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Welcoming Technology

Health information technology encompasses a wide range of tools. This month’s cover feature looks at 3-D modeling and its amazing uses as a training tool and visualization aid. As the technology advances, it can mean only good things for patient care. As a psychiatrist who treats patients via telemedicine, I believe that technology will make it easier for physicians to do what we do best. Especially in the era of value-based care, where we are asked to do more with less.

With the race on to bring new data driven technologies to health care, I got to thinking about the need for hands-on physicians. Why? As reported in The New York Times (Sept. 20, 2014), at least a few Silicon Valley entrepreneurs would prefer an artificial intelligence doctor, presumably a computer with perfect knowledge.

As least one third of attendees at a conference, held in San Francisco, agreed with a professor and technology visionary who said, “I would trust AI over a doctor any day.”

Reporter Elisabeth Rosenthal, a former physician, made this the topic of her column.

The prospect of artificial-intelligence doctors seems unlikely given that cognitive skills are difficult to automate, and the demands of complex technology require thinking individuals to keep it running. More doctors will be needed to advance the technology.

More likely, technology will streamline the rote work that doctors do, freeing us up to be more productive. Writing in The Health Care Blog (Sept. 23, 2014), health care speaker and futurist Joe Flower gave several scenarios in which technology would simply clear the deck of “wasteful procedures and unnecessary administrative tasks.”

For example, as EMRs become more transparent across platforms and organizations, doctors will no longer have to search for and re-enter records, images, and lab results. There will be no need for a separate coding caption function, Flower says.

As interoperability improves, applications and devices across all health systems will have the ability to capture and share all patient data, no matter where treatment takes place.

Big data has many potential uses: identifying causal relationships and trends; comparative effectiveness research, safety monitoring investigations, long-term studies on patient outcomes, and management of patient populations. We can expect many debates about individual privacy versus the public good.

Hospitals could offer single-price bundles for services like hip and knee replacements, thanks to deep and automated real-time cost analyses per case and procedure, Flower suggests. Cost analytics could cut by one third the amount of time spent “driving revenue streams,” particularly fighting with insurance companies.

Mobile devices and apps would increasingly enable real-time monitoring of patients, thereby reducing the need for acute interventions. Time-pressed physicians and home-bound patients would benefit greatly.

Ultimately, IT-enabled tools would help clinicians make more informed life-saving decisions. Physicians would return to their core mission. “That strong, trusted patient relationship is by far the most efficient communication structure in all of medicine,” Flower concludes.

Through our ongoing educational programs, CMS will help you master the tools you need to manage cutting-edge technology and improve patient care outcomes.

Kenneth G. Busch, MD
President, Chicago Medical Society

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