By Tim Kaschinske

[Worldwide comment] Recently, at one of our company events, we invited a PACS administrator who works with BridgeHead to come and speak with us at an internal company meeting. The story that he told about a day in his life underscored for our team, once again, that healthcare data is just different!

A particular phrase that he used really struck the people listening: he said that he views not only his own role as a PACS administrator as an extension of patient care, but that he also views the role of every person at BridgeHead Software in that way.

This PACS administrator then related an incident that happened early in his career which I will never forget. Surgery had paged him. They were not able to access images that were needed for the procedure they were doing on a patient. After scrubbing in and gowning up, he entered the operating room. The surgeon was actively working on a patient; he was using a drill, making room for a new hip joint. As this PACS administrator described it, bone chips and blood were very evident. Alarmingly – at least to my ears – the surgeon holding the drill pointed the admin towards the PACS viewing station. The surgeon needed to see the images to continue his operation.

It was at this critical moment – with the sight and smell of an active OR all around him – that this young PACS administrator really ‘got it’ that healthcare data is different.

Like many, the background of this particular PACS administrator, prior to his work in healthcare, was in IT for a fortune 500 technology provider. Data management in that context is always important. Data is a critical asset to any business, with cost and burden if not well managed. However, the unique urgency of healthcare data is captured in the picture of a surgeon gowning up who has a patient under the knife depending on image availability and fidelity.

I share this story because it reinforces what the people at BridgeHead believe, which is that healthcare data is more critical than other types of data. We further believe that understanding how healthcare data is being used by healthcare clinicians is a critical part of delivering better healthcare data management.

Why is the focus on healthcare critical for healthy data management?

Healthcare as a business is all about patient care to which every part of the healthcare organization, including IT, has an impact. As with any business, IT needs to be involved in improving the business functions that are involved in patient care, but healthcare IT also needs to make sure that it does not get in the way. Delays in providing care whether because of a poorly designed user interface or because of an inefficient program, negatively affect patient outcomes.

For example, in cardiology they have the saying that “time is muscle”. What they mean by this is that when a patient is having a heart attack, the longer it takes to stabilize the patient, the more heart muscle is damaged as a result of the heart attack. A cardiology system that lengthens the time needed to stabilize the patient, even for a few moments, negatively affects not only the quality of care for cardiology patients, but potentially the on-going quality of life for those patients as well.

There are many other examples of how IT can negatively impact patient care. Recently, I was admitted to a hospital for atrial fibrillation. On the morning that I was to be discharged, the hospital had a number of their IT systems go down. As a result, I wasn’t able to be discharged for several hours. Emergency patients had to be rerouted to other hospitals. I was fortunate in that I had already received my medication. Other patients, who weren’t so lucky, had to wait longer as the nurses could not access their  medication and could not track the medications they were dispensing. For several hours, IT severely impacted the quality of healthcare at that hospital.

Data management companies need to keep this in mind when designing their systems. Restoring an image in a few minutes or even seconds may be acceptable in other businesses, but not in healthcare. At BridgeHead we think we’re unique as a Healthcare Data Management (HDM) company. There are healthcare companies that don’t have true data management functionality, and there are data management companies that are not specialized for healthcare. BridgeHead is devoted to bringing the best technology in data management to solving the unique time-urgent demands of healthcare clinicians and patients, as an extension of patient care.