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The state of the art?

Speaking last week at the American Medical Informatics Association‘s spring congress in Boston, Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) mentioned that he had just come from Massachusetts General Hospital for testing on a slipped disc in his back.

As is widely known, the esteemed, Harvard-affiliated hospital has electronic medical records, computerized physician order entry, digital imaging and other advanced information technology.

Still, when Kennedy arrived for the test, he was given a clipboard with a paper history form to fill out.

Had he been admitted as an inpatient, Kennedy also would have found that most departments at Mass General keep vital signs very close to their patients—in a paper folder at the foot of each bed.

This is supposed to be the state of the art?

April 19, 2005 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Help shape the English language

What word describes an informatics professional? I’ve used “informaticist” for several years, but lately I’ve been hearing “informatician” a lot. Which do you prefer? Is there a distinction? Perhaps it’s time for a definitive definition.

Informaticist or informatician? Click the “comments” link below or e-mail me with your opinion.

April 13, 2005 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Turn your head and cough

BOSTON—Here’s a great line from Dr. Paul Wallace, executive director of the Kaiser Permanente Care Management Institute: The surgeon general should warn that seeing a doctor who uses pen and paper could be hazardous to your health.

As Wallace, an oncologist, explained during a presentation today at the American Medical Informatics Association Spring Congress, “If you have cardiovascular disease, it’s probably as dangerous to you as secondhand smoke.”

April 12, 2005 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

JAMA CPOE redux

I completely missed this one last month, but American Medical Informatics Association President and CEO Don Detmer, M.D., posted a thoughtful essay on the controversial March 9 report in the Journal of the American Medical Association that detailed the kinds of errors that a poorly implemented CPOE system could introduce.

Detmer also commented on a British Medical Journal piece on clinical decision support and highlighted an AMIA white paper on how decision support relates to e-prescribing.

“A careful reading of these articles provides us — the developers, purchasers, users, and advocates for these system — with a fresh perspective on how to evaluate our past efforts and frame our future work. Some readers can miss what may be the deeper message of the recent JAMA articles and editorial. As a result, they may reach the conclusion that once again the information technology in health care has been oversold and that there is no reason to attend to or invest in the current generation of information technology,” Detmer said.

He concluded, “While there is much work yet to be done, the optimism remains that the use of communications and information technology will greatly improve both care and human health. “

April 5, 2005 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Hospital quality and journalism quality

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.—A public-private effort called the Hospital Quality Alliance on Friday launched with great fanfare a Web site for consumers to compare information on quality of care for specific measures at 4,200 hospitals nationwide.

The site, called Hospital Compare, is online at www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov or www.medicare.gov. So far, it tracks 17 quality measures for acute myocardial infarction, congestive heart failure and pneumonia. Others are planned.

“We want to begin to develop other measures,” said American Hospital Association President Dick Davidson. “This is just the beginning.”

It’s a terrific idea, but it remains to be seen whether consumers flock to this site, given that American consumers tend to pick their doctors and hospitals on whether the provider is part of their health plan and whether it’s less than 30 minutes from home.

Davidson, along with CMS honcho Mark McClellan, M.D. (since Medicare now pays a 0.4 percent bonus to hospitals that report quality data) and AFL-CIO chief lobbyist Gerry Shea, unveiled the site at the Association of Health Care Journalists‘ annual conference here. Or so we thought.

Turns out, CMS had leaked the story to the Wall Street Journal a day earlier. As the noontime press conference got underway, I got my daily e-mail from iHealthBeat detailing the Journal story, which kind of spoiled the suspense for me.

The Journal, by the way, reported that Hospital Compare launched on Thursday. Wrong.

April 2, 2005 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.