There’s a line from the movie A Few Good Men (one of my favorites), during a scene when the characters are preparing to question a doctor under oath, that goes something like this:
“So there was no evidence of foul play?” “You mean, aside from the dead body?”
(Cue the dramatic music)
Last week, my husband went to the doctor after experiencing stomach pains for a few days. He was ordered to get a CT scan — as soon as his doctor read the results, he sent Dan to the hospital with what appeared to be acute appendicitis. That’s when the fun really started. When he arrived at the ER, the resident who examined him said she didn’t think his symptoms matched appendicitis, and suggested he might need further tests.
Apparently, she hadn’t seen the results of the scan, which Dan had to bring with him on a disc to the ER. Once she looked at them (and consulted with his physician), it was confirmed that Dan did need surgery.
Now, I understand that diagnosing abdominal pains can be very tricky, especially if the symptoms don’t match up exactly. What I don’t understand is why, in this age of health IT, results from CT scans can’t be more easily communicated and transmitted from a physician’s office to a hospital. There’s no reason a patient who has just been told he needs surgery should be counted on to transport a disc containing very vital information. And don’t even get me started on the fact that he had to repeat his symptoms and relevant information about 6-8 times (no exaggeration).
I know that IT can only get us so far — that the human element is such a critical factor in the care of patients (the nurses and other staff were so helpful, and made Dan’s hospital stay much more tolerable). But in today’s world, IT can play a huge role in more easily and quickly diagnosing and treating conditions, particularly in the emergency setting. In Dan’s case, relying solely on human instinct may have resulted in a burst appendix.
When it comes to optimal patient care, I think the key is a combination of IT and the human touch. Let technology transmit the information, and people do the caring. (Dan, by the way, is recovering nicely from his surgery.)