Tag Archives: health i.t.

Audit: UK’s health IT program falls short of expectations

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

After a damning report from the U.K.’s national audit office indicating that the National Health Service’s massive health IT program has essentially been a black hole which vacuums up far more money than its lack of progress would justify, politicians are now calling for what amounts to the program’s termination.

Physicians support a national system of health records, but there seems to be a consensus that, in the current climate of British austerity, it may be time to amputate the program to stop the bleeding. After all, the audit indicated that despite a seven-year extension, it looks like the program has no chance of meeting its 2014-15 deadlines, or even of producing meaningful results. Here’s Polly Curtis in The Guardian.

The original aim of the £11.4bn NHS IT programme – to install a patient record database accessible from any point in the NHS in England by 2015 – will fail, the National Audit Office (NAO) warned.

The £2.7bn spent so far on the system has not been value for money, the watchdog said, adding it had no confidence that the remaining £4.3bn would be any better spent.

The nine-year-old project – the biggest civilian IT scheme attempted – has been in disarray since it missed its first deadlines in 2007. While its ambitions have been downgraded in recent years, the bill from the suppliers has remained largely unchanged, the report said.

How NASA came to work with a children’s hospital

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Brian Ahier, writing for Government Health IT,  tells the story of how NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratories ended up collaborating with Childrens Hospital Los Angeles on a seven-year project focusing on the detection of pediatric cancer through a “a collaborative approach to the discovery and development of early detection biomarkers.” It sounds like a goofy match but, when Ahier breaks it down, it’s easier to see how and why these strange bedfellows ended up together.

nasaPhoto by nasa1fan/MSFC via Flickr

1. JPL presents a paper on a software framework used for planetary science that functions as ” a kind of search engine that allows scientists working with data in one expression or format to find and compare their data with another.”

2. National Cancer Institute representatives involved with the Early Detection Research Network see the presentation, understand the framework’s potential and hire JPL to consult.

3. The project evolves and CHLA’s Virtual Pediatric Intenstive Care Unit joins the effort to “build a distributed data-sharing network to drive the next generation of clinical decision support for pediatric cancer treatment and research.”

Here’s Ahier’s explanation of why the NASA system makes a difference for the hospital:

The VPICU connects emergency rooms, community hospitals and intensive care units worldwide in a virtual network, extending consultations to even the most remote areas. Using (the JPL technology), clinicians can access data from a network of pediatric hospitals to build an evidence-based foundation for research into childhood cancers.

“The variability in patients in a pediatric ICU is enormous with regards to age, weight and other factors,” says David Kale, a research engineer in the VPICU. “So the question is can we build clinical decision support tools that will help clinicians by augmenting their experience by providing data.”

Hospital’s struggle illustrates health IT woes

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

The University of California San Francisco Medical Center has written off more than a third of the $50 million it has spent on a system to digitize patients’ medical records, according to an article by AHCJ member Fred Schulte for the Huffington Post Investigative Fund and American University’s Investigative Reporting Workshop.

The hospital started the project more than five years ago but after “persistent technical headaches,” it is has terminated the contractor and will start over on part of the project.

The costly setback pointedly illustrates the challenges health professionals face trying to meet a government mandate to bring American medicine into the computer age.

Doctors and technology analysts are less than enthusiastic about products now available. “Early reports from some American and European hospitals, they say, suggest that some technology may prove unreliable and could even pose safety problems for patients.”

While critics are concerned about patient safetly, U.S. manufacturers say no injuries or deaths can be attributed to software failure. However, as Schulte points out, “companies manufacturing health information technology systems are under no obligation to report injuries resulting from software malfunctions to the government.”

Schulte then cites a number of examples that point to failures or problems with software systems.

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Survey reveals how much patient privacy is at risk

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Fred Schulte and Emma Schwartz of the Huffington Post Investigative Fund report on a survey in which 75 percent of health organization say patients’ medical records were put at “risk of improper disclosure.”

The study, done for the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, also revealed that half of the people surveyed said they had “no plan in place to respond to security threats and many of them indicated that they are spending ‘little additional resources’ to combat the problem.”

While the federal stimulus package includes provisions to enhance the security and privacy of medical information, the survey found that many hospitals do not have and do not use tools to encrypt the data when it is stored or when it is sent over the Internet.

Schulte discussed the report on NPR’s Weekend Edition. The survey also was the subject of an iHealthBeat special report, featuring a health information technology officer, a representative of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, the HHS deputy director of health information privacy and a patient advocate.

The full report is available from ID Experts but does require free registration.

Doctors face obstacles in transition to costly EMRs

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

In his American Journey blog, the Wall Street Journal‘s Andy Jordan considered the impact of stimulus funds on the health-care system’s expensive and time-consuming transition to electronic medical records in terms of physicians he encountered in his cross-country travels.

In rural Alabama, Dr. Regina Benjamin switched to EMRs after losing paper records to a combination of hurricanes and fires.

“When a patient or pharmacy calls at night or on a weekend, I do not have to rely on memory. I can access the chart from any computer, at home, from the hospital, from my hotel room when traveling.
This prevents errors and I can give better care. I can also quickly look at trends and patterns, pick up things earlier than if I had to look thru paper charts.” She was able to fund her conversion through donations and foundation support.

In Cambridge, Ohio Jordan met Dr. Patrick Goggin, who he said spent about $300,000 to convert to electronic medical records five years ago. Jordan recorded a four-and-a-half minute video showing the Dr. Goggin’s system in action. Jordan also spoke with Dr. Goggin’s colleague, Dr. David Ray.

“Advantages are not quite there as far as outweighing the costs,” (Dr. Ray) says.
“The technology is probably just not quite there yet for most solo practitioners and small practices to implement such a system.”

In the Minneapolis Star-Tribune Kate Levinson reports on growing demand for centers to store this medical data and on a study that found mid-size Midwestern cities to be among the most attractive to the medical data storage industry.

Steve Lohr of The New York Times reports that the obstacles to a transition to electronic medical records are daunting. Experts say that how local organizations help doctors in small offices adopt electronic records will be crucial to success. Lohr explains “regional health I.T. extension centers,” called for in Obama’s budget proposal that has been submitted to Congress.

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