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IT Support = Life Support

The lines are blurring between the technology for hospital administration and technology to deliver patient care
Drawbaugh's role in such new technology endeavors ranges from finding the ideas in the organization to helping assess market opportunities and assist in figuring out the best way to market the technology, including creating a company.

Stentor Inc., which licenses the technology behind iSyntax from UPMC, is among the best-known companies that have received Lancet funding. Stentor's enterprise picture-archiving and communications systems are based on dynamic-transfer syntax technology, which was developed at UPMC in the late 1990s.

At the heart of the iSyntax technology are mathematical representations of images called wavelets that enable the on-demand delivery of image data. ISyntax technology allows doctors to electronically access only the parts of images they need to look at as they navigate digital X-rays. The technology delivers diagnostic-quality medical images over existing hospital networks, making large infrastructure upgrades unnecessary.

About a dozen UPMC hospitals use the Stentor picture-archiving and communications products, an iSyntax spokesman says.

Information technologies also allow UPMC to extend its offering of promising new cancer treatments to a wider audience of patients. Through LAN and WAN connections, several UPMC satellite cancer treatment centers are beginning to give patients access to the specialized computational capabilities related to state-of-the-art cancer treatment, called Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy, which is available to patients at UPMC's larger Hillman Cancer Center. "The collaboration of IT and medical technology is making this expertise more widely available," Drawbaugh says.

The marriage of IT and medical-technology innovation also lies at the heart of several telehealth projects between UPMC and the U.S. Department of Defense to provide health-care through remote-access tools. UPMC provides technology to several smaller or remote U.S. Air Force bases with limited medical resources so they can access specialized medical expertise located at larger bases, such as radiologists and pathologists, who then, for instance, help analyze digitized X-ray images or pathology slides.

Drawbaugh this month attended meetings at an Air Force base in Hawaii to develop a possible telehealth initiative there. Other ongoing telehealth projects between UPMC and the Department of Defense involve pediatric echocardiography and diabetes-related services, he says.

Drawbaugh's IT organization also works closely with another emerging area of study at UPMC: biosecurity. The Center for Biosecurity at UPMC has the rather enormous mission to "prevent the development and use of biological weapons, to catalyze advances in science and governance that diminish the power of biological weapons as agents of mass lethality, and to lessen the human suffering that would result if prevention fails," according to the center's Web site.

UPMC's IT organization provides technology support to the biosecurity center, and Drawbaugh works closely with Tara O'Toole, the center's CEO, who had been director of the Johns Hopkins University Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies and Public Health Professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health from 1998 to 2003. "I work with Tara to find funding opportunities for our biosecurity research," he says.

It's not a typical day's work for a CIO, but Drawbaugh's role doesn't fit well inside traditional org-chart boundaries. Just as he does with biomed and information technology, Drawbaugh seems happiest when he's blurring the lines.

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