IT in Healthcare: Lagging or Innovating?

Adoption of HealthPresence will have immeasurable benefits

In the 1990s, I used to write practice management pieces for the American Medical News. Often, I explored ways information technology could make medical practices and healthcare, in general, more efficient.

While interviewing physicians and administrators, it was clear healthcare was significantly behind all other industries in its use of IT. Caregivers and administrators were set in their ways. Electronic Medical Records, the Internet, and in some cases, even using computer systems would only add to their complexity—or so they thought.

Fast-forward to 2010, and the healthcare industry has embraced IT, albeit not as quickly as other industries, such as financial services or pharmaceuticals. For example, only about 27% of healthcare organizations have begun to adopt unified communications, compared to 47% of all industries, according to Nemertes’ 2009 benchmark research.

Last week, two vendors made an effort to change that during the HIMSS conference. Avaya and Cisco launched products to improve patient care and hospital operations. Avaya announced UC applications, such as appointment reminders and mobile checkout in hospitals, to help with patient relationships. Cisco announced the Cisco HealthPresence platform, which leverages the vendor’s telepresence and unified communications offerings.

In summary, patients can take advantage of the expertise of multiple physicians while in a single exam room with a single caregiver. It’s more than point-to-point telemedicine, which has been around for several years. This allows multiple caregivers from various locations to view images, observe an exam or procedure, or consult with others in high-definition video. They also can listen to sounds from the tests and review other medical records in real-time.

Undoubtedly, adoption of HealthPresence will require robust networks and significant interoperability between healthcare providers. But the benefits of such capabilities for rural patient care, battlefield injuries, and consultations on life-and-death situations are immeasurable.

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Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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