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Hospital Patient Identification Still A Major Problem

Posted on April 18, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

A new survey suggests that problems with duplicate patient records and patient identification are still costing hospitals a tremendous amount of money.

The survey, which was conducted by Black Book Research, collected responses from 1,392 health technology managers using enterprise master patient index technology. Researchers asked them what gaps, challenges and successes they’d seen in patient identification processes from Q3 2017 to Q1 2018.

Survey respondents reported that 33% of denied claims were due to inaccurate patient identification. Ultimately, inaccurate patient identification cost an average hospital $1.5 million last year. It also concluded that the average cost of duplicate records was $1,950 per patient per inpatient stay and more than $800 per ED visit.

In addition, researchers found that hospitals with over 150 beds took an average of more than 5 months to clean up their data. This included process improvements focused on data validity checking, normalization and data cleansing.

Having the right tools in place seemed to help. Hospitals said that before they rolled out enterprise master patient index solutions, an average of 18% of their records were duplicates, and that match rates when sharing data with other organizations averaged 24%.

Meanwhile, hospitals with EMPI support in place since 2016 reported that patient records were identified correctly during 93% of registrations and 85% of externally shared records among non-networked provider.

Not surprisingly, though, this research doesn’t tell the whole story. While using EMPI tools makes sense, the healthcare industry should hardly stop there, according to Gartner Group analyst Wes Rishel.

“We simply need innovators that have the vision to apply proven identity matching to the healthcare industry – as well as the gumption and stubbornness necessary to thrive in a crowded and often slow-moving healthcare IT market,” he wrote.

Wishel argues that to improve patient matching, it’s time to start cross-correlating demographic data from patients with demographic data from third-party sources, such as public records, credit agencies or telephone companies, what makes this data particularly helpful is that it includes not just current and correct attributes for person, but also out-of-date and incorrect attributes like previous addresses, maiden names and typos.

Ultimately, these “referential matching” approaches will significantly outperform existing probabilistic models, Wishel argues.

It’s really shocking that so many healthcare organizations don’t have an EMPI solution in place. This is especially true as cloud EMPI has made EMPI solutions available to organizations of all sizes. EMPI is needed for the financial reasons mentioned above, but also from a patient care and patient safety perspective as well.

Hospital Mobile Device Initiatives Can Improve Patient Satisfaction

Posted on April 17, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Without a doubt, hospitals have many reasons to implement mobile technology, which can offer everything from improved communications to logistical support. But the benefits of these rollouts may offer more than operational benefits. At least according to data gathered by the following survey, hospital mobile initiatives almost always improve patient experience and satisfaction.

The study, conducted by Vanson Bourne on behalf of Apple-based mobile device management company Jamf, draws on a survey of 600 global healthcare IT decision-makers based in the US, the Netherlands, France, Germany and the United Kingdom. Respondents worked in both private and public healthcare organizations.

Researchers found that 96% of healthcare IT decision-makers currently implementing a mobile device initiative felt that it had a positive impact on patient experiences and satisfaction. Also, 32% reported that they saw a significant increase in patient experience scores.

The survey also found that among institutions currently implementing or planning to implement a mobile device initiative, the devices are most likely used in nurses stations (72%), administrative offices (63%) and patient rooms (56%). In addition, survey participants anticipate that mobile device use will expand to both clinical care teams (59%) and administrative staff (54%). What’s more, 47% of respondents said they plan to increase mobile device use in their institution of the next two years.

To exert better control over these efforts, hospitals can leverage a mobile device management solution. However, the survey found that only 48% of healthcare IT decision-makers had full confidence in their MDM solution’s capacity to do its job. That’s down from 59% in 2016.

Also, as data sharing increases via mobile devices and apps, data security becomes even more important. However, many health IT leaders aren’t sure they can pull this off. Their biggest challenges included data privacy (54%), security/compliance (51%) and keeping software properly patched (40%).

