When it comes to healthcare, most Americans can agree that the system is deeply fragmented. The proof is in your patient file: in a world connected by smartphones, 4G networks, and cloud computing, patient medical records still don't regularly travel between the myriad providers that an average person sees. Although the Affordable Care Act mandated that all hospitals use an electronic patient record, only about 23% have the ability to fully exchange patient data with others.
Unconnected medical records aren't just a headache for providers and patients alike, they're expensive and potentially dangerous to patient health. The medical center in the frontier town of Arco, Idaho — population 995 — experienced that firsthand. But when athenahealth installed a cloud-based system for connecting patient data in Arco, the medical center turned around, and it's now part of a new, networked movement in healthcare. Here's how connected patient systems work — and how they may one day save your hospital, and maybe even your life.