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Health IT And Job Security

Hospitals nationwide are racing against the clock to ensure their health IT systems meet meaningful use guidelines. The incentive? Money, of course. Systems that meet certain criteria make doctors eligible for up to $44,000 in bonus money from the government.

As mentioned on this blog previously, implementing an electronic health system is difficult. The usability of the current generation of electronic health records (EHRs) is still relatively primitive, especially when compared to other industries, and the disruption in workflow is undeniable. Worse, there seems to be a lack of trained IT professionals to do the job.

In a recent piece from American Medical News:

60% of hospital IT executives believe tech staffing shortages, which some estimate to be a shortfall of 50,000 qualified IT professionals, will definitely or possibly affect their chances to achieve meaningful use.

It’s a problem. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at KevinMD.com*

Too Much Data: Can It Overwhelm Doctors And Harm Patients?

One of the supposed strengths of electronic medical records is better tracking of test data. In theory, when using more sophisticated digital systems, doctors can better follow the mountains of test results that they encounter daily.

But a recent study, as written in the WSJ Health Blog, says otherwise. Apparently, a study performed in 2007 found:

VA doctors failed to acknowledge receipt of 368 electronically transmitted alerts about abnormal imaging tests, or one third of the total, during the study period. In 4% of the cases, imaging-test results hadn’t been followed up on four weeks after the test was done. Another study, published in March in the American Journal of Medicine, showed only 10.2% of abnormal lab test results were unacknowledged, but timely follow-up was lacking in 6.8% of cases.

Consider that the VA has what is considered the pinnacle of electronic systems — their unified, VistA program that permeates all their hospitals and clinics. Apparently the problem is one of alert overload:

Hardeep Singh, chief of the health policy and quality program at the Houston VA’s health and policy research center, led both studies. He tells the Health Blog that doctors now receive so many electronic alerts and reminders — as many as 50 each day — that the important ones can get lost in the shuffle.

This is not unlike the alarm fatigue issue that I recently wrote about. Too much data — whether it is written or on the screen — can overwhelm physicians and potentially place patients at harm. Curating test results by prioritizing abnormals will really be the true power of electronic test reporting.

*This blog post was originally published at KevinMD.com*

Electronic Medical Records, ER Wait Times, And The Medical Blogosphere

Here’s a confession: Despite my steadfast advocacy of medical blogging as a means to promote understanding and education, I continue worry a lot about professional liability. Not just whether the things I write could hurt my career, but, in terms of academic output, is blogging a waste of time? What view does my department’s leadership take on blogging?

Still, I’ve continued to support medical blogging as a useful academic endeavor, hoping that someday this support would be borne out. When sites like Sermo and Facebook came along, I despaired that more physician opinions were going to be hidden behind walled gardens, available only to select colleagues or friends.

Then, last week, some revelations — I discovered a member of my department’s leadership was blogging, or at least, had commented on a  blog. How about that! The other revelation? Facebook may be the last great hope for academic discussions to flourish on blogs.

This all arose from a pretty academic question about emergency department implementation of electronic medical records. Does the degree of implementation (full, partial, or none) impact patient wait times in the emergency department? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Blogborygmi*

Electronic Medical Records: What Is “Meaningful Use?”

Quiz:  What does the term “meaningful use” mean?

A.  Using something in a way that gives life purpose and leads to carefree days of glee.

B.  It depends on your definition of the word “term.”

C.  It’s not mean. It’s really nice.

D.  A large number of rules created by the government to assess a practice’s use of electronic medical records (EMRs) so that they can spur adoption, give criteria for incentive rewards, and have physicians in a place where care can be measured.

E.  Job security for those making money off of health IT.

The answer, of course, is D and E. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Musings of a Distractible Mind*

Medical Information Shared Machine-To-Machine

Check out John Halamka’s post on some of the excellent work one of the workgroups convened by the feds is doing. Here’s the complete quote:

Imagine if every EHR could send data to every other EHR using a simple addressing mechanism like email, a consistent REST implementation or a well described SOAP WSDL. Interoperability would follow rapidly because novel packages of data will be sent to support real business needs without any barriers of how to get the data from endpoint to endpoint.

The “addressing” part of the NHIN (Nationwide Health Information Network) Direct specifications is almost complete. The “implementation” workgroup is part of the fast moving NHIN Direct project which is developing lightweight standards for machine-to-machine communication of medical information. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at a few thoughts from a tumor surgeon*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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