ENTRIES TAGGED "ehrs"

Visualizing Health IT: A holistic overview

O'Reilly report covers major trends and tries to connect the neurons

If visualization is key to comprehending data, the field of health IT calls for better visualization. I am not talking here of pretty charts and animations. I am talking, rather, of a holistic, unified understanding of the bustle taking place in different corners of health: the collection and analysis of genetic data, the design of slim medical devices that replace refrigerator-sized pieces of equipment, the data crunching at hospitals delving into demographic data to identify at-risk patients.

There is no dearth of health reformers offering their visions for patient engagement, information exchange, better public health, and disruptive change to health industries. But they often accept too freely the promise of technology, without grasping how difficult the technical implementations of their reforms would be. Furthermore, no document I have found pulls together the various trends in technology and explores their interrelationships.

I have tried to fill this gap with a recently released report: The Information Technology Fix for Health: Barriers and Pathways to the Use of Information Technology for Better Health Care. This posting describes some of the issues it covers.

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Finding the Meaning in “Meaningful Use”

The 30,000-foot view and the nitty gritty details of working with electronic health data

Ever wonder what the heck “meaningful use” really means? By now, you’ve probably heard it come up in discussions of healthcare data. You might even know that it specifically pertains to electronic health records (EHRs). But what is it really about, and why should you care?

If you’ve ever had to carry a large folder of paper between specialists, or fill out the same medical history form in different offices over and over—with whatever details you happen to remember off the top of your head that day—then you already have some idea of why EHRs are a desirable thing. The idea is that EHRs will lead to better care—and better research data—through more complete and accurate record-keeping, and will eventually become part of health information exchanges (HIEs) with features like trend analysis and push-notifications. However, the mere installation of EHR software isn’t enough; we need not just cursory use but meaningful use of EHRs, and we need to ensure that the software being used meets certain standards of efficiency and security.

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Ticking all the boxes for a health care upgrade at Strata Rx

What is needed for successful reform of the health care system?

Here’s what we all know: that a data-rich health care future is coming our way. And what it will look like, in large outlines. Health care reformers have learned that no single practice will improve the system. All of the following, which were discussed at O’Reilly’s recent Strata Rx conference, must fall in place.

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Bringing the knowledge of best practices to the doctor’s point of care

Workflows, EHRS, and social networking

Impatience is said to be the stance of modern technology users, but a doctor sitting with a patient has good reason to be impatient. The afflicted person may be suffering from a condition where lost minutes could mean death, an amputated limb, or severe brain disfunction. Even if the patient’s condition is not so dire, there are probably a half dozen other people with painful complaints twiddling their thumbs in the waiting room while the doctor tries to guess at a course of treatment. And in the US today, guessing is often the only option.

Somewhere in the country, an expert has probably learned all about the medical condition at hand and even presented the solution at a conference. Relatively few medical crises are really new discoveries. But the current system of disseminating information through conferences, journals, and rotations, or even through newer media such as blogs and webinars, cannot reach the beleaguered doctor and patient at the point of care.

I got a glimpse of a solution in the book #SOCIALQI (which has an associate web site) by the multi-disciplinary biomedical researcher Brian McGowan. His first challenge to us is an assertion that the central problem holding back improvements in health care quality is the inadequate dissemination of knowledge. I could match this claim with several other urgent needs in the health care field: inconsistent and distorted recording of patient data, lack of standards for storage and data exchange, and resistance by doctors to patient engagement, to name a few. But McGowan’s first chapter makes a very persuasive argument: if the best practices of each site were instituted throughout the health care system, we’d save thousands of lives and drastically lower costs. Read more…

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Open source developers combine efforts in the health care field

A report from an Open Health Tools meeting

I had a chance to listen in a recent meeting of Open Health Tools, a trade association bringing together companies, academics, and standards bodies who create open source software tools for all stages of the health care field. Open Health Tools has been around since 2007 and is attracting some impressive new members. The achievements of this “ecosystem” (as they call it) may soon put to rest the dismissive attitude many people in health care have toward open source.

A Tough Location for a Procedure

Free and open source software has lots of barriers yet to overcome in health care, similar to but in a somewhat different configuration from the barriers in other fields where it has triumphed (government, finance, commerce). Liability is at the top of everyone’s mind in health care. They have to be assured that J. Random Hacker has not just checked in a poorly tested update to the program they’re installing on their ICU monitoring station. There are many responsible stewards of open source EHRs (several packagers of the VA’s VistA project, as just one example, have spoken at our Open Source Convention) but the buyers have to understand better what is entailed in vetting and maintaining open source software.

Health care providers, outside of research institutions with technically adventurous staff, also prefer turn-key solutions. These to some extent are deceiving, because every institution needs to customize the software heavily for its own needs, and many regret the proprietary solutions they’ve tied themselves to when they find out how hard (sometimes beyond anyone’s definition of feasibility) or costly the customizations are. They are still afraid of open source’s fluidity, however. Read more…

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Challenge to Meaningful Use by House leaders highlights difficulty of asking incumbents to be innovators

Working too closely with an industry can undercut innovation

Four leading members of the House Ways and Means Committee tore away last Thursday at the polite, cautious, incremental approach that the Department of Health and Human Service has been taking toward key goals of HITECH act that was meant to drag health care into the 21st century.

Specifically, the House leaders signaled their disappointment at the Stage 2 Meaningful Use rules, promulgated last August by the Office of the National Coordinator and the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The Congressmen isolate certain rules that appear to be less stringent than Stage 1, point out that the key goals of interoperability and data exchange are weak, and most notably ask for a total stop to payments made to health care providers under Meaningful Use.

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Report from HIMSS: health care tries to leap the chasm from the average to the superb

HIMSS has promoted good causes, but only recently has it addressed cost, interoperability, and open source issues that can allow health IT to break out of the elite of institutions large or sophisticated enough to adopt the right practices.

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David Blumenthal lauds incrementalism at forum on electronic health records

The former National Coordinator spoke at a health care forum in Boston yesterday. The biggest plea from the audience was for more time with patients–a focus not on meaningful use but on meaningful contact.

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Indivo X personal health record: an interview with Daniel Haas of Children’s Hospital

Indivo is an open-source Personal Health Record (PHR) system. Last month, Andy Oram interviewed Daniel Haas of Children's Hospital about this project, which Haas will present at OSCON.

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Algorithms are the new medical tests

Algorithms are the new medical tests

How data and algorithms help doctors make use of real-time data.

Predictive Medical Technologies says its new system can use real-time, intensive care unit monitoring data to predict cardiac arrest and other events up to 24 hours ahead of time. CEO Bryan Hughes discusses the system and the application of diagnostic data in this interview.

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