Doctors Can Go Back To Tech School - InformationWeek

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Doctors Can Go Back To Tech School

Texas A&M-Dell academy to launch later this year aims to train medical pros on the latest healthcare technology -- and serve doctors moving into IT roles.

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One of the goals of Texas A&M's Health Science Center is to help doctors, medical students, and other healthcare professionals come to terms with the ways technology is changing their jobs. It will take a big step in that direction when it launches a new health technology academy later this year as part of its continuing medical education program.

A unit of Texas A&M University, TAMHSC operates on seven campuses statewide. TAMHSC is working with Dell to develop the academy, including collaborating on the curriculum.

The center initially will design the academy's curriculum to serve practicing physicians who want training in the latest healthcare information technologies. In the long term, the aim is to also serve undergraduate, graduate, and medical school students interested in careers in healthcare IT, said Dr. Paul Ogden, interim dean of medicine and interim VP for clinical affairs at TAMHSC, in an interview.

[Is that health app good for you? Read 10 Health Apps That Might Make You Sick.]

"There is a need [in healthcare] for folks who are IT people primarily and also physicians," Dr. Ogden says. "We've noticed that technology is rapidly changing and seems to be well ahead of where physicians are in most cases. Physicians are busy trying to maintain a clinical practice, are usually dealing with outdated technology, and have very little time to update it, or improve technology to improve patient care and make their practice more efficient. It's an area that needed innovation and education."

Some doctors "in older age groups" are slow to adopt technology, says Ogden. This challenge is compounded by clunky electronic health record (EHR) systems, many of which were built mainly to ensure that medical practices handle coding properly for insurance company billing. "Many physicians find [EHRs] difficult to transition to and very cumbersome when they try to do it."

The limits of EHRs are well publicized. In an open letter to health IT vendors posted on InformationWeek.com, Mory Weschler, chief IT strategist for Montefiore Medical Center in New York, addressed the key issues:

Hospital systems are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in an [EHR] system that physicians and other eligible providers are not flocking to use. Why is this the case? Why do some clinicians complain the system gets in the way of treating their patients? Why is it difficult to train clinicians on how to place an order or print a barcode for a blood draw? From a patient perspective -- and as consumers of what has been referred to as the world's most expensive healthcare system -- is it too much to ask for access to a longitudinal medical record?

Then there are the government deadlines pressing down on healthcare organizations -- adoption of ICD-10 diagnosis codes by October of this year, and compliance with Meaningful Use Stage 2 going into next year. According to the 2014 HIMSS Leadership Survey, 71% of the 298 healthcare IT leaders who responded said they expect to be able to attest to Meaningful Use 2 compliance this year, and another 19% expect to get there in 2015. The deadline for conversion of systems to support ICD-10 diagnosis codes is October 2014, as dictated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, but only 16% of respondents say that achieving this conversion is a priority for their organizations.

According to Dr. Cliff Bleustein, managing director and global head of healthcare consulting for Dell,  two big IT challenges face physicians. "The first is learning how to use the technology itself, whether it's a tablet, a smartphone or EHRs," he told us. "Oftentimes, it requires learning the new system and how it operates. That's coupled with changing the way you work. You have to change the workflows and processes, and people have spent a tremendous amount of time establishing these. The introduction of new technologies requires a change in cultural mindset, policies and procedures, and changes in workflows. It’s different from current ways they do medicine."

With that challenge in mind, the TAMHSC courses will focus not only on technology, but also on the broader issues of change management, governance, compliance, and security. "It's important that organizations have an assessment around their security to see what they can do to make improvements," says Bleustein.

Ogden thinks technology is going to be a bigger and bigger part of every medical practice.

"All physicians should be on EHR in the next five years," he says. "I see physicians working with tablets and smartphones. They're using apps on their phones to monitor patients to track disease. We're seeing large chunks of information coming into the doctor's office externally from patient-monitoring devices that have to be evaluated and managed. The amount of information will be huge, and systems will need to be built around that in order to allow physicians to use it. It's not like an old paper record that sits in a drawer and nobody looks at."

What do you think? Are TAMHSC and Dell on the right track with their healthcare technology academy? Is it necessary for a new discipline to emerge that combines clinical know-how with technological skill, a sort of Dr. CIO? Also, what are your biggest concerns about EHRs and the increasingly tech-dependent state of healthcare? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

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Susan Nunziata leads the site's content team and contributors to guide topics, direct strategies, and pursue new ideas, all in the interest of sharing practicable insights with our community.Nunziata was most recently Director of Editorial for EnterpriseEfficiency.com, a UBM ... View Full Bio

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Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
8/28/2014 | 6:55:30 PM
Re: Medical doctors have too much to do as it is
@Gary_EL: There is a virtually unlimited supply of unemployed IT engineers who'd be delighted to do it for them.

Sounds to me like it's time to start an agency connecting these unemployed IT engineers with the docs who really need them.

 
Susan_Nunziata
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50%
Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
8/28/2014 | 6:52:50 PM
Re: Two programs, not one...
@cschooler: This pretty well sums things up: the lowest level user, i.e. the clinician, is required to input most if not all of the data essentially by hand and in a double whammy gets the least return from the system.

