The scene: a doctor’s office. You: frustrated, on your lunch break from work, just wanting to get in and get out. It’s probably not your first visit to that provider. It might not even be your second or third. And yet there you are, filling out byzantine papers attached to a clipboard, promising to pay if your insurance doesn’t, providing your Social Security number for the kajillionth time, and trying to remember your insurance group number, which is not the same as the ID number.
“Every time I go to the doctor, I spend the first half hour filling out pages of information. Why isn’t that traveling with me?” asked a cancer survivor in the audience of a recent talk by Eric Topol, the chair of innovative medicine at Scripps Research, at Aspen Ideas: Health, co-hosted by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic.
“It’s so real that you have to fill out the same forms all the time,” Topol responded. The American medical system is atrocious at keeping track of the stuff it does. According to Topol, 10 percent of all scans in the United States are repeated unnecessarily simply because patients can’t get hold of their past records and scans. It amounts to billions of wasted dollars.