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HIT Augments Humans’ Intelligence and Abilities

By Heather Hogstrom

Thousands of health care professionals flocked to sunny Orlando, Florida, for the annual HIMSS conference held February 19–23. Attendees were able to get hands-on with the latest technology and receive education on updates in the HIT field.

Opening keynote speaker Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM, discussed cognitive health care (ie, artificial intelligence) and emphasized that IBM is building tech to augment, not replace, humans’ intelligence—to allow people to do what they do better. To get physician buy-in, she said you have to be in the workflow at the opportune moments. She believes the next generation of patients will demand this technology.

In a session titled “Can IT Really Save Lives?,” moderator Neil Jordan, general manager of worldwide health at Microsoft, quickly answered this question with a “yes,” and the panelists moved on to illustrate how IT is being used to save lives. Each organization used technology to address specific problems they wanted to solve. The cloud is key for these technologies.

Yousuf M. Khalifa, MD, an associate professor of ophthalmology and chair of ophthalmology at Grady Health in Atlanta, wanted to help diabetic retinopathy patients before they developed end-stage disease and lost their vision, but the patient volume was too large to handle, and hiring the number of physicians necessary to see all the patients would be prohibitively expensive. The solution was IRIS, a nonmydriatic camera that takes a picture of the retina. The image is put into the cloud, where a physician can grade it. Thanks to this service, hundreds of patients have been prevented from becoming blind. An important part of adopting the new technology was troubleshooting and making sure everyone was on the same page. “The devil’s in the details, and a lot of devil came out” during the go-live process, Khalifa said. He added that having all the stakeholders in the room to identify where problems are going to be is key to success.

Lisa Davis, MBA, BSN, RN, is president and CEO of Nursing and Therapy Services of Colorado, which provides care for children at their homes, helping kids who would be in an institution if they couldn’t be cared for at home. The caregivers need to turn in paperwork, but driving to the office can be time consuming, especially for parents who must bring their child along. To save families time, documentation is now submitted via Wi-Fi and tablets. Additionally, this technology is being used as a communication tool; kids with cerebral palsy can use tablets to speak for them. This simple mobile technology is helping children and their parents have more fulfilling lives. To get buy-in and combat resistance to change, Davis’ organization pointed out the benefits of digital documentation and managed users’ expectations. They had little employee turnover as a result of the transition, and satisfaction is now widespread.

Richard Stroup, director of informatics at Children’s Mercy Kansas City, discussed the birth defect hypoplastic left heart syndrome, which requires three surgeries over the first few years of a child’s life. Stroup said 10% to 25% of these children never get discharged from the hospital after birth, and 10% to 20% die at home between stage one and two, but they have a much better survival rate once they reach the second stage. To watch for red flags, parents must monitor the child and record data. Using Microsoft technology, parents are now able to log data digitally. The data is uploaded to the cloud, predictive analytics is run, and doctors are notified of problems. Since adopting this tech, they have had no fatalities. Encouraging buy-in and justifying the cost was easy, since saving lives is a problem everyone wants to solve, so if a solution works, there are few objections. After they had 30 patients with no mortality, they couldn’t deny the technology’s effectiveness.

— Heather Hogstrom is an editorial assistant at For The Record.