But they don’t think MDM tools can solve the problem. Ninety-five percent of respondents said their current MDM solution could stand to offer better security options, and almost a third (31%) of respondents thinking about mobile device initiatives were holding off because they weren’t sure they could secure the devices adequately.

Unfortunately, the health IT world seems to have made little progress in securing mobile devices over the past year. In a similar Jamf study conducted last year, 88% of respondents were concerned about managing security, data privacy (77%) and blocking inappropriate employee use (49%).

Health Orgs Were In Talks To Collect SDOH Data From Facebook

Posted on April 9, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

These days, virtually everyone in healthcare has concluded that integrating social determinants of health data with existing patient health information can improve care outcomes. However, identifying and collecting useful, appropriately formatted SDOH information can be a very difficult task. After all, in most cases it’s not just lying around somewhere ripe for picking.

Recently, however, Facebook began making the rounds with a proposal that might address the problem. While the research initiative has been put on hold in light of recent controversy over Facebook’s privacy practices, my guess is that the healthcare players involved will be eager to resume talks if the social media giant manages to calm the waters.

According to CNBC, Facebook was talking to healthcare organizations like Stanford Medical School and American College of Cardiology, in addition to several other hospitals, about signing a data-sharing agreement. Under the terms of the agreement, the healthcare organizations would share anonymized patient data, which Facebook planned to match up with user data from its platform.

Facebook’s proposal will sound familiar to readers of this site. It suggested combining what a health system knows about its patients, such as their age, medication list and hospital admission history, with Facebook-available data such as the user’s marital status, primary language and level of community involvement.

The idea would then be to study, with an initial focus on cardiovascular health, whether this combined data could improve patient care, something its prospective partners seem to think possible. The CNBC story included a gushing statement from American College of Cardiology interim CEO Cathleen Gates suggesting that such data sharing could create revolutionary results. According to Gates, the ACC believes that mixing anonymized Facebook data with anonymized ACC data could help greatly in furthering scientific research on how social media can help in preventing and treating heart disease.

As the business site notes, the data would not include personally identifiable information. That being said, Facebook proposed to use hashing to match individuals existing in both data sets. If the project were to have gone forward, Facebook might’ve shared data on roughly 87 million users.

Looked at one way, this arrangement could raise serious privacy questions. After all, healthcare organizations should certainly exercise caution when exchanging even anonymized data with any outside organization, and with questions still lingering on how willing Facebook is to lock data down projects like this become even riskier.

Still, under the right circumstances, Facebook could prove to be an all but ideal source of comprehensive, digitized SDOH data. Well now, arguably, might not be the time to move ahead, hospitals should keep this kind of possibility in mind.

Study Offers EHR-Based Approach To Predicting Post-Hospital Opioid Use

Posted on March 27, 2018 I Written By

Sunny is a serial entrepreneur on a mission to improve quality of care through data science. Sunny’s last venture docBeat, a healthcare care coordination platform, was successfully acquired by Vocera communications. Sunny has an impressive track record of Strategy, Business Development, Innovation and Execution in the Healthcare, Casino Entertainment, Retail and Gaming verticals. Sunny is the Co-Chair for the Las Vegas Chapter of Akshaya Patra foundation (www.foodforeducation.org) since 2010.

With opioid abuse a raging epidemic in the United States, hospitals are looking for effective ways to track and manage opioid treatment effectively. In an effort to move in this direction, a group of researchers has developed a model which predicts the likelihood of future chronic opioid use based on hospital EHR data.

The study, which appears in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, notes that while opioids are frequently prescribed in hospitals, there has been little research on predicting which patients will progress to chronic opioid therapy (COT) after they are discharged. (The researchers defined COT as when patients were given a 90-day supply of opioids with less than a 30-day gap in supply over a 180-day period or receipt of greater than 10 opioid prescriptions during the past year.)

To address this problem, researchers set out to create a statistical model which could predict which hospitalized patients would end up on COT who had not been on COT previously. Their approach involved doing a retrospective analysis of EHR data from 2008 to 2014 drawn from records of patients hospitalized in an urban safety-net hospital.

