The hospital of the future is here today, but it's not in the US; it's not even in Europe--it's in Thailand. Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok is an all-digital hospital, with one giant database containing everything from patients' billing to medical history to digital images of their X-rays instead of film. As an Intel propaganda sheet states:
[the all-digital integrated system] enabled it to accommodate a 40 percent rise in patient loads without increasing IT head count, achieve 33 percent gross profit [though the cost to the customer is a tenth what it would be in the US], and handle 860,000 outpatient visits yearly, with the average visit including registration, treatment, diagnostic procedures, pharmacy and bill-paying taking just 45 minutes. ...and medical errors and infection rates have fallen. ...And in part because of its billing efficiency, the hospital collects about 93 percent of its charges, a rate Schroeder characterizes as incredibly high by US standards.
Before we had electronic records, we had 30 people running our medical records department, Schroeder recalls. We retrained those people, and now were getting much more value from them, and they have a much higher rate of job satisfaction.
Our information system helps us attract and retain doctors. It makes it easier for them to practice high-quality medicine. Physicians can see so much more on an electronic health record than when youre shuffling through a paper record. [it also describes the diagnostic advantages of browsing digital images over film.]
Unfortunately most US hospitals are financially between a rock and a hard place (too squeezed by HMO's) and are unable to make such capital investments in infrastructure. But even today Bumrungrad's whole system runs on one server rack, so within the decade the biggest cost of implementation will be switchover & retraining.