EMR? What’s that?

Need more proof that true interoperability remains a distant goal in healthcare? You should have been at the Radiological Society of North America show here in Chicago this week.

I was meeting with a provider of remote radiology services that has developed its own workflow-management software, when I asked a fairly obvious question: Can the remote physician’s notes be incorporated into the host site’s EMR?

The response? “EMR? I’m not sure what that is.”

“Electronic medical record,” I said.

“Oh, you mean like a RIS or a HIS?” this puzzled vendor rep asked me.

Kind of, I suppose.

A radiology information system usually contains clinical information, but I’ve always thought that a hospital information system was something more on the administrative side of the house. Am I wrong, or do people in radiology speak a totally different language than everyone else in health information management?

RSNA is a founding member of Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise, so interoperability definitely is on the agenda. I guess it’s hard to get the message out to the more than 60,000 attendees and 740 exhibitors, but I would expect a vendor salesperson to be a little more in-the-know.

The RSNA show always is a curious event for me. For one thing, it takes up all three buildings of McCormick Place. (I never thought I would ever have to consult the exhibitor map to find Cerner‘s booth at any conference of any kind, but when Philips has a display the length of two city blocks, other companies tend to get lost.)

Vendors apparently don’t realize the scope of this show. I got meeting invitations from a couple dozen companies I’ve never heard of, thinking that I and other journalists would find them more important than 700-some other exhibitors. If you think the HIMSS annual conference is big, you should check out RSNA.

How RSNA gets that many people to come to Chicago this time of year—and likely pass through O’Hare International Airport at the tail end of the Thanksgiving long weekend—astounds me. I live here and I won’t go near O’Hare the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

Hopefully everyone got out of town before the first snowstorm of the year hit Thursday night, and hopefully people start to figure out what an EMR is. Maybe Thursday’s news that Intel, Wal-Mart Stores and other large American companies will begin offering EMRs to their employees will accelerate the process.

By the way, regular readers of this blog should not be surprised. Here’s the link again to my exclusive interview with Intel and Wal-Mart executives about health IT.