The researchers analyzed a wide array of variables in their analysis, including medical and mental health diagnoses, substance and tobacco use, chronic or acute pain, surgery during hospitalization, having received opioid or non-opioid analgesics or benzodiazepines during the past year, leaving the hospital with opioid prescriptions and milligrams of morphine equivalents prescribed during their hospital stay.

After conducting the analysis, researchers found that they could predict COT in 79% of patients, as well as predicting when patients weren’t on COT 78% of the time.

Being able to predict which patients will end up on COT after discharge could prove to be a very effective tool. As the authors note, using EHR data to create such a predictive model could offer many benefits, particularly the ability to identify patients at high risk for future chronic opioid use.

As the study notes, if clinicians have this information, they can offer early patient education on pain management strategies and where possible, wean them off of opioids before discharging them. They’ll also be more likely to consider incorporating alternative pain therapies into their discharge planning.

While this data is exciting and provides great opportunities, we need to be careful how we use this information. Done incorrectly it could cause the 21% who are misidentified as at risk for COT to end up needing COT. It’s always important to remember that identifying those at risk is only the first challenge. The second challenge is what do you do with that data to help those at risk while not damaging those who are misidentified as at risk.

One issue the study doesn’t address is whether data on social determinants of health could improve their predictions. Incorporating both SDOH and patient-generated data might lend further insight into their post-discharge living conditions and solidify discharge planning. However, it’s evident that this model offers a useful approach on its own.

Hospitals Centralizing Telemedicine, But EMR Integration Is Still Tough

Posted on March 26, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Over the past few years, large healthcare providers have begun to offer their patients telemedicine options. In the past, they offered these services on an ad-hoc basis, but that seems to be changing. A new survey suggests that hospitals and health systems have begun to manage this telemedicine service lines to a central office rather than letting individual departments decide how to deliver virtual care.

The survey, which was conducted by REACH Health, polled more than 400 healthcare executives, physicians and nurses as well as other healthcare professionals. REACH, which offers enterprise telemedicine systems, has been conducting research on the telemedicine business for several years.

Forty-eight percent of respondents to the REACH Health 2018 Telemedicine Industry Benchmark Survey reported that they coordinated telemedicine services on enterprise-level, up from 39% last year. Meanwhile, 26% said that individual departments handled their own telemedicine services, down from 36% in 2017.

The providers that are taking an enterprise approach seem to have a good reason for doing so. When it analyzed the survey data, REACH concluded that organizations offering telemedicine at the enterprise level were 30% more likely to be highly successful. (Not that the company would draw any other conclusion, of course, but it does seem logical that coordinating telehealth would be more efficient.)

The survey also found that telemedicine programs provided by both behavioral health organizations and clinics have expanded rapidly over the last few years. Back in 2015, REACH found that many behavioral health providers and clinics were at the planning stages or new to delivering telemedicine, but according to the 2018 results, many now have active telemedicine programs in place, with clinic services expanding 37% and behavioral health 40%.

While healthcare organizations may be managing telemedicine centrally, their EMRs don’t seem adequate to the job. First, most survey respondents noted that the telemedicine platform wasn’t integrated with the EMR. Meanwhile, nearly half said they were documenting patient visits in the EMR after remote consultations had ended. In addition, more than one-third of respondents said that EMR doesn’t allow them to analyze telemedicine-specific metrics adequately.

Whether REACH’s solution solves the problem or not, I’m pretty sure they’re right that integrating telemedicine services data with an EMR remains difficult.

In fact, it seems obvious to me that while hospitals are still tweaking their programs for maximum impact, and getting paid for such services is still an issue, telemedicine won’t become a completely mature service line until collecting related data and integrating it with off-line patient care information is easy and efficient.

 

Health Leaders Say Automating Patient Engagement Efforts Will Have Major Impact

Posted on March 12, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Over the last few years, many vendors have rolled out products designed to engage patients further in their care. According to a new study, these solutions may be just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, many healthcare executives see patient-facing, engagement-enhancing technology as critical to the future of healthcare, according to a new study.

