Every time I have an encounter with the medical community, I recall former Secretary of HHS Tommy Thompson’s rejoinder that the average supermarket is more technologically advanced in many ways than the average hospital. He wasn’t commenting on the whiz-bang gizmos that seem to proliferate in hospitals but rather about the manner in which they conduct their day-to-day business.

Last week I had a “new patient” visit with a physician. Sitting in the waiting room, attempting to balance the clipboard while completing the paperwork, I got a bit annoyed when I had to write my date of birth for the sixth time (I am not making this up) on the fourth form – and there were three forms left to go. Putting aside the fact that whoever had written the HIPAA notice apparently had no idea of the actual HIPAA requirements, I trudged on, ultimately handwriting my date of birth nine times.

Yet there may be some good news on the horizon – though some cautionary notes come with it. A recent study by Manhattan Research suggests 42% of physicians say they’ve discussed clinical symptoms online with their patients. Surprisingly, the same study reports that more than 9 million consumers say they’ve had some sort of e-mail correspondence from their primary care physician.

Further, according to ABI Research, wireless adoption within health care has grown 60% in the past year. SDI Research reports that 95% of physicians who use handheld devices or smart phones have downloaded apps to access medical information, and Manhattan reports that nearly two-thirds of U.S. physicians use those smart phones for medical or clinical purposes. Yet a Centers for Disease Control report warns of “negative consequences for healthcare adherence behavior resulting from use of Internet health information.” OK … don’t use that YouTube video as a guide to taking out your friend’s appendix!

The old ways appear to be changing – albeit slowly. As consumers, we’ll be happy to start with e-mails (where appropriate) with our PCPs. Now if they could just do something about those darned forms.

Check out more blog entries from David Saltzman.