Our quiet revolution

John O'Connor
John O'Connor

The CommonWell Health Alliance recently announced that members soon will be giving patients instant access to virtually all their health data.

It speaks to how fast healthcare technology is changing that this development went largely unnoticed.

So perhaps it's time to inject a bit of perspective. As a newbie hire at McKnight's Long-Term Care News in 1990, one of my first assignments was to visit a local nursing home (when they were universally referred to as “nursing homes”). 

As facilities go, this one was top of the line. The grounds were impeccably groomed, staffing was more than adequate and most residents seemed engaged. But to say the technology was basic would be an extreme understatement. 

Medical documents for each resident were filled out on paper. Records, such as they existed, had to be shipped to a third party for processing. In fact, there was exactly one computer in the building. Yes, one. And it was not connected to the Internet, which was a few years away from being used for any kind of commercial enterprise anyway. The only way to extract data from the machine was via a floppy disk, which held a whopping 64k of memory.

By any modern standard, those were primitive times.

Here we are, just a few decades later. And it is just a matter of time until any person can find and share medical information in an instant. 

When up and running, this will allow a person to self-link his or her health records to any location where he or she gets care, and self-query and view the health data.

From an operator's perspective, this means residents can give you near-instant access to just about all of their important medical information. The result is that you will be able to markedly improve care delivery and coordination. 

That's a far cry from such information being compiled with pens and paper.

We are now at a juncture where big data and analytics are routine, especially for larger operators. 

When it comes to the incorporation of technology, we still have a long way to go. But let's not forget about how far we have already come.