The study, by the World Business Group, focuses on technology that can link patients with care in between visits to their primary care center. Patient engagement technologies, which they call “automated care,” have the potential to bridge such gaps by providing AI-based assistance to consumers.

The survey, which was also backed by Conversa Health, drew on direct interviews and survey responses from 134 health execs. The researchers looked at how those execs viewed automated healthcare technologies, how these technologies might be used and whether respondents plan to adopt them.

Respondents were clearly very enthusiastic about these tools. Nearly all (98%) said they believed automated healthcare will be important in creating a continuous, collaborative relationship with providers. The survey also found that 87% of respondents felt that automated healthcare will be helpful in getting patients to engage with their own care.

The next step, of course, is throwing resources at the problem — and it’s happening. Seventy-nine percent of survey respondents said they expected to work on integrating automated healthcare in their organization within the next two years. Also, 44% said that they had a chief patient experience officer or other executive with an equivalent title on board within their organization. This development is fairly new, however, as 40% of these organizations said that the role has existed for two years or less.

Meanwhile, several respondents felt that automating patient healthcare could generate a positive feedback loop. Forty-nine percent of those surveyed reported that they were either integrating or have already integrated patient-generated health data, which they expect, in turn, to integrate into the patient experience efforts.

Among organizations working with patient-generated health data, 73% were gathering patient health histories, 64% treatment histories, 59% lifestyle or social data, 52% symptoms data, and 32% biometric data.

Thirty percent said they were beginning to integrate such data and collect it work effectively, 28% said they could collect some PGHD but had trouble integrating with their systems, 14% said they were just beginning to collect such data and 9% said they were not able to collect this data at all. Just 19% reported they were fully able to collect integrate PGHD and use it to improve patient experiences.

All told, it appears we’re on the cusp of a major change in the role patient services play in provider outreach. It will probably be a few more years before we have a good idea of where all this is headed, but my guess is that it’s heading somewhere useful.

#HIMSS18: Pushing Inpatient Care Out

Posted on March 9, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

At present, we need acute care hospitals. Despite the fact that many types of care can now be delivered in outpatient settings, and chronic conditions managed remotely for connected health, there are still some treatments and procedures which can only be done in a big, expensive building.

That being said, some of what I saw at HIMSS18 has convinced me that the drive to push hospital-type services into the community has begun to pick up speed. While nobody seems to have a completely mature solution to decentralizing acute care, I saw some tools that might begin to solve the problem.

Perhaps the most direct example of this trend was offered by a Taiwanese company called Quanta Computer. (The booth was staffed with five company representatives who had flown here all the way from Taiwan, which may suggest that they are not fooling around.)

Quanta was here to pitch QOCA, whose capabilities include offering a “smart hospital at home.”  QOCA Home, an eldercare/assisted living solution including a central, easy to use terminal supporting a wide range of telehealth and connected health services. While the idea is not completely new, the way this blends a smart home approach with connected health intrigued me.

Other vendors took a different approach to some of the same core problems, i.e. managing the patient effectively outside of the hospital. For most exhibitors, this seemed to involve a blend of connected health, care management and patient/provider collaboration.

For example, vendor Virtual Health promises to deliver “whole person health” by tying together providers, healthcare execs, patients and care coordinators. Two points of interest: its solution include a collaborative workflow tool which seems to include patients, something I don’t believe I’ve seen before. Its platform, which is designed to support patients with highly complex medical needs, also addresses social determinants of health, including financial concerns and nutrition.

Now, I’m not here to tell you that any of this is revolutionary. The industry has been kicking around concepts like virtual hospital care, care coordination platforms and the integration of social determinants of health for quite some time, and I’m not suggesting that any of the vendors I saw seem to be all the way there.

Still, what I saw suggests to me that tech vendors are further along in delivering these options than they have been. If you haven’t looked into new platforms that address these issues, now might be the time. They may not be completely ready for prime time, but they’re well on their way.

