One of the lingering perplexities of the information age is how one of our most advanced areas of technology—medical treatment—has seemed so left out of the advances in information processing and sharing. Clear examples: Physicians speaking into recorders that transcriptionists then type out; paperwork that seems never ending yet covers the same information over and over and over again.

The good news is that medicine has finally driven onto the information highway, and patients are seeing the results. Munson Medical Center, in
Traverse City, and Northern Michigan Regional Hospital, in Petoskey, have both made great strides in connecting central data warehouses to individual medical clinics so that medical records are instantly accessible by physicians in their respective networks.

“At this point we are good at getting the information from the hospital out to the clinics, but still need to work on sharing information that’s housed in the individual physician offices,” says Dr. Peter Springsteen, who has been helping shape the Munson program.

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When physicians have faster access to better patient information, it will lead to smarter diagnosis and improved care. A dramatic example of this happened within the past year, Springsteen recalled, when a man near Gaylord had a life-threatening heart emergency. The emergency room physician in Gaylord knew he needed a specialist to help, and he was able to connect with a physician in Traverse City who could see detailed imagery of the man’s heart then explained how to save his life.

For patients, there will also be a nice convenience factor, especially for patients who see multiple care providers all accessing the same files. No more stopping by the radiology department to hand-carry your film from one doctor’s office to the next.

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