Transformation in 2015: Focusing Technology on the Patient

We are currently experiencing the biggest transformation in healthcare ever. Technology plays a significant role as an enabler of this transformation, but will not drive it alone. Improving patient care and driving toward patient engagement are crucial goals in this next phase of the healthcare industry. To make adoption ubiquitous and implementation effective, there are several things we should focus on as we dive into 2015:

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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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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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The Key to Success: Maximizing Information Technology

mitcon-photo01fullAs we gear up for HIMSS at the end of this month, we tend to think back to who has been dominating the healthcare conversations over the past several years. The answer is obvious: EMR vendors. Meaningful Use guidelines have been driving towards the adoption of EMRs and encouraging clinicians to adopt technologies to enhance patient care. But these tools are transactional, not transformative. For an industry that is cutting edge in so many ways, we’ve struggled to successfully crack the code with informational technology. Customers are constantly telling me that we need to find ways to make the data work for us, to improve healthcare.

As new technologies and the BYOD trend have worked their way into hospitals and health systems, we’ve begun to find patterns in what is necessary to launch successful programs. The key? Ease of use for clinicians and clear benefits to patient care.

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Progressing and Engaging to Improve Patient Care

Making quick decisions is important when it comes to cardiology patients – particularly when patient conditions unexpectedly change in the ER or overnight when access to a cardiologist is more limited. Since quality care does not end when the physician leaves the bedside, having the latest and most relevant data easily accessible no matter where the cardiologist is can be critical.

In recent years, cardiologists have relied on faxed or texted pictures of an ECG to help them make decisions, or even other staff members’ verbal descriptions of what they see on the readout. But the quality of this information is inadequate. By the time a fax is sent, it’s outdated. Zooming capabilities for texted images can only do so much. And – though we credit all of our staff for their knowledge – cardiology is a specialty and these doctors may see something on an ECG that might be missed in a verbal update.

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Partnering for the Future of Healthcare

health-careFor hospitals and health systems to achieve the value of their EMR investments, they must be able to deliver information to the point of care and ultimately the point of making a difference with patients – whether the clinician is at the bedside, down the hall, in the office or at home. Industry paradigms like health system consolidation and the physicians shortage mean that clinicians will be increasingly mobile, relying on personal devices for the information they need to provide quality care.

What we know today is getting information into the hands of clinicians in the right place at the right time isn’t going to be easy. That’s why in July, Microsoft was pleased to announce that AirStrip will be the first mHealth company to be part of the Microsoft Apps For Surface program. Innovative leadership like AirStrip’s is essential to overcoming the challenges of mobile healthcare such as like compliance, regulations and interoperability.

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