Radiologists need to keep aware of broader IT picture

April 1, 2007

The arrival of a new healthcare information technology conference targeted at the Asia Pacific region is bound to generate plenty of interest, particularly among the dozens of vendors and consultants who have products and services to promote.

 

The arrival of a new healthcare information technology conference targeted at the Asia Pacific region is bound to generate plenty of interest, particularly among the dozens of vendors and consultants who have products and services to promote. So when the HIMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society) AsiaPac07 conference and exhibition opens its doors in Singapore on 15 May, there is likely to be no shortage of delegates.

Expenditure on healthcare IT is growing fast, as described in the article about China in this issue. Governments and hospital managers are keen to exploit the advantages of new technology, and the political will to invest in initiatives clearly exists in many countries. Experiences in Europe and the U.S., however, confirm that throwing money at healthcare IT rarely, if ever, brings tangible rewards. Almost every national scheme to develop electronic health records has suffered from excessive delays and serious logistical and budgetary difficulties.

Many radiologists and other medical doctors involved in imaging will ask themselves whether they should take part in the Singapore conference. The prime goals of the event are to exchange knowledge, showcase successful strategies, and share practical solutions to healthcare IT challenges. These are noble and impressive aims, but most clinical staff who have a PACS (picture archiving and communication system) are interested chiefly in areas like workflow, training, ergonomics, and archiving, all of which affect their day-to-day practice. Such issues tend to be addressed in greater depth at national and international radiology meetings, as well as congresses like CARS (Computer Assisted Radiology and Surgery).

HIMSS was the lead organizer of the World of Health IT conference, held in Geneva, Switzerland, last October. Along with our publisher Kathy Mischak, I attended this event, and it was a useful learning exercise. Although most of the keynote lectures were disappointing, consisting mainly of dull and predictable statements by political heavyweights, there were some thought-provoking sessions about e-health implementation, speech recognition, telemedicine, and clinical portals.

Very few radiologists were at the Geneva meeting, and the same may well happen in Singapore. Potential attendees are likely to be deterred by the relatively high onsite registration fee of S$1740 (US$1100) and the expensive hotel tariffs. This is a great shame. Awareness of the bigger picture is important because it enables radiologists to see where their discipline fits in healthcare IT and to work out how they can collaborate better with others. The HIMSS congress can provide a valuable networking forum for vendors, clinicians, and administrators, but the organizers need to do more to involve radiologists in the event.