Even the Health IT World Can’t Escape Olympic Fever

June 24, 2013
As the 2012 Olympic kicks off in London, somewhere amid the spectacle there will be a hint of healthcare informatics touching the Games. Yes, even the health IT world can’t escape Olympic fever. Here are a few examples where the two worlds are connecting.

Today marks the official start of the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Across the globe, from the biggest cities to the smallest rural areas, people’s eyes will be on London’s Olympic Stadium as representatives from more than 200 participating countries will march with their flags into the stadium. Over the next two weeks, athletes in 26 different sports, each with multiple events, will compete for a chance to win the gold. Without a doubt, it’s one of the most unique, exciting events in sports.

Meanwhile, somewhere amid the madness of countless athletes, spectators, trainers, media members, and everyone else that make up the Olympic spectacle, there will be a hint of healthcare informatics touching the Olympics. Yes, even the health IT world can’t escape Olympic fever.

In May of this year, United States Olympic Committee (USOC) has announced that, for the first time, it will use electronic medical records (EMR) for managing the athletes’ care at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. The vendor will be GE’s Centricity Practice Solution, an integrated EMR and practice management product. The EMR will take care of 700 American athletes in London.

In an interview with HCI, Jan De Witte, president and CEO of GE Healthcare IT and Performance Solutions, Barrington, Ill., said the USOC understands the “power that an EMR can bring to the U.S. Olympic Committee, both in driving the quality of care when it comes to treating athletes, but also in the power of analytics, on an ongoing basis, to continue to improve the state of the art, state of the protocols, in caring for top athletes.”

According to De Witte, it was Dr. Bill Moreau, the USOC managing director of sports medicine, who reached out to GE Healthcare expressing interest in an EMR. The system has already been up and running since June.

Meanwhile, that’s not the only thing GE Healthcare is doing in the Olympic arena. The company also recently announced that it will provide advanced imaging technology to help determine whether athletes are using performance-enhancing drugs. The biomolecular imager, ImageQuant LAS4000, can test for recombinant erythropoietin (EPO), which boosts red blood cells enabling improved oxygen flow, increasing an athlete's endurance. It will be part of the Games’ Anti-Doping Science Centre in Harlow, Essex.

David Cowan, Director of the Drug Control Centre at King's College London, who will be overseeing the laboratory in Essex, says advances in digital imaging have allowed them “to capture high quality image with great sensitivity, and with short exposure times.”

If that weren’t all enough, HCI Contributing Editor David Raths recently wrote a piece connecting another piece of the Olympic puzzle to health IT. According to Raths, to avoid a breakout of infectious disease at the Games, Britain’s Health Protection Agency has made several enhancements to its syndromic surveillance systems, including a new emergency department syndromic surveillance system.

Raths, who has written about syndromic surveillance system evolution in the U.S., says the U.K. system may be a legacy of these 2012 games since it is one of the “most comprehensive public health-based syndromic surveillance systems in the world.”

And you thought Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt were going to be the only ones who would create a legacy at the 2012 Olympic Games. Not a chance!

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