Cisco chief exec presents glimpse of future laden with info tech tools

March 7, 2005

The future took center stage at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society conference in Dallas last month, when Cisco president and CEO John Chambers illustrated how information technology could change the practice of medicine.

The future took center stage at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society conference in Dallas last month, when Cisco president and CEO John Chambers illustrated how information technology could change the practice of medicine.

In a dramatization, Chambers showed how healthcare providers can increase productivity and improve care using applications such as telepresence, radio-frequency identification (RFID), Internet protocol telephony (IPT), and video running across a medical-grade intelligent information network.

"Within each of our homes within the next five years, we should have the capability for wireless broadband connectivity, giving us the ability to forward medical information remotely that we used to have to present at an emergency room," he said.

The dramatization showed how a physician, sitting at home in the living room, might be able to respond to a patient complaining about shortness of breath and chest pain. The patient, communicating with the physician over a network, described his symptoms while monitoring equipment acquired and transmitted vital signs.

The data led intelligent software, running on the network, to prompt the physician to drill down to a recent angiogram of the patient and pull images from the hospital PACS. At the hospital, the patient was attended by a remote presence robot and tracked using a bracelet outfitted with RFID chips containing patient information on allergies, blood type, and medications.

A Cisco technology unveiled at the company's HIMSS booth could guide this process. The Cisco e-Radiology suite of tools combines PACS applications with a network to bolster the transfer, access, and storage of medical images and patient data. The e-Radiology suite helps cut the cost of implementing and managing a PACS network by converging data, images, and voice onto a single infrastructure. The converged network supports integrated real-time video image consultation and voice recognition technology to streamline reporting, diagnosis, and time to treatment.

In the demonstration given at HIMSS, Chambers noted voice-over IPT technology and land-mobile radio that allowed the doctors to talk to paramedics as they transported the patient to the hospital. These technologies, properly applied, will go a long way toward improving healthcare, he said.

"Medical practice today doesn't provide the quality of care we need. It can actually put us in danger at times," Chambers said. "But, now, for the first time, I think we have both the will and the financial requirement to change. Citizens, healthcare professionals, and the supply chain are saying now is the time."