Doctors shouldn't worry too much about developing the right resources to make their practices Web-friendly. With industry e-health investments approaching $10 billion, those resources are already out there.
What physicians need to do instead is choose the vendors and partners who can make Internet-based business and care delivery a reality for their practices.
How to proceed down that path will be the focus of a talk by Douglas Goldstein on "E-Health Care: Beyond Web Sites to E-Care," set for 10: 45 a.m. Monday, Oct. 16.
Goldstein, chairman of the Alexandria, Va.-based strategic consulting firm ehealthcare.net, literally wrote the book on everything "e" in healthcare. That book, published in February, is called e-Healthcare: Harness the Power of the Internet for e-Commerce and e-Care and examines many of the issues Goldstein will address in his talk. Among them:
* Moving from Web sites that offer online brochures to Web sites that enable patients to fully interact with their caregivers.
* Using the Internet to help manage and monitor chronic conditions.
* Deploying the Internet to lower operating costs and attract new patients.
"As we move from Web sites to Web services, we want to think through how we're going to improve patient service and lower operating costs," Goldstein says.
In his talk, Goldstein will discuss trends in e-healthcare and his predictions about where the industry is headed in upcoming years. Most important, he says, those attending his MGMA session will learn how they can begin taking action to build interactive Web sites that do more than give out phone numbers.
Among the predictions Goldstein will share with his audience in Atlanta is that "for the better part of the next several years, we're going to see many service transactions with nonmedical aspects being streamlined by health systems," he says.
In other words, the Internet will simplify functions such as registration and discharge, thereby building a foundation upon which physician practices can expand into more care-focused services.
"You can't do everything overnight," Goldstein says. For physician practices, an Internet strategy is "not just slapping up a Web page but asking, `How does this new technology allow us to operate differently and at lower per-unit costs?' "
One concern Goldstein will address involves the notion that investing in the Internet will mean less income for each doctor in a practice.
According to Goldstein, that doesn't have to be the case. "There are a number of ways to be creative and minimize investment costs," he says.