Concerning the effort to shift the nation’s healthcare system away from paper records and handwritten prescriptions toward a fully coordinated system linked through health information technology, CVS Caremark apparently gets it. The company’s leaders have shown a firm grasp of the potential for reaching patients — and keeping them involved in their own health and wellness regimen — through Internet-based tools like Google.
The U.S. healthcare system has evolved over more than two centuries from largely agrarian and small-town roots, where doctors made house calls and “chemists” compounded medicines and plasters for individual patients. Today, it’s a massive, complex patchwork of thousands of physician practices, hospitals, testing labs, clinics and pharmacies, most of which don’t talk to each other.
The result is a sprawling network of silos, most of them linked only indirectly with one another. Each may have a partial understanding of the patient’s condition, prescription drug intake, ancillary conditions, diet or lifestyle habits, but it’s rare for any single point of contact along that health care chain to have that patient in complete, real-time focus.
It’s like the old saw about a group of sightless men trying to describe what an elephant looks like by touch – one describes only the trunk, another only the flank, a third perhaps an ear. The picture that emerges of any patient within this uncoordinated health network is distorted and incomplete.
The strategists at CVS Caremark know that has to change. The company’s partnership with Google was a groundbreaking advance in health IT and integrated care, and its use of the web to survey employers and patients themselves is innovative and cutting-edge. No doubt, the company’s pharmacy and technology gurus will continue to come up with new ways to exploit the power of electronic recordkeeping and connectivity.