One clear message that I received during the ACP meeting was the importance of having interoperable (freely communicating) electronic data on patients. We are of course in the midst of the information revolution, which is yielding important new knowledge by our having the ability to "connect the dots" so much more readily. The public health benefits of having such information are very obvious. We can track diseases, pinpoint their nodes of activity, and be able to glean cause and effect connections. With individual care, I feel that benefits can be obtained readily by having treating physicians communicate more effectively with each other by e-mail. Timely reports from consultants and radiologists would be so helpful. E-mail access to laboratory information which we have in the office has been helpful to patients on many occasions.
The need for imposing electronic infrastructure will further cause the decline of the small practice. This is inevitable, despite protestations from IT people in industry and government notwithstanding. We need an integrated medical workplace, alas. Small practice, like the one I have, still has many benefits- personalized care and better continuity of care, for example. In order for it to survive, however, IT costs need to keep dropping. Perhaps the use of the "cloud" for medical information will help. We shall see. I am still bearish on small practice prospects in the long run, however.