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Vendors Roll Out Some Amazing Products at Health IT Show

Posted May 2, 2009

Healthcare Technologies

The 2009 HIMSS Exhibition featured more than 900 exhibiting companies and health informatics-related organizations. Despite a stormy economy, many vendors reached networking milestones and experienced increased interest in certain products due to the stimulating effect of the federal stimulus bill, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

Overall attendance at the 2009 HIMSS Conference and Exhibition was down a little more than five percent this year from 2008. Many exhibitors noticed the difference, including Gail Malcolm, HIMSS fellow and marketing manager for Siemens’ Image and Knowledge Management Division.

“We’re really seeing the economic impact this year,” said Malcolm, “We certainly don’t see the number of attendees that we have in the past, and a lot of vendors are cutting back on their staff. Everyone is trying to tighten the belt and for a lot of customers, the funding for travel has just been eliminated.”

But despite fewer numbers, business was still booming due to the expected influx of funding from the recent Health IT stimulus bill.

“We’ve seen leads triple since the ARRA,” said Lynne Durham, senior public relations officer for Sage Software. “Our industry is affected a lot less than other industries in large part because of the stimulus act.”

Newer companies also experienced milestones, like Aruba Wireless Networks, which offers network integration solutions for health care centers. Since 2003 the company has secured 25 percent of the market for network integration and was flush with activity at HIMSS.

“We did better in the first few hours on Sunday than we did the entire HIMSS conference last year,” said Manav Khurana, head of marketing for Aruba Wireless Networks.

Products for “Meaningful Use”

One aspect of the ARRA that has vendors and health care systems on high alert is the lack of a clear definition of “meaningful use” — a standard of performance for health care information technologies. HIMSS offers guidelines for Clinical Diagnostic Support (CDS), e-Prescribing and quality outcomes and reporting, and many of the products on the showroom floor were a reflection of these processes.

Siemens displayed a software data management tool that uses algorithms to extrapolate data from clinical notes, reports and spreadsheets for quality control and reporting purposes. The REMIND Platform, which stands for Reliable Extraction & Meaningful Inference from Non-structured Data, automates reporting and helps free up personnel. Henri Primo, Siemens’ national director of marketing, explained the cycle of required CMS and Joint Commission quality of care measures and the reporting that is required by health care centers. In 2004 there were just 10 quality of care measures. Today there are an expansive 72 measures.

“A lot of hospitals trademark their quality of care, but quality control standards are constantly changing,” said Primo. “What is good today is not necessarily good tomorrow.”

Philips Business Development Manager Eric van’t Hoff talked to DOTmed about Philips’ telePC tablet technology, which serves much like a medical-grade PDA for clinicians. The product is sealed, hygienic, drop-proof, WIFI and Bluetooth-enabled, and includes a digital camera. The tablet is also capable of barcoding, RFID and asset tracking, and serves many clinical functions, including admissions assistance, vital-signs tracking, documentation, and physician order entry.

Physicians Warm to e-Prescribing and Patient Messaging

Atlantic Health, northern New Jersey’s largest health care system, has integrated many of McKesson’s health care information systems, including Horizon Expert Orders, a computerized provider order entry (CPOE) solution, in order to improve efficiency and quality outcomes. In just the past year, Linda Reed, vice president of information systems and CIO for Atlantic Health, saw a 27 percent surge in physician-patient messaging.

“It’s a different kind of communication that is really going to grow,” she said. At first physicians seemed wary of being bowled over by patient requests and comments, but the initial hesitance seems to have waned for many, and support for electronic prescriptions is building. As a result of their Health IT implementation, Atlantic Health has reduced the medication error rate to less than one percent at participating facilities.

Allscripts showcased an electronic health record kiosk, which allows patients to check in by biomedical hand scanning, retrieves scheduling and medical record information for clinical review and allows patients to view their personal profile and health maintenance plan. For e-Prescribing, Allscripts offers physicians an iPhone solution that provides remote access to records and the ability to create orders anytime and anywhere.

A Gradual Process

“The health care industry is not particularly agile,” but hospitals are making the big push to implement healthcare informatics technology by 2010-2020, said Glenn Loos-Austin, a user interface designer for EPIC.

One of the products EPIC featured at HIMSS was MyChart, which allows patients to access charts online. With the wave of new record accessibility products on the market, the issue of patient privacy becomes increasingly more important to address, especially since there aren’t clear regulatory guidelines from HIPAA or federal agencies.

At this point it’s about finding the right balance, said Loos-Austin. We try to adhere to HIPAA-like guidelines in the absence of actual mandates.

Economic pressures and the innate complexity of hospital systems make implementation a painstaking process. Even with the promise of funding, how much and where the actual federal stimulus monies can be applied is still a big question mark.

“There’s a high level of strategy, but no definitive answer as to how it’s actually going to occur,” said Jim Morgan, director of marketing for FujiFilm. The company had integrated and teleradiology-enabled RIS/PACS solutions on view, including the Synapse PACS and Empiric RIS.

Morgan mentioned that one of the concerns of vendors and their customers is the percentage of these technologies that won’t end up being covered by federal funding.

“If only 40 percent of the total cost gets funded, where is the other 60 percent going to come from? There has to be some sort of delta between the two,” said Morgan. Until there are concrete answers, vendors are trying to turn out products that increase productivity at a lower cost of ownership for the maximum use of their investments.

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