Healthcare’s survival in the Information Age

July 2, 2010
Gail Warden,
Thomas McNulty

The healthcare sector is one of the largest data producers of any industry. How providers use this data will prove extremely important as the industry progresses in the Information Age. Healthcare has always been labor intensive, but now it is becoming equally information intensive.

A 1990 survey conducted by Mecon Associates indicated that most healthcare executives were disappointed in the benefits derived from the information systems they use. This may be due to the complex process for the use and distribution of information and the fact that many systems are purchased with little regard to system integration.

Moreover, few software vendors understand the complexity providers face. Often these unique problems prevent vendors from designing software with a large enough market to realize the economies of scale. This keeps systems' prices high and mistakes expensive, leading to the frustration recorded by the Mecon survey.

In searching for a solution to these problems, the top executive team at Henry Ford Health System has attempted to build consensus and give ownership to those who will work with a given product or system.

To achieve our strategy we created a long-range plan encompassing the enabling resources of management, technology and organization. We're also collaborating with software vendors to develop systems that best fit our needs. A case in point is our medical information management system. To ensure our clinical staff had the information necessary to provide superior patient care, we needed to tap information previously stored in many different systems and formats. We were faced with the challenge of integrating these systems and relying less on paper medical records.

To overcome these obstacles, we teamed up with Knowledge Data Systems to create and implement a clinical database solution. The KDS solution provides online access to a variety of information sources, including lab results, patients' medical history, pharmacy patient profiles, registration and transcribed reports. Probably the most difficult part was keeping it in a form that was easy to use and familiar to our clinicians. But by using our bottom-up approach, we succeeded.

Incorporating information into the way we deliver patient care is a dynamic and challenging process. You must succeed to survive, so it is paramount for the chief executive officer to work with the chief information officer and the chief financial officer to bring about this transition.

Henry Ford sponsors HITS, bring users and developers together
Earlier this year, Henry Ford Health System sponsored the first annual Healthcare Innovations in Technology Symposium. The goal of HITS is to bridge the gap between technology users and developers.
HITS was designed to attract CEOs, CIOs and physicians, as well as software programmers and hardware designers, so they could interact.
Hopefully, this will lead to better information systems products, improving the quality of patient care while reducing its cost.
Futhermore, to encourage collaboration on new information products, Henry Ford Health System established the HITS Award. Presented annually at the HITS conference by a nominating committee made up of industry experts, the award will recognize both the vendor of the product and the healthcare organization that successfully implements it.

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