January 02, 2013 By D. Craig MacCormack
A/V systems integrators and health care professionals are still trying to figure out exactly how they can work together. While it won’t go down in history with the moon landing, we recently saw one giant leap forward in that effort in our nation’s capital, when InfoComm International and the National eHealth Collaborative (NeHC) got together for the first Technology Crossroads Conference.
The endeavor brought together some of the best minds in the A/V world with their health IT counterparts and got each side to think more about how they can help each other move forward.
The conference was about “the realities of making technology work and the realities of why it’s important,” says David Labuskes, new executive director and CEO of InfoComm. He spent the bulk of his career working on health care technology projects, he says, adding more impetus to the pairing.
“We can move now from the discussion of the Health Information Exchange to body monitoring in the OR,” says Labuskes. “All of it is bringing data alive to improve health care.”
Former InfoComm boss Randal Lemke, who retired at the end of 2012, pointed to health care as a market that’s ripe for A/V involvement, saying it could grow $2.6 billion annually by 2015.
NeHC CEO Kate Berry sees the conference as a chance to bring about “new opportunities for collaboration” between the groups.
“We’re at the point of transformation in health care,” says Berry. “Health IT, A/V and the Health Information Exchange are critical to that.”
Time to Embrace Technology
Technology is becoming an ever-more-critical piece of health care, even though there are still some holdouts who cling to the days of writing prescriptions on notepads and asking patients to fill out the same forms repeatedly, says Leslie Kelly Hall, senior vice president for policy at Healthwise.
“This will get more complex,” she says. “We have to learn languages we’ve never heard and work with systems we don’t know.” Hall estimates about 96 percent of health care happens at home and asks, “Shouldn’t we have better tools there?”
Hall criticized health care providers who continue to operate “isolated networks” behind the scenes. “Shame on you,” she says. “It’s not to the advantage of patients to work that way. The continuing notion of silos of data is irresponsible.”
The main drivers in the move to embrace technology in health care, says Rhode Island Quality Institute CEO Laura Adams, are “the toxicity of the payment system and the poor design of the delivery system.”
“There’s more technology involved in getting my Biggie at Wendy’s than in getting a prescription in my hand,” she says. “People are already in control of their own health, so we need to engage in their lives. We fail on some of the most basic communication structures in health care, and bad systems bring out the worst in good people. We’re struggling mightily to get everything digital.”
Even the organ donor transplant network remains largely manual, says Bryan Sivak, chief technology officer for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The same is true of the blood bank, although work is being done to make both electronic through the HHS Innovates program.
“The message (about technology) has been conveyed, but we’re still finding pockets of resistance,” says Sivak. “It’s about convincing people it’s OK to share information and release it. There’s a big gap between subject matter expertise and the ability to do anything about it. We have to start explaining things in a different way to bring more people into the tent and make health data as usable as other types of data.”