make use of computer technology. Computer imaging technology, for example, allows doctors and patients to see more precise visual data on medical conditions such as digestive obstructions, blood vessel damage and pregnancy. More generally, computers serve to quickly quantify medical data so that doctors are able to see complete information on a patient -- such as heart rate and blood pressure -- on a single and rapidly updated screen. More complete and easily available information tends to improve the quality of diagnostics and reduce the probability of complications during procedures.
- Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services: Medicare Claims Processing Manual
- CEO Magazine: Paperless Medical Offices
- National Institutes of Health: Perceptions of the Impact of Computers on Medical Practice and Physician Use of a Hospital Information System
- Healthcare Information and Management Systems: Innovation and Ambulatory Practice
- Cornell University: The Impact of Computing on Medicine
- Darrin Klimek/Digital Vision/Getty Images