E-Patient Update:  Patients And Families Need Reassurance During EMR Rollouts

Posted on March 5, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Sure, EMR rollouts are stressful for hospital staffers and clinicians. No matter how well you plan, there will still be some gritted teeth and slammed keyboards as they get used to the new system. Some will afraid that they can’t get their job done right and live in fear of making a clinical mistake. All that said, if your rollout is gradual and careful, and your training process is thorough, it’s likely everyone will adjust to the new platform quickly.

The thing is, these preparations leave out two very important groups: patients and their families. What’s more, the problem is widespread. As a chronically ill patient, I visit more hospitals than most people, and I’ve never seen any effective communication that educates patients about the role of the EMR in their care. I particularly remember one otherwise excellent hospital that decorated its walls with asinine posters reading “Epic is here!” I can’t see how that could possibly help staff members make the transition, much less patients and family members.

This has got to change. Hospital IT will always be evolving, but when patients are swept up in and confused by these changes, it distorts everything that’s important in healthcare.

Needless fear

A recent experience my mother had exemplifies this problem. She has been keeping watch over my brother Joseph, who is critically ill with the flu and in an induced coma. For the first few days, as my brother gradually improved, my mother felt very satisfied with the way the clinical staff was handling his case.

Not long after, however, someone informed her that the hospital’s new Epic system was being deployed that day. Apparently, nobody explained what that really meant for her or my brother, and she felt that the ICU nurses and doctors were moving a bit more slowly during the first day or two of the launch. I wasn’t there, but I suspect that she was right.

Of course, if things go well, over the long run the Epic system will fade into the background and have no importance to patients and their families. But that day or two when the rollout came and staff seemed a bit preoccupied, it scared the heck out of her.

Keeping patients in the loop

Don’t get me wrong: I understand why this hospital didn’t do more to educate and reassure my mother. I suspect administrators wouldn’t know how to go about it, and probably feel they don’t they have time to do it. The idea is foreign. After all, communicating with patients about enterprise health IT certainly isn’t standard operating procedure.

But isn’t it time to involve patients in the game? I’m not just talking about consumer-facing technology, but any technology that could reasonably affect their experience and sense of comfort with the care they’re receiving.

Yes, educating patients and families about enterprise IT changes that affect them is probably out of most health IT leaders’ comfort zones. But truthfully, that’s no excuse for inaction. Launching an Epic system isn’t inside-baseball process — it affects everyone who visits the hospital. Come on, folks, let’s get this right.

Recent Acquisitions are Changing the Healthcare Software Landscape

Posted on February 26, 2018 I Written By

For the past twenty years, I have been working with healthcare organizations to implement technologies and improve business processes. During that time, I have had the opportunity to lead major transformation initiatives including implementation of EHR and ERP systems as well as design and build of shared service centers. I have worked with many of the largest healthcare providers in the United States as well as many academic and children's hospitals. In this blog, I will be discussing my experiences and ideas and encourage everyone to share your own as well in the comments.

Customers of many software solution have been nervously watching their solutions change hands, leading to increased concerns about the future of those products. Most recently, Allscripts surprised the industry first with the acquisition of Mckesson’s software solutions and now with the purchase of Practice Fusion. Last year, Hyland purchased the Perceptive and Brainware software products from Kofax, and now has purchased Mckesson OneContent from Allscripts. What do these changes mean for the industry and how should owners of these products react to their critical solutions changing hands?

Mergers and acquisitions are nothing new to the software industry. Epic, with its policy of developing entirely in-house and not acquiring other solutions, is the exception, not the rule. For most software companies, acquiring mature solutions to expand into a new market or to acquire customers is a standard method of growth. However, the recent rapid-fire acquisitions in the EHR and document imaging spaces have surprised many customers of those products.

McKesson announced the sunset of their Horizon clinical products years ago, positioning Paragon as its replacement. Yet that is only one of their package of solutions which includes OneContent for document imaging, STAR for billing, Relay Health for claims, Pathways for ERP, and others, many of which are all in use together at some hospitals. When Mckesson sold out its products to Allscripts, many questions came up about the future of those products.

