August 7, 2008
Now Community Health Network, an Indianapolis-based hospital system, wants to bring that same sort of computerized convenience to health care through its new myCommunity program. The service, unveiled Wednesday, offers a variety of free tech tools to patients who sign up to receive a credit-card-sized "myCommunity" card. The service features express check-in kiosks (similar to those at airports) to be installed at Community North first, then throughout the system eventually. Patients will swipe their myCommunity cards and use touch screens to complete the inpatient and outpatient check-in process.
"It involves the way people are going to interact with health care in the future," said Daniel Rench, vice president of e-business for Community Health Network, which operates five hospitals and numerous other health facilities in Central Indiana.
MyCommunity -- which took about three years and $1.2 million to develop -- also allows patients to keep track of their conditions and medications. Additional features include a blog for new parents or long-term patients to write updates or post photos for loved ones.
Community's service is the latest instance of the health-care industry increasingly using technology in an effort to improve and streamline care.
In another example, the Care Group, a local physician practice, and St. Vincent Heart Center of Indiana in March unveiled a credit-card-sized compact disc designed for patients to carry their vital medical information for fast access in an emergency.
Patients seem ready to embrace cyber health care and avoid paperwork and possible lines, said industry officials.
According to New York-based market researcher Manhattan Research, 38 million U.S. adults are what could be called "Health 2.0 Users." That means they have done at least one of the following: visited a health-related message board or blog; regularly contributed health content online; used an online patient support group; communicated with a physician via e-mail; or used a personal health record. In addition, 4 million consumers expressed interest in receiving text messages to remind them to refill prescriptions.
"The myCommunity service is ahead of the curve and has positioned itself for a willing audience," said Erika S. Fishman, director of research with Manhattan Research. She pointed to services such as allowing members to use Web-enabled phones to look up information on doctors as particularly savvy.
"Any program which puts the customer in control is definitely what the health-care industry needs to implement in order to catch up with industries such as banking and travel."
While praising myCommunity, Fishman added that a nationwide electronic health-care network is needed for patients -- who often are being treated by different hospitals and physician networks -- to have the most accurate and updated records.
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