September DocMVP

August 30, 2007

This month's DocMVP is Clifford Hudis, MD.

How do you bring healthcare technology into your practice?

My hospital-based practice has a robust infrastructure including electronic communications and EMRs. We have a fully electronic medical record including order entry; a variety of quality assurance programs delivered via Web interface and accessible by clinicians and healthcare providers throughout the institution; technical resources, such as drug information,

treatment algorithms, protocol documents, and educational materials on-line; and a network of physical facilities that share a single electronic record, easing the delivery of care across remote sites. Plus, we take advantage of electronic communications in ways that are similar to what other large businesses use, including wireless e-mail and voice communications.

What other technologies do you utilize in your daily practice?

In my academic role, I have adopted Internet-based telecommunications to improve quality and consistency of care across our network sites. We have long-standing weekly videoconferences with physicians at multiple remote network facilities, which allow us to continuously review and adjust care and decision-making for patients, regardless of location. We have extended this videoconferencing ability so that clinicians at several off site locations can both speak with and see their colleagues for informal conversations and collaboration. We’ve used this technology, including simple desktop video cameras and software, to allow us to interview employment candidates remotely, saving on travel time and costs. We are planning to develop this technology, coupled with remotely connected physical sensors, to allow for direct patient care in the future.

What is the most significant recent development in healthcare technology for practicing physicians?

I think electronic media in general represents the most significant technological advance for both practitioners and patients. This has taken a variety of forms, including relatively simple person-to-person communications—such as wireless technology for voice and correspondence—and also in terms of document and data storage via EMRs. With high-speed Internet access, no clinician should fail to maintain familiarity with the latest developments in his or her field, and there is the potential for tremendous gain in efficiency using remote learning tools.

What technological advancement do you foresee having the greatest impact on physicians in the near future?

In the medium term, I think it is the electronic medical records and the integration of electronic order entry, which is going to represent another important step forward, both in quality of record-keeping and in the actual orders. It seems relatively easy to program software packages to screen for drug—drug interactions and for safe drug dose ranges. The potential to improve quality of care for both patients and clinicians seems clear. An important challenge, however, remains the need to establish national, if not international, data-compatibility standards so that medical records can be transported electronically and read by a variety of hardware and software packages.

Is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers?

I would encourage clinicians to make the time investment to become familiar with the strengths and limitations of the various novel technologies now available or in development. It is inevitable that we will migrate toward greater use of them. This is true not only from the perspective of quality of care, but also from a broader viewpoint in that these technologies are being used across various industries and are considered standard in many non-medical settings. There is an opportunity for organized medicine to emulate the level of communications and standardization available in other high-technology disciplines. In the end, the beneficiaries are our patients.