I’m back in Seattle after spending a few days on the East Coast last week to do the opening keynote at the American Board of Radiology Foundation meeting in Bethesda, MD. I don’t often speak at medical specialty conferences. I accepted this speaking assignment because conference chair, Dr. William Hendee, a distinguished professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin as well as several other universities and the editor of Medical Physics, extended a personal invitation. Dr. Hendee assured me that conference attendees would be a who’s who of executives, professors and clinicians in the field of radiology, and indeed that was the case.
The event was held at the Montgomery County Conference Center which is adjacent to a rather new, and very nice Marriott Hotel. I was comforted to learn that at least one other keynote speaker, Dr. Kevin Grumbach, Chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, was from a specialty other than radiology. I also noted that several conference attendees came from other specialties including internist, Dr. Yul Ejnes, Chair-Elect of the American College of Physicians.
The title of my keynote was “Information Technology as a Transformative Agent in Health and Healthcare Delivery”. It is no great surprise that even a field as technology-driven as medical imaging is challenged by silos of information and the inability for radiologists to easily communicate and collaborate with referring clinicians and their patients. This inability to communicate and share information contributes to overutilization of medical imaging services not to mention the worrisome dangers associated with overexposure to radiation. In fact, there’s not even a standardized system in place to keep track of patients’ cumulative exposure to radiation. Several speakers also highlighted how medical imaging has become the fastest growing contributor to medical costs paid by Medicare—growth that simply isn’t sustainable.
I shared my thoughts on how contemporary information communication technology (ICT) can solve many of these issues. I gave examples of some of the best practices I’ve seen in the U.S. and abroad. I once again pointed out that the EMR is not, by itself, the panacea that will solve all these issues. Rather, it is what we do next once all health data has become digitized. In this era of powerful, yet lower cost commodity ICT solutions and the inevitable migration of IT platforms and applications to the cloud, opportunities to solve some of the thorniest issues confronting health and healthcare are finally here. I noted that some hospital and health systems are already migrating their e-mail and other business productivity communication and collaboration services to the cloud. I also shared information about personal health record platforms like Microsoft HealthVault and how such solutions can help solve the need for community based health information exchanges and even regional/national health information exchanges. This involves moving to a model of information sharing that puts our patients at the center. Why not aggregate medical imaging reports and even the images themselves around the patient, making the information available, anywhere anytime, to whomever the patient wants to share it with?
Next week I’m off to Minneapolis to meet with executives and scientists from 3M where I will have an opportunity to give a keynote address to employees of 3M’s healthcare and medical devices divisions. The following week, I’ll be giving the opening keynote at the annual conference of the East Hawaii Independent Physicians Association on the Big Island of Hawaii. And before you can say “junket”, let me add that my reason for visiting is connected to the work our Health Solutions Group is doing there. The East Hawaii IPA is the winner of a Beacon Grant to develop a robust health information exchange that will help connect hospitals, clinics, clinicians and patients across the Hawaiian Islands. Oh yes, and following my official duties at the conference there will be a little vacation thrown in for good measure. Even geeks deserve a break now and then.
Bill Crounse, MD Senior Director, Worldwide Health Microsoft