There are indications that connectivity is moving onto a faster track.
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The percentage of physicians who use the Web for work-related purposes has risen in the year since Medical Economics' first supplement looked at connectivity. Even so, the number of doctors whose practices are truly connected to health plans, labs, hospitals, pharmacies, colleagues, and patients remains smaller than we expected.
There are indications, however, that connectivity is moving onto a faster track. One sign is that payers are finally starting to take the business potential of connectivity seriously. For example, the launch of MedUniteformed by seven leading insurersis intended to provide a single system through which many physicians can do online transactions with a majority of their payers.
Meanwhile, a number of Blue plans are starting to offer doctors real-time claims adjudication, and other insurers are letting doctors file claims and perform other transactions over the Internet.
Lab results are also becoming increasingly available online. The big national labs are starting to make results available on their Web sites. And a host of connectivity vendors and application service providers are hooking up doctors with local labs. Some of these vendors also allow you to order labs electronically.
While clinical connectivity promises to improve patient care, administrative connectivity can upgrade patient service and save you money. Imagine, for instance, how great it would be to capture your charges in the exam room on a Palm or Pocket PC, beam an encounter form to your practice management system, have the computer submit a claim, and get the claim approved within seconds.
None of this is science fiction; it's all within the capability of today's technology. But to make it a widespread reality, two things need to happen: Local health care entities must build a unified connectivity system, and physicians must start getting connected.
The first step for many of you will be to begin submitting claims through an electronic data interchange clearinghouse, which would speed up your payments. Then get your feet wet on the Web. Even if you use the Internet only for reference or e-mailing colleagues, it's a start. Employing one of the free secure messaging services to e-mail patients would be another positive move. Step by step, you'll discover how much connectivity can help you in your daily practice.
Ken Terry. Connectivity picks up momentum.