Information Technology as Communication

Much of health information technology (IT) focuses on patient documentation, compliance, and coding. While this is clearly a valuable service, there is still much more that can be garnered from health IT. Medicine needs to take a lesson from mainstream pop culture, be it texting, Twitter, Facebook, or other social networking platforms. The power of communication and connectivity is stronger than ever before, and healthcare providers should capitalize on the technological opportunities that exist today. Communication between physicians and between doctors and patients is suboptimal. Some studies have suggested that concerns over privacy and HIPAA compliance hinder the adoption of web communication, but other factors can play a role, including: Medical liability concerns. Difficulty in explaining nuances of medical information. Lack of websites where safe communication can occur. Fear of information going “viral.” Age of physicians. Time constraints in the office. Increasing Physician-to-Physician Communication While much research has been directed at exploring patterns and trends in doctor–patient communication, an equally important area that warrants study is physician-to-physician communication. The value of doctors collaborating on patient care is immeasurable. Unfortunately, several barriers to online communication between physicians are prevalent. For example, many EMR systems are unable to communicate information with other platforms due to technical issues. Some of these systems also do not allow for customized summaries of evaluations that can be sent easily to referral doctors. There is also no “national” secure health messaging system available to physicians. Lastly, the median age of doctors is still tending toward an older, less computer-literate group. Stepping Forward: Specialist Referral In order to improve communication between physicians, both short- and long-term strategies...