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Hospitals Move Towards Digitizing Health Records

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This week, Samsung announced several case studies showcasing how the company is enabling hospitals to digitize their work environment.  The company is currently working with Olympic Medical Center (OMC) in Washington State in a pilot program that is digitizing the medical facility.

According to Samsung, the use of electronic health records (EHR) and cutting-edge technology will improve operational efficiencies and cut costs.  At OMC, Samsung installed smart display monitors which transfers and stores data on the cloud.  The hi-tech monitors also eliminated the need for traditional pc hardware and mouse interaction.

The company claims that the technology reduces acquisition costs as well as IT maintenance.  “The new workflow is significantly faster and has cut my dictation and chart completion time by more than 30 minutes every day,” said Dr. Rebecca Corley.

Obamacare Mandates

There are mandates to the Affordable Care Act that requires healthcare institutions to move towards electronic health records.  However, most hospitals and government agencies are falling behind schedule in meeting this requirement.   In April, the U.S. Defense Department disclosed that it probably wasted $1 billion of taxpayer money over the course of five years in trying to implement an EHR initiative.  The Pentagon’s program managers were not able to digitize health records across multiple government agencies each using incongruent technologies and databases.

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Many medical practitioners remain skeptical that the industry can successfully digitize its working environment by 2014.  This week, the American Medical Association (AMA) urged the nation’s lawmakers to incentivize physicians to adopt electronic health records.  The AMA is arguing that bonus programs can be used to motivate overburdened and overworked doctors to optimize their clinic’s IT systems.

“The three big changes most practices are dealing with are the conversion to ICD-10, adopting electronic health records to qualify for the federal meaningful use incentive program, and changing to a new practice model such as an accountable care organization or patient-centered medical home,” AMA stated on its website.

The organization argues that physicians across the country are overworked and face burdensome regulations that make it difficult to devote time and energy to digitize their medical practices.  “Many are wondering how they can implement all of these changes and still manage the day-to-day demands of running a practice,” stated AMA’s article.

Standardization of Systems

Standardization of information systems is a requirement for comprehensive and effective data mining.  It’s also becoming a business opportunity for solutions providers.  For instance, Dicom Systems specializes in enabling clinics and hospitals to digitize their health records through the use of proprietary routers.

“Our best in class routing products resolve the challenges that far too many clinicians are presented with in multi-vendor, multi-facility imaging and reporting communications,” said Dean Whitt, vice president of business development.  By standardizing the protocol for handling, storing, printing, and transmitting information in medical imaging, disparate communications systems can “talk” to each other.

The major challenge for hospitals is upgrading legacy systems into contemporary practices suited for the Information Age.  Many use disparate systems and outdated processes that often make it difficult for outside parties to retrieve patient data.  Managers often fear the repercussions of delivering false data that could result in harm to patients.

Some institutions don’t possess the IT expertise to coordinate a large scale project or overcome entrenched interests opposed to change.  Thus, conversion to electronic health records may sound easy.  But a digitized medical environment requires real-time access to accurate information.  There’s no room for error.  The AMA may cal for incentives.  However, it will take more than cash from the federal government to institutionalize an optimized information system across a large-scale institution.

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