I have always been an early adopter of technology, and as a public health professional, have always looked for new ways to apply technology to address public health challenges. In that quest for solutions, I often become what we call in medical anthropology "a participant observer."
Since my first mobile phone purchase, I've used my phone to coordinate access to healthcare services and health information, schedule medical appointments, and support a healthy pregnancy and the first few years of my son's life. I have also used several generations of wearables to track my nutrition and fitness data, and was an early subscriber to 23&Me, which allows for more personalized prevention, diagnostics and treatment.
But even with my 'inside track' on health IT, I experienced the inefficiencies and frustrations of a healthcare system reliant on paper records and phone trees. About six years ago, I had an unfortunate health situation, which took months to diagnose. Visits with the tens of medical specialists each took weeks to schedule, significantly delaying the diagnosis. As I made my way from specialist to specialist, I carried my ever-growing paper medical records with me so that each new provider could see what tests had already been conducted along with the results to those tests.
It turned out to be a couple of parasitic infections I acquired during a two-week business trip to West Africa. The infections were easily treated, but by the time they were diagnosed and treated, it triggered an auto-immune illness in my GI system.
I have since recovered from the illness and found a much more supportive health IT environment as a member of a concierge practice in Washington, DC. There, my medical record is maintained centrally and, what used to take weeks to coordinate, now takes a matter of minutes and can be done through their mobile application. They also make it easy to schedule a same-day appointment, conduct a remote consultation, and/or engage in routine prevention and care services such as flu vaccines and annual checkups.
Health IT completely revolutionized my interaction with the health system and would have likely helped me six years ago get to a diagnosis sooner. I heart HIT and am working to help make health a part of everyone's every day life.