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With all of the new medical discoveries and treatments that can complicate patient records, how can individual doctors master enough information to give the best care?
Its very difficult, says Michael Rosencrance.
Rosencrance is the vice president of information services at the University of Wisconsin Medical Foundation. He says 90 percent of all medical information is filed into only about the last 100 years of documentation, illustrating the rapid rise in what a doctor needs to track.
"It's gotten to the point where no one can keep all of [this information] in their head," he said.
Rosencrance promotes information technology and the improvement of telecommunications throughout the Medical Foundation, the largest multi-specialty academic physician group in Wisconsin. And he says the way to succeed with new technology is to put people first.
Rosencrance assigns human issues the same high status that timeline and budget have typically received among executives, so that people trust him as a leader who works to create a comfortable relationship between staff and technology.
The enormous amount of new data available to physicians today drives people like Rosencrance as they work to organize and publish information using powerful software. Information indigestion, in the form of medical errors, and congestion, occurring when a doctor misses the chance to add an important new method to a patient's treatment, are two main information problems with digital solutions.
Yet the potential of digital solutions depends on whether professionals are comfortable in a high-tech setting. So Rosencrance focuses on helping them to see the reasons behind the technology. For example, software-enforced rules can cut down on many documented medical errors, he said. If doctors and staff use the software to scan and apply labels to medicine, for example, every step of the distribution process is double checked through the patient's digital file.
Beyond organization and coordination among staff and patients, Rosencrance explains to practitioners that digital systems help health-care professionals to share the best-quality care available as it surfaces through their research and the experience from around the world.
"There is a lot of new medical knowledge coming out daily, weekly and monthly," Rosencrance said.
In this case, physicians' reactions to technology range widely, and technology is often embraced with much skepticism. Rosencrance says some doctors feel that because databases can store their knowledge and design their treatment protocols, their jobs are a practice in "cookbook medicine."
But Rosencrance says technology puts doctors in even better command of their practice when they are open to a different way of thinking about it. By entering key words and symptoms, doctors could better use their skills to scan computer-generated results and treatment protocols based on a wider set of findings than they have had time to study or experience.
"I think is a good thing," Rosencrance said. "You can be a great cook and not memorize every recipe you have ever made."
In his effort to introduce new perspectives on digital health care, Rosencrance stands by his priorities and shows that human issues matter most. Human comfort zones are just as much of a reality as any software program to Rosencrance. Physicians live with unique personal constraints, he said. They are often expected to play the role of an all-knowing comforter for their patients. In this case, electronic systems introduce a complex set of considerations.
"You're taking a very respected person and putting them on a stage outside of their routine and comfort zone," Rosencrance said.
For this reason, he gradually introduces the technology that he says affects every aspect of the routine of the Medical Foundation's nearly 980 faculty physicians.
"We change small pieces of their routine at a time," he said, "building gradually until we build the confidence of the physicians."
This confidence frees student practitioners to explore treatments in a more relaxed and innovative setting. Until now, new physicians completed their practice and had little choice but to apply retained information and skill through trial and error, Rosencrance said. Technology opens a channel of collective wisdom, giving these new practitioners and their patients a head-start to successful strategies.
Rosencrance spent much time on the vendor side of IT. With this experience, he's tried to influence the culture of the Medical Foundation so that it is service-oriented. He notices other companies using IT as a block or a way to say no in many situations.
"We want to do everything in our power to make things happen," he said. "We want to be as service-oriented as possible."
Q&A with Mike Rosencrance:What's the latest book you've read?
Salty Piece of Land - Jimmy Buffett
What magazines do you read regularly?
CIO, Healthcare IT News, Sailing
What web sites do you visit regularly?
Yahoo (news), eBay, Google, MSNBC, CBS Marketwatch
What's your favorite quote on leadership?
Leadership can be thought of as a capacity to define oneself to others in a way that clarifies and expands a vision of the future. - Edwin H. Friedman