By: Delos M. Cosgrove, MD
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It’s a whole new world. The old way of practicing medicine is just that — an old way of doing things. While it took us a while to get to this point, I can say confidently this new world of healthcare will be better for all of us. Patients, doctors, and the people who pay for healthcare services all will benefit.
How doctors need to change
Many doctors pursued medicine, in part, because they wanted to be independent. They wanted to make their own decisions based on their own best judgments. Now, doctors are being asked to join group practices. They need to follow protocols. Often they need to consider advice from a computer. They’ve always treated sick people, but now they are trying harder than ever to keep them well. They used to bill for single services. Now, they have to look at the whole continuum of care. Things have changed.
Technology drives advances
For the first time in human history, we have the science and computational power to help physicians take their care to a new level. They can quickly sort through vast troves of medical literature. They can now more easily determine what actions are best for each patient at each stage of diagnosis and treatment. I think it would be virtually unethical not to put these tremendous resources to work. They have great potential to improve care and lower costs.
For doctors, it does mean extra time at a computer, but with each keystroke, they are adding to the informational treasure of their patients, their offices, and medical researchers for generations to come. Information technology is helping us to control and direct the cost revolution that is coming to healthcare as surely as it had already come to manufacturing, retail, airlines and other industries.
Exciting changes afoot
What will the future look like? We will have a leaner, more efficient, and more integrated system. Large networks of providers will share comprehensive, evidence-based guidelines. They will provide personalized healthcare services in patient- and family-friendly settings under the direction of the highly skilled and compassionate medical professionals. It’s a future we can all look forward to with confidence.