Your comparison to a CRM system is quite fitting as well.

In these cases, who would you say ends up getting the most return from the system?
Susan_Nunziata
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50%
Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
8/26/2014 | 8:18:14 PM
Re: Two programs, not one...
@cschooler: Thank you for your thoughtful and considered response. You've highlighted a core and very important issue that I hadn't considered: two very different bases of potential students. I hope in the long run the cirriculum will serve both of those groups meet their own unique learning goals.

In particular I see the GUI and mobility issues as being the greatest obstacle to the advancement of these applications.

Why is it, do you think, that developers of these apps have done such a generally poor job on the usability and mobile access?
Susan_Nunziata
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50%
Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
8/26/2014 | 7:43:28 PM
Re: Telepresence role
@jastroff: part of the challenge that I see for doctors, at least here in the states, is that they are paid so little per patient in many cases that it's difficult to imagine them investing time in learning to use new technologies, even when they might make their operations more efficient in the long term. Contrary to popular belief, what I have read recently is that he way the medical insurance industry is structured these days many doctors, especially general practitioners, have to pack their schedues just to keep in business.
Susan_Nunziata
50%
50%
Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
8/26/2014 | 7:40:24 PM
Re: Medical doctors have too much to do as it is
@Gary_EL: What you're saying is really similar to the role technology plays in any business: Business professionals need to know how to use technology to get their jobs done. IT professionals need to be the experts in the deployment, training and upgrading of the technology. Likewise for healthcare profeessionals: I want my doctors to be focused first and foremost on providing me with high quality healthcare. It's a bonus if they are also tech-savvy. One of my doctors -- who is an expert not based in my state -- will do consultations with me via Skype.
Susan_Nunziata
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50%
Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
8/26/2014 | 7:36:21 PM
Re: Telepresence role
@Li Tan: healthcare in particular seems to attract people who are very passionate about what they do. All of the IT professionals I've spoken to in the healthcare sector all say some version of the same thing: At the end of the day my technology choices play a role in saving lives.

That is truly something to be proud of, and to never lose sight of, if you're a healthcare IT pro.
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
8/26/2014 | 7:33:49 PM
Re: Telepresence role
@Thomas: Agreed. Are there any online ourses you've taken that you feel you've gained value or knowledge from? What did you like most (and least) about that form of learning experience?
Susan_Nunziata
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50%
Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
8/26/2014 | 7:31:15 PM
Re: Medical doctors have too much to do as it is
@JasonS441: Fair enough. Are you a doctor or medical professional?

If so, I would very much like to know more about the challenges you're facing in dealing with changing technology and regulatory environments. We're all here to learn.
Susan Fourtané
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50%
Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Author
8/5/2014 | 4:36:27 AM
Re: Medical doctors have too much to do as it is
Gary, 

My point is that the minimum all doctors should be using now are iPads, Glass, EHRs, and some AI to assist those who are surgeons. When you talk with some doctors they don't even want to spend time learning about how to efficiently use EHRs and ePrescriptions. 

Robots assisting surgeons and also through telemedicine already exist today. There are also robots that visit patients which count with a screen through which the physicians communicate with those patients. 

Doctors today can't limit their knowledge to just medicine and believe that technology is just for the IT people. That was in the past. They need to learn about the technology available to assist their practice and incorportate it as soon as possible.

Another thing, iPads may be used by everyone, but doctors need to learn to use the specific applications for their practice. Glass is perfect for surgeons and for med students. 

-Susan  
Susan Fourtané
50%
50%
Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Author
8/4/2014 | 4:29:12 AM
There is a need for more healthcare technology academies
SusanN, 

"Are TAMHSC and Dell on the right track with their healthcare technology academy?"

Yes, they definitely are. More initiatives like this one is what is going to help physicians get into the health technology track, which they need to practice medicine in the 21st century. 

"Is it necessary for a new discipline to emerge that combines clinical know-how with technological skill, a sort of Dr. CIO?"

Maybe not a Dr. CIO, but something close to that. The fact is that a doctor without any technological knowledge who doesn't know how to use simple devices such as an iPad, Google Glass, or a surgical robot to assist them in their medical practice are going to be so behind that either learn quickly and adapt to the changes, or change career. 

"Also, what are your biggest concerns about EHRs and the increasingly tech-dependent state of healthcare?"

I don't have any concerns about EHRs other than thinking that the slow adoption by some physicians is really worrysome. EHRs are not something new. They have been around for many years now. And yet, the discussions around EHRs are always, always, always the same. :/ The good thing is that the state of EHRs adoption in Europe is much higher than in the US, and moving quickly. 

I don't have any concerns about the increasing tech-dependant state of heathcare either. On the contrary. I believe it is simply a logical consequence of today's tech-dependant society. This is not bad. It means advancement. It mean evolution. This requires adaptation, which is always necessary as part of any evolutionary process.   

Good questions, Susan. Do I get a golden star for answering to all the questions? :) Maybe a candy, too? :D

-SusanF
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