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HIMSS 2009

HIMSS 2009

In the boom leading up to sequencing of the human genome, genetics and legal experts debated the ownership of the data contained within the double helix. Now, as the U.S. readies for a surge into healthcare IT, a similar debate has broken out over EMRs. The outcome could be critical to making the best use of the huge amount of electronic medical information that the Obama Administration’s stimulus funding will create in the next few years.

Time is running out on Medicare, said economist Alan Greenspan in a keynote address to a capacity crowd at HIMSS09. Nearly 7000 attendees of the conference heard the former Fed Chairman explain how political expediency going back more than two decades ago led to the present-day inadequately funded federal healthcare program. Greenspan tagged healthcare IT as a possible means for getting out of this trouble.

There’s no more natural way to convey information than speech and arguably no more difficult interface or a computer to capture. Agfa has come up with a couple new twists to help. Viztek takes a swing at tighter integration between PACS and EMRs, while IT specialists include first responders in the chain of medical communications and refine ways for providers to keep on top of their financials.

The debate over “meaningful use” has begun. At stake is nothing less than the success of President Obama’s initiative to turn paper into electronic medical records.

The makers of electronic medical records have never been happier. For the first time, their technologies are glitzier than MRs and CTs. The federal government is gearing up to reimburse the use of HIT products with an entitlement program that will award fees similar to those given the users of high tech medical scanners. And the result could be an enormous boon to the adoption and use of healthcare IT. But as vendors get ready to slide new servers and archives into place, are they also unwittingly laying the plans for a trap door that will lead medical practice down a path no one would consciously choose?

The road to profit goes through a tiny burg called accuracy, which is sometimes harder to find than it should be. Vendors on the HIMSS09 exhibit floor offered their own kinds of medical GPS, some using off-the-shelf technologies spun up with a proprietary brand of software, others offering home brewed data handling techniques.

RIS and PACS vendors saw it coming a long time ago, a need to make data repositories work with IT the systems that drive workflow. The hybridization of RIS and PACS, preceded by interfaces that allowed the transfer of data between and among systems by different vendors, blazed a trail toward interoperability. This trail has now fanning out to super highway status to accommodate the spread of companies seeking to provide answers to IT questions that must be answered if the Obama initiative is to improve the efficiency of U.S. healthcare.

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