NFL Uses EHRs To Tackle Player Injuries

National Football League taps into eClinicalWorks electronic health record (EHR) system to coordinate care, better diagnose concussions and other game-related injuries.

Michelle McNickle, Associate Editor of InformationWeek Healthcare

November 27, 2012

3 Min Read

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All 32 teams that make up the National Football League (NFL) now have access to the eClinicalWorks electronic health record (EHR) system and are using the tool to streamline processes between locations and to coordinate care for players.

"The NFL and its healthcare professionals pride themselves in maintaining a leadership role in sports medicine developments," Tony Yates, MD, president of the NFL Physicians Society and member of the league's EMR committee, said in a statement. "We are always looking for innovative ways to enhance healthcare within the organization. Electronic health records are the next logical step and we look forward to partnering with eClinicalWorks on this initiative."

In an interview with InformationWeek Healthcare, Girish Kumar Navani, co-founder and CEO of eClinicalWorks, said the company participated in a typical vendor evaluation to win the contract with the NFL. Navani said the company has proven success with "the orthopedic side of the equation, or sports medicine, if you will," along with experience using the tool in family medicine and within preventative care.

Since the NFL will deploy the system league-wide, Navani said it will help during both practice and game-day situations to help diagnose injuries. "If someone gets hurt, it can look up their information ... so it's anytime, anywhere access, including integration of the play-by-play into the EHR."

The eClinicalWorks system will include a direct video feed into the EHR, allowing the league to view player injuries as they happen. This will allow for better treatment options and follow-up plans once the player has been diagnosed, Navani said. Additionally, other tweaks will be made to the eClinicalWorks system to accommodate the league's adoption, including the system's connection to radiology, labs, picture archiving and communication systems and a concussion app.

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"In a sense, there are integrations and work we're doing in this setting that will be different than a typical hospital, but in terms of overall EHR deployment, which is the documentation of injuries, those are the things we've had good experience with," said Navani.

The league's integration of an EHR system echoes a speech NFL commissioner Roger Goodell made recently at the Harvard School of Public Health. In it, Goodell addressed sport-related injuries, namely concussions, which have been a growing concern among athletes and spectators alike. Technology -- more specifically, "iPads and cellphones by medical staffs on the sidelines" -- is helping the league better diagnose and essentially reduce the number of concussions that occur during games.

"We allow this technology for medical reasons, but not for competitive purposes," he said. The league is also testing additional technologies, like accelerometers in helmets. "They are sensors that determine the impact of a hit," Goodell said. "We are also testing sensors in shoulder pads, which could provide important information."

The most important innovation, Goodell said, could be the use of video by staff on the sidelines, "to evaluate the mechanism of injury," he said. "We started it late last season and now use it for every game. It allows team doctors and trainers to more quickly understand and better treat an injury. Our team medical staffs are raving about it."

Clinical, patient engagement, and consumer apps promise to re-energize healthcare. Also in the new, all-digital Mobile Power issue of InformationWeek Healthcare: Comparative effectiveness research taps the IT toolbox to compare treatments to determine which ones are most effective. (Free registration required.)

About the Author(s)

Michelle McNickle

Associate Editor of InformationWeek Healthcare

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