From the Editor: Connections & Re-connecting

After a short hiatus from Health Imaging & IT, I’m officially re-connected in a new role as editor. I’m glad to be back and re-connected at a time when connections are on our mind.

This month, we shine our annual spotlight on the country’s Top Connected Healthcare Facilities. The 25 winners have hurdled a pretty high bar. All provide remote access to patient images and data via PACS linked to an EMR, some providing key images and others full image sets. They also demonstrate that integrated health IT translates into better healthcare and a better bottom line in many ways. Connections count.

During the last year, I experienced healthcare connectivity on a different level, joining the frequent flier club after my 12-year-old daughter was diagnosed with methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) osteomyelitis. It proved to be a complex case, requiring seven surgeries, a month-long hospital stay and long-term, multi-disciplinary followup. Her case, like millions of others, was complicated (and could have been compromised) by the disconnects in our healthcare system.

Like clinicians everywhere, Ellie’s physicians depended on disparate health IT systems for lab values, imaging data and more. Unlike our Top Connected enterprises, however, the EMR did not link to imaging data. Every day, they spent valuable time logging in and out of various systems, entering passwords and searching for the right data. It was not efficient, productive or wise.

As a national healthcare system, we can’t afford for physicians to work around IT; we need rich connections among clinical IT systems to enable data-driven, efficient, high-touch, high-quality patient care. The connected enterprise lets physicians focus on their primary mission: patient health. At Top Connected Healthcare Facilities, patient history, lab values, current and prior images are available in integrated IT systems across the enterprise—and extending the reach even further via internal or external health information exchanges. Subspecialists are virtually available wherever needed. Patient care is informed and accelerated. Physicians are more productive, more satisfied and more efficient. Costs are reduced. It is the medicine that our system sorely needs.

So please join me in congratulating this year’s Top Connected Healthcare Facilities that stretch from Boston to Spokane, Wash.

And yes, Ellie’s story does have a happy ending. Despite the disconnects, the system worked. Ellie swapped antibiotics and orthotics for soccer cleats and pointe shoes this spring. My not-quite sabbatical ended. The lure of re-connecting with health imaging and IT and Health Imaging & IT proved irresistible.

I’m looking forward to new conversations and connections.