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New Year, New Era in Medicine

Hello 2013, good-bye old technology. Will this be the year that the merits of digital technology in medicine are finally realized financially? Not many can predict where healthcare is headed, but it does seem clear that the age of paper and face-to-face meetings are slowly becoming things of the past. Items once indispensible to me as a young physician - pagers, pocket pharmacopoeia, and medical reference tools –have been completely replaced by applications of my smartphone. While convenient, it has not translated much to my bottom line other than a moderate increase in efficiency. This year, that all could change.

Physicians have become more comfortable over the past decade with the inevitable shift from synchronous to asynchronous communication – but now improved modes of collaboration may actually be billable. This year’s new CPT codes will allow physicians to bill for care coordination – which includes secure smartphone messaging and e-mails – and does not have to take place during a face-to-face patient visit.

Click here to read more from the 2012 AMA Annual Symposium

I now use my DocbookMD app to find a specialist’s contact information, send them a question, and even send them a picture of a patient’s wound or rash all in the time it used to take me to ask my assistant to look up a phone number. The hospitalist now can dictate a brief discharge summary to me in the app, and prepare me for the follow-up appointment of a recently-admitted patient with a chronic disease. Hospital staff can coordinate the transfer of a critically-ill child to a specialty hospital, and this time can now be billed.

I believe this marks the turning of a corner in medicine. Behaviors that improve efficiency, patient care and system costs are now being incentivized – and mobile technology is well-positioned to help ease physicians into a new era.

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