Let’s face it, patients tend to travel between hospitals to get the care that they need and trust. However, the current infrastructure of healthcare actually makes this practise a dangerous affair. Here is why.
There is literally no data transfer or sharing allowed between hospitals. Patients will have to either regurgitate much of the information that he/she knows to the next doctor at another hospital. This mode of transfer of information is notoriously fraught with inaccuracies. Even if they do come with a referral letter, it is often very brief and worse still, illegible.
Many hospitals, in fact, discourages patients from seeking care outside of their eco-system. There are subtle barriers placed to make this process cumbersome. This would include healthcare professionals, who usually would prefer to refer within their circle of “friends”, usually within the same hospital setting.
Hospital systems are so diverse at this moment that sharing data may be a very difficult task. Sadly, many hospitals still lack a robust electronic medical record. Without a proper digital infrastructure, any attempts at sharing data between hospitals will be even more unachievable. Those with a digital infrastructure must ensure that their system is updated and interoperable-ready.
So the solution is a centralised data warehouse, where one patient has only one record, shared between the caregivers no matter where they practice. This often requires a government steadfast resolve and buying in from the private sector. It may also require a strong technology partner or partners to ensure that the infrastructure, roll out and maintenance is not compromised. The financial sector has made great leaps and should serve as a shining example and become the scaffold for adoption in the healthcare sector.
Putting health records in the hands of patients is the current drive by many tech companies, with a ready base of users. Apple for example has rolled out its Apple Health Records. This puts comprehensive health records in the palm of your hands. Not only will it improve communication between doctors and hospitals, it also educates patients on their health and make them partners in their own healthcare. This looks more achievable with many patients already possessing a digital device. There are also less operating systems with iOS and Android already commanding almost the entire share of the mobile system.
Being connected as much as possible will ensure good outcomes and in that process enhances patient experiences.
Dr Benjamin Cheah