Thursday, July 1, 2010

Eyes Wide Open

According to a presentation given by Dr. Paul Chang at the 2010 Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine (SIIM) conference, we sometimes get so focused on our own area of systems expertise that we forget to look at the outside IT world. While we're hung up on whether a system has a PACS driven or a RIS driven workflow, IT outside medicine is leaving us in its dust. 

Take Wal-Mart for example: The firm knows exactly where each piece of merchandise is, because it is identified by RFID technology. In contrast, we still hear stories about patients being "lost" in the corridor as they are waiting for a radiology procedure. In addition, PACS administrators are correcting studies that were incorrectly identified with the wrong name and patient ID on an almost daily basis; most of us don't know the exact turnaround time of many of our procedures; and on and on. Given that RFID chips are so inexpensive, it is an interesting choice of many institutions to track C-arms and computers, but not the patients who make the acquisition and use of these tools possible. 

There are other examples: Why does it take a physician so much time to place an order and it takes just one mouse click on Amazon? Why do we need dashboards to see the system status when the system should be auto-correcting? Why do vendors still believe they can offer “one size fits all” IT products for medicine? 

It won’t be long till everyone will have a personal health record. Institutions will be forced to support the implementation of electronic health records. We can only hope that the implementers will take note of what the rest of the IT world uses today. 

It took many decades of trust building and implementing secure implementations for financial institutions to deploy ATM’s, on-line banking, and many of the other features which individuals use to manage their financial records. How widely are these applications accepted? It has been a long time since I heard about someone storing their savings under a mattress. 

Our task and our goal is bring health information on-line, make it accessible to the professionals who need access to it, and allow consumers to start properly managing it. 

In short, the role of informatics in the development of our future health records could be significant--if only we can learn from what has been successful in other domains.