A direct correlation exists between information technology and the cost of health care. The utilization of interfaces between different venues has allowed increases in efficiencies for billing practices spearheaded by the government with HIPAA. This interaction has streamlined processes that have direct impact on the money the government spends, permitting a reduction in the cost of care through federally funded programs like Medicare and adopted as a standard practice by most private insurance entities.
This is where the efficiency factor ends. In order to drive down costs for care there are secondary information technology practices that have been developed that need better support. In the January edition of CAP Today, the College of American Pathologists discuss the use of digital imaging in diagnostics and its delayed growth due to government agencies. The only true way to drive down the cost of care is to increase the speed in which accurate diagnosis and accurate treatment can be made. The use of the “cloud” could become the key to this in areas such as surgical pathology and hematopathology allowing digital image uploads to specialists rather than relying on only the basic knowledge of generalist pathology practioners.
The process works similar to digital radiology where images are uploaded for review by specialists in a secure cloud environment. In place of radiology films, entire slides are captured on film via special microscope cameras, allowing moving images for pathology review. These images can be used to enhance reporting by not only listing procedure and diagnostic code but also possessing a direct view to verify its accuracy.
The government takes an interest in speeding up the process of billing because of its direct and more easily understood relationship to savings. Advances such as digital imaging in pathology are harder to conceptualize because it may require more spending at the onset and take time before benefits to the bottom line are seen. There are also concerns about protecting patient in digital pathology. The protection of patient data is by no means a matter to be taken lightly and confidentiality is important. However, it seems it may be used a reason for delaying the advancement of technology because of a lack of understanding on how said advancements can clearly become reductions in spending.
There are no easy answers as bureaucracy is bureaucracy and will always be ours to work with. Educating politicians and drawing direct correlations between the uses of digital processes in speedy accurate diagnosis will start the process of removing the barriers one brick of cash at a time. Technology is not something to shy away from. It should be assumed as more generation Xers start coming to an age when medical care is a necessity, there will be more focus on the advances in technology that can reduce the cost of care. Technology will more clearly be viewed as an expectation rather than an added benefit or expense. This will prove to be revolutionary for the future. For the time being, the use of digital information technology for reducing the cost of care needs to be kept in the spotlight by all who have a means to do so.