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Medical informatics needs a rock star

Medical informatics needs a rock star. Not a David Brailer-esque figure
who could excite people in the technology sphere, but perhaps a Don
Berwick type who can reach every level and constituency of health care,
and even capture the imagination of the general public.

I had this thought yesterday during a highly engaging session at the American Medical Informatics Association‘s
annual symposium in Washington, a session with the mouthful of a title,
“Harnessing Mass Collaboration to Synthesize and Disseminate Successful
CDS Implementation Practices.” In English, that means panelists were
discussing the forthcoming “Improving Outcomes with Clinical Decision Support: An Implementer’s Guide” and related feedback mechanisms, including a wiki.

During
the session, panelists discussed the difficulties they’ve had in
getting clinical decision support integrated into EMR and
quality-improvement projects, as well as into medical practice itself.
One commenter from the audience, a Veterans Affairs doctor, noted that to too many people in health care, CDS sounds like an IT issue, not something related to quality.

To this, Dr. Bill Bria, chairman of the Association of Medical Directors of Information Systems, said, “Our profession has really stumbled on this one.”

Then,
AMIA CEO Dr. Don Detmer asked if the informatics community could
identify perhaps the top five serious preventable outcomes and create
“poster children” for quality improvement via CDS. He said much of the
problem with low adoption of clinical IT is related to communications,
though there are some scientific and technology issues as well.

I immediately thought of Berwick and his 5 Million Lives Campaign,
a nationwide initiative to help prevent 5 million harmful incidents in
healthcare from December 2006 to December 2008 by encouraging hospitals
to commit to a series of proven interventions. This, of course, grew
out of the 100,000 Lives Campaign, which Berwick’s Institute for Healthcare Improvement says successfully prevented more than 100,000 deaths in U.S. hospitals over a year and a half.

I was at Washington Hospital Center
in D.C. just a week ago because my dad had surgery there. Everywhere I
looked were signs reminding staff to take action to prevent errors and
complications, particularly methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus
infections. At just about every turn in the hospital corridors, wards,
waiting rooms and cafeteria were hand sanitizers.

I’m fairly
certain this high level of awareness is directly related to the IHI
campaign. In fact, my dad picked Washington Hospital Center over
another hospital much closer to his suburban Maryland home because the
other place had been in the news of late for its high rate of MRSA.
Yes, the public is very aware of the danger of hospital-acquired
infections, and Berwick has had a lot to do with raising the issue.

Healthcare
needs someone similar to take the lead in communicating the benefits of
clinical decision support to the masses. Does informatics have a rock
star out there? It’s time to come forward.

Neil Versel is a health technology writer. This post first appeared at his blog.

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Tim CookBill Johnson Recent comment authors
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Tim Cook
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“Healthcare needs someone similar to take the lead in communicating the benefits of clinical decision support to the masses. Does informatics have a rock star out there? It’s time to come forward.” The “Rock Star” isn’t a person nor is the “Killer App” an application. In both cases the root of true success to be had in health care information systems is the adoption of a common information specification for ALL health care applications that will lead to true semantic interoperability and computability. Such specifications do exist. They are open and free for use by proprietary and open source application… Read more »

Bill Johnson
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Bill Johnson

I sure hope this rock star you speak of checks the hand sanitizers to see if they are anti-microbial!