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Contributing Writer · Aug 27, 2010

Science Fiction Becoming Health IT Reality

Robot nurses? Virtual doctor’s visits? Face recognition sign-on? Tablet computers with Clinical Decision Support? These concepts have existed in science fiction for decades. And unlike flying cars, they’re quickly becoming a reality in the healthcare sector.

A group from Practice Fusion was invited to tour the Kaiser Permanente Garfield Innovation Center earlier this week and saw these innovations in person (we have an innovation lab at Practice Fusion too, albeit much much smaller). Along with a general shift towards higher-quality service for patients such as single bed hospital rooms that look like four star hotels, Kaiser was testing cutting edge technology including:

  • RFID trackers for patients and hospital staff with real-time monitors and alerts
  • In-flight-style TV interface for patients to see their daily schedule, control lighting, order food, and watch videos about their procedures and diagnoses
  • Kiosk check in with integrated intake and payment processing
  • Internet connected operating rooms for sharing images, accessing records and getting advice from specialists in real-time
  • Portable tablet computers for nurses and doctors on hospital wards
  • Facial recognition to speed up provider login to computer systems
  • Telemedicine systems for connecting patients at home or the office to providers
  • Wireless home health devices like blood-pressure monitors and scales.
  • Virtual laser keyboards to reduce infection risks
  • Robots that deliver supplies, medications and blankets around a hospital facility

Kaiser is easily a leader in testing and implementing new technology for the hospital setting. And there were innovations on the ambulatory side too, but fewer. New exam room layouts didn’t look much different than the exam rooms we’re used to seeing from the past decade. Instead of some of the creative computer installation we’ve seen from the Practice Fusion community - mounted flat screen TVs as monitors, digital cameras, wireless keyboards, desks where patients and providers can interact - the exam rooms had laptops on bulky “COW” carts. The connected devices and imaging tools seen in the hospital rooms, weren’t present in the test clinics.

All this to say - not that Kaiser isn’t a visionary role model for the health IT sector - but that it was amazing to realize Practice Fusion users are advancing technology in the clinical setting even faster than this titan of medicine.

We have users who practice entirely without an office, making house-calls with a 3G card and laptop, other users who have created bright, modern paperless practices. The level of innovation in our community of 43,000 medical professionals rivals even a medical system with $42 billion a year in operating revenue.

Emily Peters
Director of Communications
Practice Fusion