Taking a Page from the Used Car Dealer’s Book

What Healthcare Can Learn from VIN Numbers

I think we can all admit that Healthcare IT is embarrassingly archaic in comparison to other
industries that have embraced the advantages that technology has for their business. Given the
value of these more efficient technological processes, including an increase in both quality and
efficiency, it is frightening that of all industries, it is the one that handles your well-being that is
the most inefficient and outdated. 

I recently bought a used car. When I was reviewing the details and history of this car, I thumbed
through pages that told me a number of things including where the car was originally sold, who the
name and address of the first owner, how long he had owned it, where he lived, when he sold it and
how many miles it had when he sold it. It repeated this for the car’s second owner as well. It also
confirmed that it had successfully passed every annual inspection.  In addition to all previous
owners and the details of their courtship with this vehicle, I was also shown the accident report.
It had been in two minor “fender-bender” accidents each occurring in a different state with a
different owner.  I was literally able to track this car from South Carolina, where it was first sold
off the lot, to Burlington, MA, where I was that day looking at it. Traced by the VIN number, this
car has been logged in the system and tracked its entire life.

I was born in Danvers, Massachusetts. I have had a physical every year and have a medical record of
all of my past illnesses, surgeries, vaccines, etc.  However, if I walk through the doors of a hospital in
South Carolina, they would not be able to pull up ANY record of my health.  Forget another state, if I
were to drive 20 minutes to a different hospital in the same state they would not be able to access any
prior history of my health. 

Given an emergency, I find it more than moderately frightening that the Doctor could more quickly
and easily check the last time my car had its annual inspection then see who my primary care doctor
is, let alone any actual pertinent health information or allergies I have to the medication they are
about to administer.  The used car industry is slick, but I’d like to hope my Doctors are smarter.
We need to change this. The technology and innovation is there. We need to committ to excellence,
FIND the budget, MAKE it happen and not settle for the same sloppy, stagnant, manner in which the
healthcare industry has been running for so many years.

One response to “Taking a Page from the Used Car Dealer’s Book”

  1. Dan Feinberg

    Welcome to the blogosphere, Melanie. I look forward to your next post.