Monday, December 29, 2008

Health Care That Puts a Computer on the Team

Joseph Calderaro, 67, is one of health care’s quiet success stories. Over the last four years, he has carefully managed his diabetes by lowering his blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol with diet, exercise and medication. To keep on track, Mr. Calderaro visits his doctor, attends meetings for diabetes patients and gets frequent calls from a health counselor. It is a team effort, orchestrated by the Marshfield Clinic here. And it is animated by technology, starting with Mr. Calderaro’s computerized patient record — a continuously updated document that includes his health history, medications, lab tests, treatment guidelines and doctors’ and nurses’ notes.

Modern computerized systems have links to online information on best practices, treatment recommendations and harmful drug interactions. The potential benefits include fewer unnecessary tests, reduced medical errors and better care so patients are less likely to require costly treatment in hospitals. The widespread adoption of electronic health records might also greatly increase evidence-based medicine. Each patient’s records add to a real-time, ever-growing database of evidence showing what works and what does not.
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