NFL Goes Medically Digital With Mass. Firm’s System

(Wikimedia Commons)

I bet you’ll have the same dark reaction I did: “Good, now they’ll be able to keep better track of their concussion treatments.”

This just in from the Westborough-based firm eClinicalWorks, a major player in electronic health records:

NFL Adopting Electronic Health Records for Care Coordination

WESTBOROUGH, Mass.—November 19, 2012—eClinicalWorks®, a market leader in ambulatory clinical systems, today announced that the National Football League (NFL) is moving from paper medical records to electronic and will utilize the company’s comprehensive electronic health records (EHR) solution for this endeavor.

“The NFL and its healthcare professionals pride themselves in maintaining a leadership role in sports medicine developments,” said Dr. Tony Yates, president of the NFL Physicians Society and member of the EMR Committee for the National Football League. “We are always looking for innovative ways to enhance healthcare within the organization. Electronic health records are the next logical step and we look forward to partnering with eClinicalWorks on this initiative.”

See the full release here.

My Dog Gets A Print-Out From His Doctor, Why Don’t I?


Jackson (Daryl Juran)

“Meaningful use.”

If you’re not in the medical records field, that term is, shall we say, not very meaningful. But it has the force of billions of federal dollars behind it. It’s a catchphrase central to the monumental national effort now under way to get medical records off of paper and into electronic forms that can be — yes, indeed — used meaningfully to document and improve health care.

The federal government is overseeing an elaborate, multi-stage process to work out the guidelines for the software designers who create these electronic medical records. As they do, Ken Farbstein, a professional patient advocate, has a low-tech suggestion to offer: Make sure the electronic records can and will be translated into printed instructions for patients.

By Ken Farbstein
Guest Blogger

My dog Jackson was born to a stray mother, and he never knew Daddy. Jackson has never had health insurance. Now entering old age (at ten), he definitely has some risk factors for poor health: uninsured, born homeless into a single parent family, aging. Yet he gets excellent health care, and of special note, he routinely gets much clearer doctors’ orders than I do.

At the end of each well-dog checkup, and at every other visit to the veterinarian, he receives a printed four-page summary that describes notes from the exam and, highlighted in red ink, the steps we should take to keep him healthy.

We weren’t brushing his teeth, so the visit summary included a paragraph on the plaque and tartar that develops with poor dental hygiene. It even recommended the specific flavor of toothpaste he’d likely prefer: poultry. (A human patient might go “Balk!” at that.) Years ago, when we found a lump in his left front shoulder, the visit summary described what a lipoma was, with our treatment options. In a later visit we heard a shocking diagnosis of a cancerous tumor. In later rereading the visit summary, we absorbed more of it than when we had first gotten the diagnosis.

The vet’s electronic health record software makes it easy for the vet and the technician to produce these summaries, so promptly that the payment clerk can routinely hand the printout to us at the end of the visit. The information in the visit summary is significant, actionable, pertinent, timely and specific; in short, it’s highly meaningful. Continue reading

IBM To Roll Out Watson, M.D.

Watson and competitors during a Jeopardy! training round

WBUR’s Curt Nickisch reports:

Fresh off its Jeopardy! victory, IBM wants to roll out medical applications based on the same technologies its computer named Watson employed to whoop some of the game show’s biggest winners.

“We didn’t ultimately expect to generate a revenue stream by playing Jeopardy!,” says David Ferrucci, head of IBM’s Watson Project.

In a three-day run on the TV game show this week, the so-called “question-answering machine” outperformed Jeopardy! savants Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, winning a $1 million dollar prize and even more valuable PR.

Still, International Business Machines wasn’t just showing off its hardware, which companies will undoubtedly order, too. IBM’s real feat was demonstrating the “natural language search” prowess it developed during the four-year project, which employed 25 people and cost tens of millions of dollars.

Will doctors soon have "Watson" at their fingertips? (Dave Shaw/WBUR)

Will doctors soon have "Watson" at their fingertips? (Dave Shaw/WBUR)

So IBM is moving quickly to apply the technology to health care. The company is partnering with Burlington, Mass.-based Nuance Communications to develop and apply the Watson computing system to medicine

“Watson’s ability to deal with natural language across a wide collection of diverse information and make it more digestible for humans holds enormous potential to transform healthcare effectiveness, efficiency and patient outcomes,” IBM says in a statement.

The company cites physician surveys that suggest primary care physicians spend less than twenty minutes face-to-face with each patient per visit on average, and they average little more than an hour each week reading medical journals.

IBM’s David Ferrucci says a computer system could be designed to access vast medical libraries and a patient’s own records to give doctors valuable information quickly.

“Inform the doctor quickly with the most current information,” Ferrucci says. “Help them make faster, better decisions, both from a diagnosis perspective and from a treatment perspective.”

What do you think? Would you feel more comfortable with Watson as a physician’s assistant? Or do you feel nervous about having your health in the hands of artificial intelligence that incorrectly offered ‘Toronto’ to a Final Jeopardy round question under the category U.S. Cities?

And to hear more, check out On Point’s show this week on Watson and AI.

Analysts: Republicans Not Targeting Health Technology

There seems to be no target on the back of health information technology. Republicans in the next Congress are expected to come after various pieces of health care reform, but not electronic medical records, the Times reports today.

“The tech spending is set to go on,” said Lynne Dunbrack, an analyst in the Health Industry Insights unit for IDC, a technology research company. “The better use of health care technology to reduce costs and improve care has bipartisan support.”

Some new evidence of industry’s confidence in the future of health IT: AT&T has just announced a new division called AT&T ForHealth, the Times reports in its Bits blog.

AT&T will offer data-center and hosting technology for [EMR] exchanges. It also plans to provide telehealth services for remote diagnosis and treatment, and a wide range of support for preventive and disease management applications on smartphones.