Stimulus Bill Addresses Healthcare IT Issues

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Chris P. Kaiser, Editor
Both houses of Congress and the president have reached a compromise regarding the much-anticipated stimulus bill, which is expected to have a net impact of $19 billion for healthcare on the federal budget over the next 10 years.

With a little more than $2 billion slated for the construction of healthcare IT infrastructures, and about $17 billion for hospitals and physicians as incentives when they demonstrate "meaningful" use of certified healthcare IT, such as EHRs, how does advanced visualization fit into the stimulus puzzle?

Diagnostic images of any type are no longer restricted to specialty silos. Cardiologists who utilize coronary CT angiography and its inherent 3D reconstructions, for example, are increasingly being asked to make those images available to other physicians. This can be done by putting the images on a thin-client server that is accessible to referring physicians, but it can also be done by including the images into a patient’s EHR. But moving images across the enterprise is still fraught with technological difficulties.

Various EHRs can’t talk with the various PACS or CVIS often deployed within a multi-site facility. In addition, many information systems can handle only static and low resolution images, which are not much help to specialists such as cardiothoracic surgeons, neurosurgeons and interventional cardiologists. These specialists want and need access to 3D volume-rendered images that can help them with pre- and post-operative planning, as well as intra-operative guidance.

In our Advanced Visualization portal this month, you’ll find many clinical studies addressing the strengths and weaknesses of using cardiac CT and MRI for various indications, as well as the latest in advanced viz industry news.

You may have your opinion of the stimulus bill, but President Obama is expected to sign it into law today. Therefore, it might be wise to jump onboard the IT express and determine how you can get your slice of the stimulus pie to bring your facility closer to the electronic ideal that everyone has been talking about for the last several years.

But we should remember that the push by the government to have every hospital and healthcare facility totally wired for seamless integration of all patient information will affect cardiovascular medicine. In particular, it will enhance the ability for many specialists to benefit from viewing and manipulating reformatted and 3D volume-rendered images.

On these or any other topics, please feel free to send me an email with your comments.

Chris P. Kaiser, Editor