Worldwide we use a great number of different software programs combined with hardware and peripherals. When we look at what these different programs and items are supposed to do we find that most of them are actually meant to do the same thing. For instance: there are numerous software programs that are used to create, edit and save patient data. All of these generally do the same thing. The same thing is true for many other programs and equipment. Especially equipment that generates an output (scopes, heartrate monitor, ecg) generally comes with a way to show the output of that specific device (and that device only).
Of course this diversity leads to competition (and profit) of several companies. But let's face it, this is not a good or even efficient way to hande patient data. In my opinion the current system looks like this: Company X makes a device but notices their output-cable "A" doesnt fit the slot which is generally used for this type of data called (Let's call it output "B"). Instead of making their device with an output "B" type cable they just make a new computer that only has an "A" slot. This type of scattering of data is seen all over the medical world and severely limits the possibilities we can have.
So what IS the solution?
The solution to the problem would be to have ONE backbone system, this can either be a 'real' program like an electronic patient file or just a platform with which ALL of the programs and devices are compatible. This is of course easier said than done, especially because this would mean redical restructurization of not only the entire medical community but also the companies who provide medical equipment and software. In my opinion either a collaboration of those companies or a large 'outsider' company with experience in data management (in my mind this is Google) could realize this within 10 years.
Our current systems prevent a number of possibilities that could improve life for patients and doctors. For instance: You're a surgeon in a large hospital, it's 3AM and you're fast asleep. The phone rings, it's you colleague/Specialist in training calling you for advice on the patient he is currently opperating. Currently the best you can get is a quick summary of what is happening over the phone. With a centralized system you could go to your computer, login, read all the medical data, operating reports thus far including anaesthesia, view LIVE heartrates/pressures, view a LIVE video stream from the scope / a camera suspended above the operation table. Our second example is about wearables (on which medstro currently also has a great contest). Wearables provide an interesting field for technologic progression in hospitals. But what if wearables were linked to a centralized system? They could give realtime warnings about patients status because measurements are instantly connected to the centralized system and this system is linked to the wearable? What if the agenda of your consults on your phone is up-to-date all the time, including the patient that just called off his/her appointment 5 minuts ago? Finally, making one centralized system would also provide an easy platform for the integration of realtime patient files nation/world-wide. Currently most hospitals have their own medical file of a patient. Other hospitals (especially further away) almost never have all of this data. Essentially creating several partitions of what would be a full patients medical file divided between the several hospitals a patient visits during his life. This problem could be solved by creating one platform with a realtime updated patient file all of these hospitals can use.
But, if you store everything in one place wouldn't this be a huge threat to the security of patient files? Yes and no. Ofcourse a lot of data in one place creates the potential that once the security is cracked all of the data will be public. But on the other hand a lot of this problem is defined on HOW you store the data. For instance if there'd be a network of big hospitals providing a non-centralized patient database, basicly meaning everyone has an encrypted piece but noone has all data. Of course this isn't my field of expertise, but the point I am trying to make here is that the technology we have to protect data is sufficient (if done well).
The scattering of medical data due to the large amount of non-compatible medical software and equipment is inefficient and could hugely benefit from a centralized platform for which all software and equipment needs to be compatible. The implementation of this is going to be difficult because of the huge restructurization of not only hospitals but also the companies that are responsible for this software / equipment. In the end such a system would benefit patients and doctors worldwide!
I would like to invite all of you to discuss and brainstorm about this thread. Questions towards me can be sent through the medscape messaging system.
Thank you for participating.