Better healthcare through computing

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According to this article in the New York Times, an ambitious plan by the National Institutes of Health and others could just revolutionize healthcare--including CME and pharma's role in education:

    At a conference last week at Rockefeller University, sponsored by I.B.M., a panel of health care experts discussed the innovations that promised to be the most intriguing and the most necessary over the next decade or so. They chose one grand pursuit in clinical care - the probable rise of "predictive medicine."...

    Yet the panel spent more time on the need to bring patient records and prescriptions out of the ink-and-paper era and into the computer age. "The problem I see is that we have so much information and we need to be able to translate that information into care," said Dr. Edward D. Miller, dean of the Johns Hopkins University medical school...

    But digital patient records are merely a first step toward a broader vision.

    Those records could become building blocks in a nationwide biomedical computer network for assembling and distributing up-to-the-minute epidemiological studies. The network could show researchers and physicians what treatments work for people with similar characteristics, ailments and, eventually, gene markers. To protect privacy, personal identifiers would be stripped out of the national network.

    There are plenty of technical obstacles and privacy concerns that would have to be overcome. Yet such a network is part of the 10-year plan being promoted by the National Institutes of Health, among others. "The dream is that every physician will be able to tap into that national biomedical network from his or her desktop computer," said Dr. Eric Jakobsson, who heads the Biomedical Information Science and Technology Initiative at the National Institutes of Health.

Can you even imagine how this could shake up the world of medicine? Insurance companies would move to the side as billing is automated, pharma no longer would be the primary source for information about drugs, reducing the need for detailing, sales reps, and DTC marketing. CME would become real-time, in-office, and customized to each practice. Look for a post later today on how an AMA pilot project is working already to figure out how to award AMA PRA Category 1 credit for practice-based CME. It may take a while, and I'm sure the database will have tons of bugs to work out before it can become a reality, but I find the project immensely compelling.

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