When that deal was done, Allscripts gave the first hint of the product future by announcing that Mckesson Paragon would be their solution for smaller hospitals. That suggested the focus would be on Allscripts, not Paragon, as their go-forward solution. Now with the sale of OneContent to Hyland, Allscripts appears to be divesting itself of some of the Mckesson solutions. Others may soon follow.

Perceptive software was sold to Lexmark many years ago, which in turn acquired Kofax and then the solution was sold to its largest competitor, Hyland. Hyland, which is the developer of the Onbase product, now has purchased OneContent, and now has the customers of three large providers of document imaging solutions all under one roof.

How long will it make sense for them to continue to enhance three different competing solutions? While support may last for many years, there will be limitations to what they will enhance in these older solutions to avoid dividing up R&D resources and creating market confusion.

Allscripts now has a large number of older Mckesson solutions that it will have to evaluate and determine their future. While Practice Fusion may serve as a solution for smaller clinics who would not be candidates for Allscripts, Mckesson’s Paragon product is a direct competitor to Allscripts. Other solutions such as Pathways may simply not be worth further investment and may be outside of Allscript’s core mission.

Hospitals that currently have any solutions whose future is in doubt should start to evaluate their options and consider what is in their long-term interest. Each vendor will likely offer attractive paths to transition to their preferred solution, and it may be best to take advantage of those options early to give sufficient time to make the change.

Change is never easy. The employees of these organizations are going through significant change as are the users of these solutions. However, healthcare technology leaders should always be looking ahead to what’s next and be prepared for change – for change is the only thing that we are guaranteed.

Intermountain Readies Tests For Hereditary Cancer Syndromes

Posted on February 23, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Intermountain Healthcare has begun the process of validating and launching several tests designed to identify disease-causing hereditary genetic patterns. The work will be done through Intermountain Precision Genomics, which analyzes a patient’s genetic makeup. The data is then used by a team of molecular tumor specialists to plan a patient’s specialized course of treatment.

In a prepared statement, Intermountain notes that one area in which genetic testing can be particularly fruitful is in women with a history of breast and ovarian cancer. The statement cites a study noting that fewer than one in five individuals with a family history of breast cancer or ovarian cancer meeting certain guidelines have undergone genetic testing. Moreover, most have never discussed testing with a healthcare provider.

In its efforts, Intermountain hopes to find both individuals previously diagnosed with cancer and healthy individuals with hereditary cancer gene mutations. When these individuals get genetic counseling and testing, it sets the stage for them to get more frequent cancer screenings at younger ages, which in turn leads to critical early detection and treatment of many of these cancers.

In investing heavily in cancer prediction and treatment, Intermountain is hardly alone. What once was at best a specialty practice by cancer-specific hospitals is quickly becoming mainstream.

The practice of screening women for genetic triggers that might boost the risk of certain cancers has moved quickly from idea to action among hospitals. I don’t have a number to hand, but I remember reading that it can take decades before a scientific discovery in healthcare actually impacts patients.  Clearly, the growth of precision medicine is a dramatic exception.

Given the increasing benefits to be had from genetic testing and targeted treatment, we are seeing nothing less than an explosion in awareness and investment. Not surprisingly, hospitals are jumping into the market with both feet as, to be a bit crass, there’s a lot of money in effectively treating cancer.

Of course, some of the buzz around precision medicine may turn out to be just that, buzz. As my colleague has pointed out, EMR systems weren’t built to enable precision medicine, but rather, billing engines. He also notes that these systems aren’t built for real-time availability of data analytics, which makes it hard to use them for personalized medicine. As he puts it, “I’ve heard precision medicine defined as a puzzle with 3 billion pieces.”

Still, as a middle-aged lady with a history of cancer in her family, these developments give me hope. Someday, genetic testing like Intermountain’s will improve my care should I ever face breast or ovarian cancer. If nothing else, we are off to a good start.