Data, Data Everywhere and Not a Drop to Drink

Clinicians want two things from data. On an individual patient level, they need to be able to see the data whenever and wherever they want – in a clean at-a-glance format and with essentially zero lag time. And at a cohort (population) level, they want the data presented as meaningful information in a way that enables conclusions, decisions, and actions about a group of patients.

These statements may seem like self-evident  Data 101 to many of you, but in my decades of experience working clinically as an emergency physician and being responsible for operations of multiple emergency departments, it is clear that we have not delivered on this vision. In fact, the healthcare world lags other industries by 15-20 years in the availability, presentation, and use of information. Although our industry is catching up, there is still more effective use of information technology in banking, aviation, on-line retail, and a multitude of other industries. Even though many of the concepts of optimum presentation and use of data have been around for decades – the quest for electronic health records began in the 1980s – their breadth of execution and the realization of their value propositions have not been sufficient to become the norm. Healthcare has moved at a glacial speed of change, at least until recently.

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EMRs won’t prevent the spread of Ebola (or the next scary outbreak)

about-ebolaAccording to IBM, there are 2.5 exabytes of data created every day, and most of it is unstructured. Imagine receiving all the words ever spoken by human beings on your doorstep each and every day. Now, imagine consuming that, making sense of it and trying to keep up with the ever-accelerating pace of data creation each day.

As a physician, I experienced firsthand the angst that comes with trying to keep up with even a very specialized scope of expertise. Thanks to the overwhelming quantity of peer-reviewed publications and practice guideline updates that only increase each year, we are long past the time when a clinician could possibly keep up with all the advancements in their own practice area, let alone those of adjacent areas of medicine or the latest public health concerns on a global scale.

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Mobile solutions that support our clinical (and life) workflow

There are more mobile devices than there are people on the planet. Many of us look at our phones more than 70 times a day. We bring them with us everywhere we go – to the movies, to our children’s soccer games and to work.

Many of us even have work environments that allow us to ‘bring your own device.’ If that is not an option, our work devices (thankfully!) are looking more and more like our personal devices. And in healthcare, we are now successfully addressing challenges to building mobile healthcare solutions that support our natural use and knowledge of these devices in our life flow.

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The Evolution of Health IT

Health IT is often considered a silent partner in healthcare – not seen by patients, but a critical part of the system. As we celebrate National Health IT Week, it’s important to realize that although health IT already has a long history, the constant and rapid evolution of this space continues to transform the market. Information has been collected and stored for years, but the promise of clinical decision support has us at the cusp of all this information becoming valuable in new and innovative ways.

Just a decade ago, I was documenting patient encounters in paper charts. Although the transition to electronic medical records (EMRs) has been perceived as slow, in the grand scheme of medicine it actually happened almost overnight. These systems were not designed with our continuously changing workflow in mind, with user interfaces and workflows that aligned to our practices. They served as repositories for patient information, but did little else. In fact, our workflow changed to support the EMR, sometimes to the detriment of the patient. Instead of focusing directly on the patient, we often must split our time and attention between the patient and the computer terminal.

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Staying Ahead in a Technology-Driven Field

Since patient care and well-being is at the center of Rockdale’s mission, attracting the best and brightest clinicians in the region is an important effort for us. Part of distinguishing ourselves from our competitors is providing the resources and advanced technological support clinicians want. In fact, to support this shift, we formed the Information Technology Physician Engagement Group in 2013 to identify exactly what were the technology priorities for our physicians:

  • Improved cellular service
  • Improved physician Wi-Fi
  • Single sign-on access
  • Mobile technology for better efficiency

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Cerner/Siemens and Blue Shield/Blue Cross: What Happens Next?

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The industry is buzzing over the news that Cerner is buying the health information technology business unit of Siemens. The Siemens acquisition is the most recent high-profile example of consolidation that is taking place in all sectors of healthcare.

The consolidation trend is not new, of course. Providers reacted first, by aligning as Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) and clinical integration (CI) networks during the past five years. Then the passing of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) accelerated the need for collaboration, forcing providers to acquire additional acute care and post-acute care facilities as well as physicians’ offices. This consolidation trend was the first to expose the obvious lack of interoperability amongst vendors.

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Supporting OB with Mobility

The Labor and Delivery department does not boast the most structured of schedules – each mom-to-be’s delivery timeline varies. Obstetricians may have to rush to the hospital for an advanced case, or wait and watch for conditions to change. In either situation, the clinician is frequently not on-site at the hospital, whether it’s because they’re handling office visits at their practices, or because it’s the middle of the night. Having mobile access to patient data to monitor progress provides doctors with the confidence necessary to make care decisions no matter the time or their location.

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