On the Horizon

By Anna Maria Virzi  |  Posted 2006-10-02 Print this article Print

After maintaining paper records for decades, the renowned health-care provider has embraced digitized health information systems to better manage patient care and trim costs. Adoption has brought some pain.

On the Horizon

Physicians at the Mayo Clinic and others are excited about the promised benefits of electronic medical records beyond just productivity and day-to-day patient-care issues.

A goal for Mayo researchers: developing just-in-time outcomes research that can help a clinician tailor treatment for someone with a rare disease or condition, says Chute, the biomedical professor at Mayo.

Under the current setup at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville and elsewhere, Chute recognizes there are limitations. "Our electronic records are designed primarily for clinicians to read and understand so they can provide care to the patients in front of them," he says. "[Records] are not necessarily designed to support cross-patient [information] aggregation, high-level consolidation and cross-patient inquiry."

To address that, Mayo researchers in Rochester have partnered with IBM to harvest information from the health-care provider's electronic medical records, put it into a database and analyze it for patient treatment, according to Chute. Other challenges include developing standards for health information, including a consistent vocabulary for complex clinical descriptions and genomic characterizations; and making sure that each patient's privacy is safeguarded.

The challenges notwithstanding, e-health initiatives offer health-care workers improved ways to treat and prevent illness. "So much information about the health-care process is located away in paper," says Eric Brown, an analyst at Forrester Research, applauding Mayo's initiatives. "What gets my juices going is not shedding paper. It's all about the cool stuff we're going to be able to do once we have clinical information in some sort of available form."

Even if it means that some physicians will be gnashing their teeth as they pound away at a keyboard.

At A Glance: Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville

Headquarters: 4500 San Pablo Rd., Jacksonville, FL 32224
Phone: (904) 953-2000
URL: www.mayoclinic.org/jacksonville
Business: Health-care provider owned by Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic; the Florida facilities include a clinic with 400 examining rooms and the 289-bed St. Luke's Hospital.
Technology chief: Cheryl Croft, chair of I.T.
Financials In 2005: Revenue of $5.8 billion, expenses of $5.5 billion for Mayo Clinic; financials for Jacksonville not available.

NEXT PAGE: Electronic Records Then and Now

Executive Editor
Anna Maria was assistant managing editor Forbes.com. She held the posts of news editor and executive editor at Internet World magazine and was city editor and Washington correspondent for the Connecticut Post, a daily newspaper in Bridgeport. Anna Maria has a B.A. from the University of Rhode Island.

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