Top 10 Healthcare IT Innovators For 2012

Among 10 IT teams transforming parts of the U.S. healthcare system, you'll find important lessons in innovation and persistence.

The 2012 InformationWeek 500 healthcare IT award winners include several forward-thinking organizations whose primary goal is to improve the quality of the care they provide while lowering its cost. Anyone who reads the daily newspapers knows what a gargantuan task that will be.

Medical thought leaders estimate that as many as 50% of treatments currently in use are not supported by clinical research. It's difficult to provide quality patient care if there's no solid evidence upon which to base treatment protocols.

Likewise, the evidence shows that healthcare spending is out of control. A recent PwC report, for instance, found that wasteful spending in the health system may be as high as $1.2 trillion. Much of that waste results from overtreatment. That can take the form of duplicative tests or treatments based on diagnostic procedures that have not been shown to actually pinpoint the existence of the disease they're designed to detect. The Institute of Medicine estimates overtreatment is costing the nation at least $210 billion a year.

Each of the IW 500 honorees profiled in this slideshow is tackling these thorny issues with the help of innovative technology. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, for instance, recently launched Clinical Query, a clinical trials/clinical research system that combines a search engine and a database of 200 million data points on 2.2 million patient records. The tool lets hospital employees test hypotheses about what causes a disease, for example.

Sparrow, a large healthcare system in central Michigan, recently launched a massive Care Transformation Initiative to convert physician practice locations to its electronic health record (EHR) system and implement electronic charting in more than 600 departments. When all was said and done, 5,000 users had mobile access and patient data was being shared among several hospitals participating in the Great Lakes Health Information Exchange (HIE).

Such HIEs are one key to cost-effective medical care. Among their benefits: HIEs allow clinicians in diverse settings to share test results from the same patient, eliminating the temptation to perform the same test over and over. Similarly, doctors in different locations can share the record of a patient's allergies, reducing the risk of life-threatening complications when prescribing new medication.

Premier, an alliance of healthcare providers, certainly had healthcare waste in mind when it created its Efficiency Dashboard. The dashboard contains hospital-specific data on waste in each of 16 measures, including staffing inefficiency, pharmacy overutilization, suboptimal staffing skill mix, excessive length of stay, excessive readmissions, and inappropriate level of care. Using its database, Banner Health in Phoenix saved $850,000 a year through more appropriate use of CT scans on community-acquired pneumonia patients and $800,000 to $1 million annually by reducing clinical practice variations in bowel surgery.

These are just a few of the thinkers and doers featured in the profiles that follow. Their creative approaches to patient care make one thing abundantly clear: Innovation comes in all shapes and sizes.

Go to the 2012 InformationWeek 500 homepage