Getting Health Care Right - InformationWeek

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Getting Health Care Right

Improving care and cutting costs will bring IT into every area of health care

To understand the role business technology plays in improving health care, look no further than the "five rights." When a drug goes to a patient, it needs to be the right patient, the right drug, the right dose, the right time, and the right delivery method, such as a pill or IV.

Making sure all those rights happen is just one area in which Jody Davids, CIO of medical products and drug distributor Cardinal Health, expects business technology to play a critical role in changing the industry. IT is tightly enmeshed in the health-care industry's intensifying mission to reduce medical errors and improve patient safety and quality of care, and Cardinal's customers--large hospitals and other health-care providers--expect the company to come up with products and services to help them. "I can't think of a [Cardinal] service or product where technology isn't an important component," Davids says.

Jody Davids Photo by Sacha Lecca

Davids is passionate about getting young women interested in technology fields.

Photo of Jody Davids by Sacha Lecca
The Food and Drug Administration this month is expected to announce its final rule about requiring drug companies to put bar codes on individual-dose medicines administered to patients in hospitals and other care settings. The FDA hopes bar codes on single-dose drugs will make it easier and less expensive for hospitals to deploy computerized systems so nurses at patients' bedsides can automatically match drugs with patient records before they administer medicine, catching potential mistakes in doses, interactions, or allergies.

The FDA rule isn't expected to take effect for a couple of years, but Cardinal already provides bar-code-packaging services. It's also exploring how radio-frequency ID technology might eventually be even better than bar codes for patient drug-safety deployments, Davids says, such as using it to track drugs from manufacturer to delivery to patient. Still, RFID isn't likely to replace bar codes on drug packaging for three to five years, she predicts.

Cardinal Health didn't see much of a drop during the economic slowdown, since people get sick regardless of the economy. "It didn't slow us down. Our rate of investment was steady," Davids says.

When it comes to managing business technology, Cardinal hasn't outsourced any of its operations. The company will continue to look at outsourcing, Davids says, but she doesn't expect short-term cost savings will drive the decision. "We won't do it to save a little money. It would need to fit into the business' direction," she says.

Davids doesn't see offshore IT growth sapping tech opportunities for Americans, and one of her passions outside of work is trying to get more young people, particularly women, interested in technology fields. "The jobs left behind are the most interesting ones; they are the more creative jobs," requiring an understanding not only of technology, but of how businesses run, she says.

Davids isn't a worrier by nature. Managing the systems behind a $40 billion-a-year company doesn't give her worry lines. This mother of two teenage sons says there's only one thing that can keep her up at night: "Waiting for the garage door to open."

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