This Week In Healthcare Information Technology: Oct. 18 - 24

Oct 24, 2009 (10:10 AM EDT)

Read the Original Article at

Our roundup of this week's healthcare IT coverage in InformationWeek includes federal CTO Aneesh Chopra on cost savings and efficiencies, Intel CEO Paul Otellini on the chip giant's partnership with GE, the introduction by GE itself of its tricorder-like handheld ultrasound device, government work on a key definition required for stimulus funds to be doled out, and a look at healthcare IT employment opportunities.

Federal CTO Aneesh Chopra On Investments

The federal government can use IT to help lower the cost and improve the quality of healthcare in the United States, federal CTO Aneesh Chopra said Wednesday. Efficiencies and cost savings will come from investments made in health IT product innovation, funding of data infrastructure used to measure treatment effectiveness, and the use of technology to help address low-hanging fruit such as inefficient billing processes, he said.

Chopra, speaking on stage at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco with O'Reilly Media CEO Tim O'Reilly, said that one of the biggest problems with healthcare in the United States is that there's little true sense of effectiveness of treatment. This year's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act -- the economic stimulus package -- includes $1.1 billion to help the federal government invest in comparative effectiveness research, with a chunk of that money going to build the necessary data infrastructure.

"If you look at the retail sector, we have almost perfect market intelligence about point-of-sale transactions across Wal-Mart, so they have sophisticated algorithms to say exactly what they should be doing to optimize sales based on customer behavior," he said. By comparison, "only 3% of the nation's cancer patients are enrolled in a clinical trial that allows them to actually have that clinical trial be mined by researchers."

To read more, see Web 2.0 Summit: Fed CTO Talks Healthcare IT.

Intel On Its GE Partnership

Also at the Web 2.0 Summit, Intel CEO Paul Otellini took the stage for an interview with Summit program chair and Federated Media founder John Battelle. During the discussion, Otellini expressed confidence in the market for healthcare IT, noting that Intel has partnered with GE to focus on home healthcare. "Let's keep people [in need of medical treatment] at home longer," he said, noting that home care represents the lowest cost to society. "We're developing a family of devices to allow that," he said, citing video conferencing and intelligent medication systems as examples. Healthcare, he added, needs to shift from a centralized model to a distributed one.

To read more, see Web 2.0 Summit: Intel CEO Expects PC Sales Surge.

GE Intros Handheld Ultrasound

If you had any doubts that the future belongs to mobile network-capable devices, look no further than General Electric.

At the Web 2.0 Summit on Tuesday, GE CEO Jeff Immelt showed off a forthcoming hand-held ultrasound device called Vscan, calling it "the stethoscope of the 21st century."

The device, which features a clam-shell design, with a small screen on one side and a circular input pad on the other, accepts a cable terminated in an ultrasound sensor. It could easily be mistaken for a cell phone.

To read more, see Web 2.0 Summit: GE Introduces Handheld Ultrasound Device.

U.S. Readies Stimulus Precursor

The U.S. government is distributing substantial financial incentives to hospitals and physicians to implement IT systems, contingent on the technology being put to "meaningful use." But regulations don't define "meaningful use." David Blumenthal, the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, in the Congressional Budget Office, said his office is writing the definitions for initial release in December.

To read more, see Health IT Metrics Taking Shape.

Where The Jobs Are

Hospitals and medical practices are scrambling to deploy e-medical record and other clinical information systems to meet federal requirements for the more than $20 billion in stimulus incentives included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. And that means many of them are expanding their IT teams to bring in the skills and expertise they need to implement these systems.

In fact, National Coordinator of Health IT Dr. David Blumenthal recently predicted that the move toward digitized medical record systems could create 50,000 new healthcare IT jobs over the next several years.

Many of these jobs will require traditional IT skills as well as knowledge and experience working in clinical environments. "There's demand for highly skilled IT talent in hospitals," said Fran Turisco, a research principal at IT consulting firm CSC, especially for people who have already deployed or worked with e-medical record and other clinical systems.

A recent survey by IT staffing firm Robert Half Technology of 244 healthcare CIOs found fourth quarter hiring plans include the following skills:

  • Network administration (76%)
  • Desktop support (72%)
  • Windows administration (61%)
  • Wireless network management (55%)
  • Database management (54%)
  • Telecommunications support (49%)
  • Web development/design (30%)
  • Virtualization (35%)
  • Business intelligence/reporting services (32%)
  • ERP implementation (26%)

    Specific jobs healthcare CIOs are looking to fill in the fourth quarter, according to the Robert Half survey, include: help desk and technical support (25%), networking (8%), information security (14%).

    To read more, see Why Your Next IT Job Will Be In Healthcare .