Monday, October 27, 2014

Medical Technology Needs Better Apps… Stat!

Patients will expect hospitals to solve IT problems
that can add costs and stifle disclosure. Credit: Flickr/Jason Howie  

Patients are increasingly tech savvy but hospitals need to pick up their pace.

Easy access to health care data is critical. But as
hospitals move to adopt new gadgets and systems that promise to make
them work faster and better, too often medical teams are instead stuck
working with a patchwork of old and new technology that doesn’t save
time, money or sanity.

In September, West Health CEO Nick Valeriani sounded an alarm over the state of medical technology in the U.S. In an op-ed
for MedCity News, the former Johnson & Johnson executive wrote,
“healthcare workers spend, on average, a third of their time
transcribing data from medical devices because most machines don’t share
data.” He reported that the nation pays more than $30 billion annually
because of laborious information transfers from instruments such as a
blood pressure gauge or thermometer to a patient’s electronic health
record (EHR).

Nurses feel left out, too

Valeriani isn’t the only one dissatisfied with the status quo. The data comparison firm Black Book polled
13,650 registered nurses and found 85 percent reported struggling daily
with their hospitals’ EHR systems. Still more reported feeling excluded
from decisions relating to their hospitals’ EHR systems — even though
they are the primary users.

“Healthcare workers spend, on average, a third of their
time transcribing data from medical devices because most machines don’t
share data”
There’s another digital divide. Outside the walls of hospitals,
consumers turn to a wealth of online medical information — much of it
now reliable and well-sourced — for prevention or self-education before
contacting a medical professional. Your fitness tracker might connect to
an app, which connects to a personal health record that keeps all of
your vital stats and emergency information and allows you to share it
with relatives and doctors. Patients are left wondering when their
medical offices will ditch that clipboard and catch up.

Hospitals and health organizations alike are beginning to take on
that challenge and improve communication between devices, and between
doctors and patients, with easy-access communication systems, medical
monitoring tools and mobile technology.

The proliferation of mobile devices like tablets and increasingly
tablet-like smart phones has sparked creation of tools that can change
how, and how often, doctors and patients visit. As the efficiency and
transparency of medical information grows, the costs of services are
better controlled.

Smart Pill Bottles

On such company is AdhereTech,
which developed smart, wireless pill bottles that track whether
patients are sticking to their prescribed pill regimen. That gives
doctors more accurate, real time information, reminds patients to
actually take their pills or get more, and ultimately saves hospitals
money. Sotera Wireless’ Visi Mobile
System includes a wearable touch screen monitor that sends real-time
vital sign statistics such as pulse rate, blood pressure and temperature
to clinicians.

One of the leaders in improving records access for medical providers
and patients alike is is Seattle-based Group Health Cooperative. It’s a
non-profit insurance and health care system that been hailed as a model nationwide, in part for developing a cohesive health records system that includes the patient service,
Group Health members use it to make appointments, review their medical
history, test results and prescriptions, and to talk with their doctors
via email and see what upcoming wellness checks they need.

Open Notes
is a national initiative to give patients free access to the notes their
doctors write via online portals. “The clinical note has historically
been a way for doctors to communicate amongst themselves about patient
care; the notes were not written with patient viewing in mind,” says
Joann Elmore, M.D., MPH, professor at the University of Washington
School of Medicine and Harborview Medical Center. “Before electronic
notes were available, patients had to jump through hoops to get their

Putting doctors’ notes online

Three hospitals, in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Washington,
participated in an initial 12-month study, in which patients reported
that as a result of being able to read doctors’ notes online, they felt
more in control of their care, better understood their health
conditions, better recalled their care plan and were likely to take
their medications as prescribed

Elmore says that doctors were initially less enthusiastic about the
idea of Open Notes, worrying it would create more work. “Many of us are
already struggling with the ever-increasing workload of documentation
and having to type notes and navigate the electronic health record
systems. However, after the 12-month experiment, doctors were
re-surveyed and reported that OpenNotes had much less impact on their
work flow than they anticipated.” Ninety-nine percent of patients wanted
to continue sharing visit notes.

The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act
has been nudging electronic medical records open for several years,
encouraging hospitals to use online electronic medical records and
requiring them to allow patients to request and get their information

But it doesn’t address how systems can talk to each other, leaving
medical professionals frustrated and private companies inventing ever
more groundbreaking devices — while more patients shop between systems
and keep and manage their own medical data.

| The Open Standard

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