HIMSS 2012 – Software, Solutions and Robots…… Oh My!

WP_000587WP_000627In my last post I mentioned that this year at HIMSS I’d be looking for IT solutions that help bring us closer to the “triple-aim” of better (higher quality), faster (improved access), less expensive care. Oh sure, like every other year I saw some wonderful EMR solutions. But as they say, if you’ve seen one EMR……… you’ve seen one EMR. The improvements in electronic records are more evolutionary than revolutionary, and Microsoft has some really great partners in the EMR/HIS business. This year I noted that most vendors are now paying greater attention to user interface design and user experience. It’s nice to see medical software that looks and functions a lot more like what I get on the best of the web instead of a DOS-based program from the late 80’s.

WP_000636I was pleased to see several top EMR vendors getting on board with natural language processing in an effort to improve data input for clinicians. That, to my way of thinking, is the final frontier for clinical systems that actually enhance rather than hinder clinical workflow. There’s still nothing faster for data entry than dictation. Perhaps we can use intelligent software to turn dictated reports into structured data sets for information exchanges, coding and billing and free clinicians from keyboards and templates. It least that’s my dream.

WP_000625WP_000597Tablets were everywhere, as were really big screens. Some time ago I predicted that clinical computing would evolve to much larger screen sizes. Healthcare is a data intensive business, and often you need lots of real estate on the screen to take in all that information. However, it is also clear to me that there is no such thing as the perfect device for healthcare. Sometimes it is a smartphone. Sometimes it is a tablet. You still can’t beat a laptop, ultrabook or desktop configuration for doing heavy duty information work. And as I say, sometimes you want a really big screen. Mainly, you just want everything to work and to have a seamless experience as you move from one device to another. The industry is getting much better at that and there’s even more news to come (hint Windows 8).

WP_000611WP_000617If you believe the pundits that we are moving away from episodic, diseased-focused care toward a more preventive, predictive, participatory model of care and a payment system that rewards quality and value over pure volume, then you’ll be pleased to see the emergence of software solutions to monitor, measure, and analyze what we do in clinical medicine. There was certainly a lot of buzz at HIMSS about Microsoft’s new joint venture with GE Healthcare called Caradigm. I noted particular interest at the Microsoft booth when my colleague, Dr. Brandon Savage, spoke on how Caradigm brings together some of the best assets of both companies to improve health quality, better manage population health, automate health-related communications, and facilitate health information exchanges.

WP_000596Over the last few days I have a spent a lot of time with reporters from the international press. I continue to be amazed by the amount of interest in Kinect for XBOX 360 (and also now for Windows) and how it is stimulating all kinds of ideas for uses in health and healthcare. I won’t belabor the point WP_000630here since I have discussed this on HealthBlog in several prior posts. Let’s just say the “Kinect Effect” is alive and well all around the planet.

If there was a single (albeit somewhat humorous) example of a solution for "faster” care it had to be the one I saw at the Howard booth. It was a specially designed Segway scooter for hospitals and health facilities. If faster is all about eliminating WP_000591wasted time and wasted steps, I know a lot of doctors and nurses who might want one of these. Goodness knows I could have used one to get around the acres of exhibits at HIMSS 2012. 

And finally, for those clinicians who fear that machines may one day replace us altogether, you may indeed have something to worry about. Although there was a human being at the controls of this guy for now, I couldn’t help but wonder what a super computer filled with the world’s medical knowledge, a little machine learning and some artificial intelligence might do for this humanoid hunk of metal. Put a stethoscope around his neck and get out of the way!

Now excuse me while I go soak my feet.

Bill Crounse, MD Senior Director, Worldwide Health Microsoft 

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