Devices & Technology

HIMSS Conference Showcases the Latest in Health Care Technology

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Suzi Birz, principal, HiQ Analytics, LLC

Healthcare information technology is a major issue worldwide and has become a hot topic in the presidential race. Consumers and health care professionals are aware of the value promised by electronic health records and the various supporting systems. The major benefits include reduced medical errors and lower health care costs.

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) is the health care industry's membership organization exclusively focused on providing leadership for the optimal use of information technology (IT) and management systems for the betterment of health care.

The 2008 Annual HIMSS Conference & Exhibition was held in Orlando, Florida, last month. With 28,400 attendees, this year’s HIMSS conference was the most successful to date.

This year, clinicians arrived at the conference a day early to attend symposiums on topics ranging from, nursing informatics and pharmacy informatics to physician information technology.

On the exhibition floor, dozens of vendors demonstrated products across all facets of health care. The variety of nursing applications included electronic medication administration report systems, nurse acuity systems, nurse staffing and scheduling systems, nursing documentation systems and patient tracking systems.

Recognizing the rise of importance of critical thinking and decision making, nursing references were built into into various products bringing evidenced-based information to the point of care.

Several vendors demonstrated expanded uses of bedside televisions and at least one vendor, Allen Technologies, showed a television that doubled as a monitor to access patients’ medical records, verify medications and view images.

Vendors also demonstrated alerts and monitors. Cardiopulmonary Corp demonstrated the Bernoulli®, a scaleable, high-availability solution for patient monitoring and event stream processing that enables alerts to be displayed from several bedside devices on one monitor at the nurses’ station, including ventilators, pumps, and end-tidal carbon dioxide monitors.

Mobile solutions were also a hot topic on the exhibition floor, from new devices to systems that run on handhelds or computers that nurses might already use.

The HIMSS conference provides a unique platform to demonstrate the collaborative work known as IHE— Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise. IHE is a 9 year public-private initiative that improves patient care by harmonizing health care information exchange. Specifically, IHE provides a structured framework for implementing standards to seamlessly pass information among health care providers, enabling local, regional and nationwide information networks.

Prior to the HIMSS conference, representatives from 70 leading companies gathered in Chicago to test 136 health care information technology systems for the ninth annual Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE®) Connectathon. The companies tested how well their systems conform to IHE integration profiles and share patient information with complementary systems. The IHE testing process is a critical step in achieving systems interoperability to enhance the quality of patient care.

Testing interoperability helps ensure that patients benefit from the five “rights” of healthcare: the right information, at the right time, on the right device, in the right format, and in the right context.

Building on these tests, the center piece of the IHE booth at the HIMSS conference was the Interoperability Showcase with five stations demonstrating scenes in which different vendor products exchanged patient health care information in the pursuit of providing care.

For instance, one “hospital scene” demonstrated a transfer of a patient from one hospital to another with a discharge summary being sent through the health information exchange from the first hospital to the second. Then, upon discharge from the second hospital, the hospital discharge summary, images and other diagnostic reports are available to the patient’s physician through the health information exchange.

Plans for next year’s meeting of health care IT innovators and leaders is already under way and will take place in Chicago in April 2009.

Read more at HIMSS08 - Healthcare IT Conference and Exhibition and Integrating the Healthcare Experience.

© 2008. AMN Healthcare, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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