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Technologies Hospital Leaders Should Watch

Courtesy of non-profit research house the ECRI Institute, here’s some of technologies that they believe hospital C-suite execs should be watching this year. This list was generated by ECRI’s in-house analysts, reports HealthLeaders. Not all of these are directly related to EMR/EHR technology, but we’ve included a few that might be of interest on the broader HIT level.

* Electronic Health Records: This is so obvious it hardly bears mentioning, but yes, EHRs are number one on the list. ECRI notes that execs should beware of possible patient harm in the effort to achieve Meaningful Use, as some HIT-related errors are emerging that can lead to serious care issues.

mHealth:  Mobile applications are becoming an increasingly commonplace part of health IT infrastructure, but managing them effectively isn’t as simple as download-install-use.  This is likely to be the year hospitals need to get it right.

Alarm Integration Technology:  Alarm fatigue has been and continues to be a major issue for clinicians, with some critical care docs experiencing 350 alarms  per patient per day.  Increasingly, alarm integration systems are being implemented which send alerts to phones or pages, leading to more controllable alerts and quieter environments.

Imaging and Surgery:  ORs are increasingly hosting full-scale angiography systems to help guide high-risk minimally invasive surgery, as well as guiding combined open and minimally invasive surgery and verifying successful surgical completion. These hybrid ORs are expensive but have arguably improved results.

* PET/MR:  The PET/MR scanner is beginning to emerge as a new mainstay in oncology, improving on the results delivered for years by the hybrid PET/CR. The PET/MR offers greater detail, helping physicians detect cancers and tumors.

I would have expected to see something on the data analytics technology front to appear this year, but it was absent from the list. I might also have expected to see cloud solutions turn up, but again, not this year.  What technologies would you add to this list?

March 29, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies.

Health IT Stands Out In Health Technology Hazards List

The ECRI Institute has just released its annual list of top 10 health technology hazards, and this year, two of the hazards are health IT related. This probably isn’t a surprise to anyone who reads this blog, but it’s still worth noting, as it’s easy to get embroiled in abstract IT discussions and forget concrete patient risks, wouldn’t you agree?

For context, here’s ECRI’s list for 2013 in its entirety:

1.  Alarm hazards
2.  Medication administration errors using infusion pumps
3.  Unnecessary radiation exposures and radiation burns
during diagnostic radiology procedures
4.  Patient/data mismatches in EHRs and other health IT
(HIT) systems
5.  Interoperability failures with medical devices and health
IT systems
6.  Air embolism hazards
7.  Inattention to the needs of pediatric patients when using “adult”
techniques
8.  Inadequate reprocessing of endoscopic devices and surgical
instruments
9.  Caregiver distractions from smartphones and
other mobile devices
10. Surgical fires

As you can see, two of the top five are EMR-related, and perhaps more importantly, are risks that don’t get discussed that often in health IT watering holes such as this publication.  But it’s hard to argue that patient/data mismatches could pose severe risks up to including death, as could interoperability problems between medical devices and healtlh IT systems.

While ECRI doesn’t, I’d also count number nine, mobile device distractions, as I’m betting much of the distraction clinicians face comes from clinical communication, not idle chatter.  And while I don’t know how ECRI ranks its choices, I’d bet it actually belongs higher on the list.

I’m not going to sound like much of a prophet when I predict that health IT  problems will take over more slots on the list over time.  For example, when infusion pumps are linked with EMRs, interchange of data will almost certainly become a life or death issue.

In the mean time, dealing with mobile device distraction may be the lowest hanging fruit of the bunch. I don’t know how to do it, but if a vendor comes up with a solution that elegantly streamlines doctor communication on mobile devices, it’s likely to be a big hit.

November 30, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies.

Providers Behind The Eight Ball On HIEs

ONCHIT is demanding them. Patients are beginning to understand them. But poor ol’ beleaguered HIEs still aren’t getting the attention they deserve, it seems.

A new survey by patient care organization ECRI Institute, done with strategic partner s2a, has concluded that while they understand the importance of HIEs, only 54 percent of providers have formally assessed their HIE and interoperability needs. (See the study here.)

Given the speed at which Meaningful Use data exchange requirements are barreling down on providers, that seems like a pretty low number to me.  After all, the final rule for MU Stage 2 requires providers to at least be able to electronically transmit a Summary care record using a certified EMR system or HIE for 10 percent or more of care transitions and referrals.

It’s also a pretty low number given that 93 percent of hospitals surveyed agreed that interoperability of health systems was one of their top strategic priorities.  Provider CIOs are well aware that getting HIE connectivity in play is a long and difficult process, and while they can’t do everything at once, one would assume that most providers would have a team in place to at least begin the assessments by this point.

The ECRI analysts conclude that two major factors are holding providers back:

*  Working with non-employed physicians:  For the moment, hospitals are focused largely on interoperability with their employed physicians, who typically use the same EMR as the facility does. Working with non-employed physicians is a major challenge for many reasons, including that they typically aren’t using the same EMR as the hospital.  There’s also legal issues that come into play: for example, what happens is non-employeds end up sharing data intended for Hospital B with Hospital A?

* Medical device connectivity:  Meaningful Use is putting great pressure on hospitals to exchange information between medical devices and EMRs.  However, interoperability even between a blood pressure cuff and and EMR is no picnic.  ECRI found that 40 percent of respondents hadn’t established policies and procedures for EMR interoperability with medical devices.

Of course, the sheer work and expense involved in becoming an HIE participant is immense, as well. Given those expenses, time demands, and the issues in connecting with physicians, I have to believe that a fair number of hospitals won’t be ready when Meaningful Use Stage 2 requirements hit.

October 4, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies.