Returning from a conference in Salt Lake City, New Jersey physician Richard L. Corson settled into his seat aboard the cross-country flight and pulled out his laptop.
He wasn’t updating his Facebook page or playing Words With Friends. He was working — making use of Delta Airlines’ Wi-Fi connections to access his Cerner EMR platform.
“Other than examining patients, I can do just about everything I need to do,” he said.
Corson, a physician of 20 years and former vice president at Somerset Medical Center whose private practice is based in Hillsborough, considers himself on the leading edge of the IT-enabled industry. He’s had an electronic medical record for more than four years and a patient portal, and he’ll be one of the first local physicians to go live on the state’s soon-to-be-launched health information exchange. Armed with a laptop and a WAN card, he makes the rounds at local assisted living facilities, calling up medical records on the go.
“Sometimes being ahead of the curve is a little bit of work,” he said.
And he’s not doing it for the federal incentives.
“Most people are just now signing up [for EMRs] for meaningful use and the couple of dollars they put behind that,” he said of the federal incentive program to help physicians adopt EMRs. He added that physicians need to look beyond the financial benefits or penalties — and the outlay — to determine rewards. If they want to be a part of an accountable care organization, or move toward the patient-centered medical home, he noted, they’re going to have to get with the times.
“A lot of medicine occurs outside of office hours,” he said. With remote access, Corson can call up a patient’s medical record at any time, review histories, check medications and issue prescriptions, and help ease the way for someone who might have just been admitted to a hospital.
The concerns about viewing medical images on a smartphone or tablet? Corson, who can log onto his hospital’s site or a radiologist’s site to view images, doesn’t have them. “Radiologists might have problems because they deal in subtleties,” he pointed out. “I’m looking for broken bones and checking for pneumonia.”
Corson said healthcare providers — and physicians in particular — have been slow to jump on the IT bandwagon because of the time, effort and money involved. But they’re moving in the right direction. “I think the country learned lessons from [Hurricane] Katrina, when so many records were lost and so many people were displaced,” he said. “Now they’re starting to trust the technology.”
On the plane back from Salt Lake City, Corson was able to update all his correspondence with patients and make sure their medical records were in order. “By the end of the flight, my patients were all taken care of,” he said.
In the office, meanwhile, Corson is able to get more work done in less time.
“The good news, it often gets me out of the office earlier, and home in time for dinner,” he said. “The bad news? Now I can take my work home with me.”
Or on vacation. Corson will soon be going with his family to Disney World in Florida. They’re driving down from New Jersey, and he’s bringing his laptop with him.
He’ll be doing a lot more than playing Solitaire.