Presenters at last month's TEPR conference in Seattle cited a finding in the 2001 Institute of Medicine report, "Crossing the Quality Chasm," that it takes 17 years for new knowledge to broadly impact medical practice.
That finding describes the glacial pace of the adoption rate of innovations in healthcare informatics, IT experts say.
This year, for the first time, the conference was divided into four parts: wireless technology, security, results from adopting clinical information technology and the namesake TEPR-Toward an Electronic Patient Record.
Also new to TEPR--but a bust--was a judged event in which vendors were to publicly demonstrate how well their systems process electronic transactions in compliance with HIPAA. But none stepped up to the challenge, even though the Oct. 16, 2003, compliance deadline is approaching.
"There are a lot of people very hesitant to show what they are doing," says Kepa Zubeldia, M.D., chairman and CEO of Claredi, a compliance certification firm in Kaysville, Utah, and host of the event.
After the two people in the room who had identified themselves as vendor representatives had left the presentation, Zubeldia asked, "If your systems can't produce HIPAA transactions today, how are you going to complete your testing in a year and a half?"
A highlight of the meeting was the annual Clinical Documentation Challenge, during which a dozen sweating EMR vendors took turns demonstrating to an audience of hundreds of potential customers that their systems could chart a simulated physician-patient encounter in 10 minutes.
All 12 finished in the allotted time. Two years ago, several vendors experienced system crashes or other embarrassing technical glitches during the event.
Epic Systems won first prize, followed by GE Medical Systems, which took over ownership of Logician EMR when it bought the bankrupt MedicaLogic in March.
Noteworthy Medical Systems finished third in the judging.
"What the systems need is a lot of flexibility," says Peter Churgin, M.D., a family practitioner and consultant in Phoenix, who charted the encounter for Epic.
Several of the competitors used compact portable computers with both keyboards and stylus-activated touch screens, while others turned to less-than-perfect voice-recognition technology. But most demonstrated more than one input option.
The conference generated significant early buzz for the letter "m," short for "mobile," which has the potential to become as ubiquitous as "e"--as in e-mail or e-business---did in the late 1990s. The 2003 TEPR event in San Antonio will feature an educational track in the emerging field of m-health.
"We don't know at this point how mobile healthcare is going to change the whole system," says C. Peter Waegemann, CEO of the Medical Records Institute, the Newton, Mass., organization that stages TEPR.
He likens this point in the development of m-health to the printing business at the time of Johannes Gutenberg's invention of movable type.