Electronic Health Records Go Pro

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NFL, NBA show the potential of EHRs for patient care by adopting cutting-edge technology.

Amid all the talk about the promise of electronic health records (EHRs) for improving patient care, pro sports teams are positioning themselves as pioneers in the modernization effort by adopting the cutting edge of healthcare technology.

The National Football League and National Basketball Association have both recently announced plans to implement electronic health-management systems that will give team medical staffers, private player physicians, pharmacies and medical imaging centers shared access to players’ medical records – anywhere and anytime.

Jason Wander, managing director of Cerner Corp.’s HealtheAthlete platform that will provide electronic record keeping for all NBA players, said the move will centralize and standardize the care athletes receive as they progress through their careers, or across teams. Major League Soccer enlisted the Kansas City, Mo.-based health IT solutions firm to implement a similar system in 2011.

“This platform will have a greater sense of transparency and the healthcare will be consistent,” Wander told HealthBiz Decoded.

Companies like Cerner and Westborough, Mass.-based eClinicalWorks, which is working with the NFL on an EHR solution, have developed technologies to not only digitize records, but allow teams to track health data across the organization and spot health trends early to help avoid injuries.

Athletic trainers, physicians and other staff can access the web-based technology anywhere with the click of a button, including on mobile devices. Video streaming is one of the latest technologies incorporated into the system, giving teams’ medical staff an extra visual tool in assessing the cause of injuries. eClinicalWorks’ system also has touch and voice capabilities to allow trainers or physicians to enter data without typing.

“The NFL and its healthcare professionals pride themselves in maintaining a leadership role in sports medicine developments,” Dr. Tony Yates, president of the NFL Physicians Society, said when the agreement with eClinicalWorks was announced in November.

The move to embrace a collaborative EHR system is being heralded by some commentators as the key to improving health diagnoses for professional athletes. The NFL’s announcement came after increased pressure to provide efficient care; in part from recent lawsuits against the league by former players over head injuries sustained on the field.

The move by sports teams to embrace the technology could help draw attention to the benefits of EHRs as U.S. policymakers aim to modernize healthcare. The Obama administration’s healthcare reform policies call on hospitals and physician offices to update their technology systems and create digital records for patients.

While many of the EHR features in Cerner’s and eClinicalWorks’ athlete-related products are designed for sports, the concept behind the technologies can be retooled and applied in other ways.

“If you’re a parent and you’re concerned that your child may have a behavioral problem, you can take video of your child, and submit that to your pediatrician,” said Brian Carter, a Cerner senior director who oversees community health solutions. He added that patients’ ability to share photos and videos with physicians, using an EHR system with online accounts, encourages them to become active participants in the healthcare process.

The implementation of EHRs is poised to help modernize the business of healthcare. Yet as other industries, such as financial services, have taken advantage of mobile and web-based applications that allow consumers to bank on the go, healthcare’s consumer-oriented technological advances have lagged behind. The seemingly simple task of receiving a medical file can be onerous. But this is changing, says Carter.

As far as providing access to information and data online – and sharing information among physicians and patients – “this is going to be the decade that the healthcare industry surpasses the financial services industry,” he said.

If pro sports teams take the technology of the EHR and run with it, healthcare practitioners elsewhere may not be far behind.


Photo courtesy of Ed Yourdon via Flickr

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