For more than 20 years, the healthcare industry has been adopting computers, but it's been a slow and sometimes painful process. Today we are only halfway there. Medicine has been largely successful in computerizing billing codes, lab test results, and physician schedules. X-rays are being digitized now. And over the coming years, handwritten and transcribed physician notes will follow.
The ultimate goal of the computerization process is medicine's equivalent of the paperless office—the computerized patient record. This record will contain the patient's full medical history, from conception, including immunizations, meetings with doctors, childhood diseases, and results from annual physicals. The record will include payment information, reminders for future checkups, and notes. X-rays will be digitized and stored in the record, as will laboratory test results.
Part of the push for computerized patient records comes from the need to handle increasing amounts of information more efficiently. Many hospitals are legally forbidden to throw out patient records. As a result, they spend millions storing paper records in warehouses. This same information can be digitized and stored in just a few cubic feet using modern data storage techniques. The savings of storage space, combined with decreased costs for film and processing, is one of the primary reasons why hospitals are turning to digital X-ray systems.
Moving to a computerized patient record poses ...