November 28, 2012 By D. Craig MacCormack
Every prediction shows health care as the most rapidly growing market for A/V integrators looking to pad their coffers. In fact, InfoComm International executive director Randal Lemke pointed to health care as one that could grow $2.6 billion annually by 2015 on the first day of the inaugural Technology Crossroads Conference.
That optimism was tempered a bit on the second and final day of the gathering, co-sponsored by InfoComm and the National eHealth Collaborative.
While there are certainly exceptions, most in the health care space “don’t have the funds to have all the bells and whistles,” says Pam Cipriano, senior director at Galloway Consulting.
Nurses, she says, want smart devices that are easy to use, interoperable and integrated into the health care system. And while there have been “great strides in technology” with mobile devices, rapid access to images and patient self-monitoring, “we need a whole new generation of electronic health records,” says Cipriano.
With often-high and sometimes restrictive price tags, “technology needs to create efficiency and improve processes,” says Chantal Worzala, director of policy at the American Hospital Association.
Asked what he’d like to see changed in health care facilities, David Mortimer, care integration grant program manager for Hospital Sisters Health System, didn’t hesitate, holding up a fiber-optic cable.
“I wish we’d see more of these underground instead of so much copper running through all our buildings,” he says. “Concerns about return on investment slows the adoption of telemedicine and some of these other technologies.”
Jim Roselius, vision systems group manager at Panasonic, admits there’s often a disconnect between those in A/V and those in health care.
“The world of video doesn’t always understand the needs in health care,” he says. Surgeons often want high-definition equipment but don’t think about the higher costs associated with such an upgrade. There’s also been a proliferation of smaller equipment, even some disposable products, Roselius says, and A/V installers “have to listen a lot” to figure out whether a larger monitor will fit into a particular room.
“A lot of these tablets turn over every six months, but these managers want something with more stability. Our job is to bring the latest and best and work with the market. The technology has to be driven in the direction of personal preferences,” he says.
Ryan Witt, global healthcare director at Juniper Networks, says the industry “has been a laggard investor in technology and that needs to change. It’s about building the right architecture to put the patient at the center.” Witt admits, though, “not a lot of surgeons come out of the operating room talking about how a network connection saved a patient’s life.
“The networks being built today haven’t been built with this amount of data in mind and a lot of the devices we use today haven’t factored in the security implications,” he says.
Getting Patients Involved
Daniel Sands, who helped develop a patient portal more than a decade ago at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, says the health care industry has other technology-related problems too.
“We’re stuck on using phones and pagers, even though they’re not good tools for collaboration,” he says. He says most in the industry “do a lousy job of patient engagement” and need to emphasize care at a distance, adding, “we need to educate clinicians about the benefits of these technologies.”
“We need to be connecting with patients wherever and whenever they need care,” he says. Tom Reid, president of Reid Consulting Group, agrees, saying mobile technology and cloud computing can help engage patients in their own care.
The problem? “We’re implementing systems that are archaic before anyone gets to use them, and spending tens of millions of dollars to do it,” says Reid.
Medicare needs to update the “antiquated” way it looks at telemedicine, says Worzala, but she knows “it’s a challenge to change” because “Medicare is aware of the downstream costs.”