Garbage in, garbage out. That appears to be a reasonably accurate-if somewhat overstated-assessment of the state of healthcare information technology in the mid-1990s.
Healthcare computing lags far behind medical technology, which has been marked by dozens of breakthroughs in diagnosing and treating patients in the latter half of the 20th century. The way providers manage patient information really hasn't changed much since DRGs came into the picture. Mountains of paper, recorded largely by hand, are kept in separate institutional fiefdoms and are relatively useless in attempting to analyze or improve patient-care quality.
After years of forewarnings, a shift is about to occur. It's unclear whether change can come quickly enough to respond to the breathtaking transformation of the industry as a whole, but there's cause for optimism.
As we reported in last week's cover story, the electronic integration of diverse healthcare delivery networks is now moving ahead. Among the findings in our survey: Eight in 10 said they are implementing or operating a system that computerizes physician orders and retrieves the results electronically. The average for total projected spending on information systems is $8 million a year during the next three years. And more than half, for example, are moving to digitized voice data entry.
This week's cover story highlights efforts by industry leaders to use the Internet to improve information management and patient-care outcomes. They want patients to interactively participate in their treatment, and they also plan to create internal networks-known as intranets-to improve transfer of data within integrated networks and between networks and payers.
Last week's Healthcare Information and Management Systems
Society meeting in Atlanta offered executives several key lessons:
Automation updates for key executives must be part of technology-savvy organizations.
Simply automating the current paper trail will only continue the current chaotic mess.
Without good data entry techniques, the effort to create repositories of data will go nowhere.
Smart vendors recognize the sense of urgency enveloping their customers.
Those who want to succeed must arrive at the future first.