Report: Lack of eHealth standards, privacy concerns costing lives

Early detection through trending can save thousands of lives

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Brian Williams, a clinical systems analyst with MNH, programmed the sepsis alert system with a set of tools provided by the EMR software from Cerner Corp. Williams said the EMR's alert tool has different templates that look at different criteria, but the sepsis alert depends on the patient's vital signs.

"Every time we put in a vital sign it writes to a [database] table. You put in a time frame to look at those signs and then just link them together with logic," he said. "We had to take into consideration things like, is this patient a diabetic. They may meet the glucose criteria for sepsis, but if they're diabetic we need to ignore that criteria and go to the next one."

MNH shared its sepsis alert system development process and workflow with several other hospitals beyond the Methodist Healthcare system including Toronto East General Hospital in Canada, the Henry Ford Medical Center in Detroit, Michigan, the University of Alabama at Birmingham Health Center and Catholic Healthcare West in California.

The PriceWaterhouseCoopers survey showed that health plans, such as Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Fallon, are farthest behind in their secondary use of data despite their vast repository of comprehensive claim information from physicians, hospitals, pharmacies and dentists. While information could be collected from personal health records, only 39% of health plans surveyed offer personal health records to their members and few members actually use them.

Ninety percent of pharmaceutical companies have limited or no access to health information contained in electronic health records, according to PriceWaterHouseCoopers. They are heavy purchasers of secondary health data, but this is typically not derived from electronic health records. Nearly half (45%) of pharmaceutical companies buy third-party health data, and 17% sell aggregated health data.

"The potential of this information has yet to be unleashed. Health-care organizations need to work together to overcome barriers and foster collaboration and innovation," Daniel Garrett, partner and leader of PricewaterhouseCoopers' health industries technology Practice, said in a statement.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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