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September 30, 2008

Defining the Electronic Health Record

Is it an EMR, an EPR, an EHR or a CRS and who cares anyway?

Professors on international trips measure how many hospitals are using order communications (or is it resulting and reporting) or computerised referral against their template of academic definitions, which I can guarantee fit almost no IT system in the real world, let alone (crucially) the manner in which it is used.

For some of us, Software Advice has tried to clear the matter up in EHR vs EMR - What's the Difference?

But do definitions help? I enjoyed reading about Socrates when I was at school. This gadfly of ancient Athens liked to ask questions such as “What is good?” or “What is the pious, and what the impious?” Then, by adroit questioning, he would lead his targets to realise what they thought they “knew” led to a contradiction.

But simply because you cannot define something does not mean you cannot appreciate or understand it—or, in the case of healthcare IT, use it. I worry the upsurge of academic interest in healthcare IT leads to introspection, and, like a hot bath, the more we contemplate it the colder it gets. Definitions have their place, but let’s get on with implementing healthcare IT and also learn from experience.

Recycling for Health

Picture of dawnFrom my office window I usually see the dawn. Sometimes the sun burns through the mist as a silver flash; sometimes as a red orb. Other days it’s a nondescript glow behind clouds. Part of a continual recycling that brings a new day.

The BBC’s Click reports how recycled computers are being used by the blind in Africa. Loice does not need to see the screen because she can touch type quickly and hear what she is writing thanks to a USB dongle running software from a company called Dolphin. She can carry the dongle with her and use it on almost any Windows PC. With such software and training, people like Loice can compete in the jobs market.

Computer Aid that leads this scheme is looking for a way to reduce the costs of this software. Computers can be refurbished for $60, but the software costs 40 times that amount.

For Bil: "Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light."


September 17, 2008

Random Thoughts

I like to find a unifying theme to my posts, but this one seems like a loose collection of thoughts.

The UK’s Times published a "Body and Soul" special issue on 6 September 2008 containing a few short articles which caught my eye.

First was a report on viral voltage. MIT says that viruses could reverse some of their poor reputation by powering tiny batteries in medical implants. At the US National Academy of Sciences Professor Angela Belcher reports her team has harnessed genetically engineered M13 viruses to produce a battery the size of a human cell. The battery could power tiny monitors in the body that might spot proteins given off by cancerous cells.

Yesterday I attended a meeting on the integration of health and social care. This is badly needed to address the likely increased prevalence of long-term conditions, such as COPD, epilepsy, asthma and diabetes, in the UK predicted to grow 23 percent in the next 25 years. One speaker argued passionately that lack of shared information was holding back progress. Staff were ready to work more closely but without shared information standards and governance this was being hindered. A multi-disciplinary care record was essential.

But writing in the same Times supplement health columnist "Dr Copperfield" (apparently a GP) tells us Electronic Care Records have “little to do with the health needs of patients and everything to do with politically driven focus groups”. Oh dear! I don’t know about you, but I prefer ex cathedra utterances to be backed by argument. Let’s give Dr. C. the benefit of the doubt, because the article is short. Nonetheless, so-called experts have a duty to give reasoning with their opinions or risk misinforming their readers.