11 Nov Networking of Healthcare Information
MILWAUKEE, WI – Futurist William Gibson is often quoted as saying, “The future is here, but it’s just not evenly distributed yet.” Many speakers at the first annual Evolving Healthcare Technology Conference referred to this quote to make a point about the current state of healthcare technology at last Friday’s symposium at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW).
Featured presenters at the conference pointed out that the healthcare industry has the technology to accomplish several goals, but that technology needs to be put in the hands of in-the-trenches clinicians and doctors.
Kent Brodie, enterprise technical systems manager with MCW, illustrated this point by holding up his ATM card and saying that he could go to a terminal anywhere in the world and get cash.
“I can go to any Walgreens and they can fill my prescription,” Brodie said. “Yet if I am injured and go to an emergency room across town, they have no access to my patient records. Why not?”
The transfer and networking of healthcare information within a healthcare facility was one of the challenges discussed at the conference. Transfer and networking of patient information between multiple hospitals and departments and the inclusion of genetic information in patient records was a hot topic as well.
Paul Nagy, assistant professor of radiology and director of the radiology informatics laboratory at MCW, led a panel on the Picture Architecture and Communications Systems (PACS). PACS are designed to make digital diagnostic images simultaneously available to clinicians throughout a hospital.
“Clinicians save 50 minutes a day,” Nagy said, citing a survey sent out to clinicians. “That’s because they are chasing around looking for film when more than one department wants the film.”
According to Nagy, the implementation of PACS is helped and hindered by a number of factors. “The hospital is in a place where it needs to change,” Nagy said, citing out-of-control costs and a shortage of radiologists. “Therefore, the hospital is receptive to change.” However, Nagy said, in the industry at large, “The lack of knowledgeable professionals is holding up the process.”
Christopher Hanna, CEO of Milwaukee-based TeraMEDICA, cited research from Gartner, Inc. that suggests that some healthcare providers are quickly implementing PACS. Within the Mayo Clinic system, according to Hanna, 83 percent of the sites were budgeting for PACS, spending on average $2 million per site.
Ruth Taylor, senior business manager with the Information Based Medicine division of IBM Life Sciences, discussed the challenges of integrating genomic data with existing patient records. Taylor described how genetic information on patients could be collected and maintained in a central database-driven “biobank”.
There are benefits to making genetic information available to researchers as well as clinicians. According to Taylor, pre-clinical drug studies could be more effective if individuals susceptible to certain negative drug reactions could be identified.
“Clinical genomics can have an impact on drug studies and negative reactions,” Taylor said. “A successful trial would be targeted to people responsive to that therapy.”
Chuck Rathmann is a freelance writer and contributor to Wisconsin Technology Network. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.