The world’s most powerful MRI machine used on humans packs a 45-ton magnet that generates a 9.4-Tesla magnetic field.

If you’re counting Teslas at home — which are a standard measure of magnetic force — that’s stronger than the magnets in the world’s most powerful particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider. (Of course, there are thousands of LHC magnets.)

Instead of using that power to accelerate particles, the MRI machine, located at the University of Illinois, Chicago, is used to peer into the human brain. And it’s already yielding new insights.


And then Wal-Mart from right field…

Wal-Mart: the giant…health care integrator?

Wal-Mart‘s (astonishing?) announcement Tuesday from The New York Times:

Wal-Mart Stores is striding into the market for electronic health records, seeking to bring the technology into the mainstream for physicians in small offices, where most of America’s doctors practice medicine.

Evidently the retailing giant will partner with Dell (hardware) and eClinicalWorks (software) to complete the service.  Installation, maintenance, and training will be included.  The product will be offered through the Sam’s Club brand.  It’s going to be (relatively) cheap, too.  More details:

“We’re a high-volume, low-cost company,” said Marcus Osborne, senior director for health care business development at Wal-Mart. “And I would argue that mentality is sorely lacking in the health care industry.”

The Sam’s Club offering, to be made available this spring, will be under $25,000 for the first physician in a practice, and about $10,000 for each additional doctor. After the installation and training, continuing annual costs for maintenance and support will be $4,000 to $6,500 a year, the company estimates.

An affordable EMR option.  Waiting, patiently, for the reaction on this one.  (Mr. Osborne’s quote above is interesting, too.)

Technology assistance

BusinessWeek‘s Gene Marks feels sorry for doctors because of the way they are being forced to purchase technology.  The issues facing independent physicians:

For example, right now there are dozens and dozens of companies offering technologies that claim to provide electronic health records. And guess what? None of their systems talk to each other. Surprise! And none of them have the same architecture. And they don’t exchange data with all the same hospitals. That’s because most hospitals’ systems are all over the place too. What, you think those big hospitals actually have their act together?

Has such a high tech industry ever had so much trouble implementing personal technology?  Feel bad for physicians, yes.  That financial benefits of an EMR accrue to payers, hospitals, and to the larger system is but one reason.  But sooner or later, a minimum level of technology in the exam room is the price of entry, right?  So the U.S. federal government is on board with the stimulus bill—should assistance to physicians in purchasing technology end there?  Does the mandate preclude participation by commercial payers and hospitals?

Twitter, bellyflopping, and the heretical hospital

So hospitals are finding Twitter (for the uninitiated).  Thanks to Ed Bennett you can find which organizations have (and YouTube, Facebook, and blogs).  Polite golf clap, please.

Okay, that’s it.  Because it has been more of a “dip the toe to test the water” effort than a fearless jump into the cold swimming pool.  That is to be expected.  It might even be a good thing.  But using Twitter as another medium to push press releases will not lead to brand engagement (brands as Twitterers is a completely different conversation).  Remember, social media is about the conversation.  It takes two+ to tango.  Until hospitals engage in conversations (individual to individual) the effort will be largely unsuccessful.

But Twitter-like white-label internal applications hold potential to help health care personnel.  It could provide quick answers to questions that may, without such an application, go unasked.  Nurses asking nurses.  Physicians asking physicians.  Managers asking managers.  Managers managing employees.  Alerts.  Updates.  Internal news.  Nurses asking physicians asking managers asking nurses.  Or encouraging.  Or correcting.  Or improving quality and processes and collaboration.  You get the idea.  That rant could go on.

Skepticism abounds.  Expected.  It’s much easier to find reasons not to use such technology than to find reasons for its use.

Be assured there is some serious opportunity here for the heretical hospital.  An organization must allow and encourage (and implement) such technology for communication to take place.  A Toronto Globe and Mail column offers advice from Don Tapscott:

Twitter has emerged as a “powerful tool that can speed up the metabolism of an organization, keep everyone better informed and enable greater agility and responsiveness to changing conditions.”

He encourages people to experiment with it. Managers should try it out – at least to understand how it works – and give employees a chance “to self-organize and collaborate using these tools.”

Steve Prentice, president of consulting firm Bristall Morgan in Toronto adds his two cents in the same column:

He suggests companies start trying it out on an internal basis – starting from the top, with CEOs, to boost communication with staff. And companies should have a policy in place so workers understand perimeters.

Here’s to bellyflopping into the pool.  Adjusting to the coldish water happens quickly.  Though the red skin may linger for a while, the pain recedes in time.

The trouble with naming products

Patient kiosks are hot in health care right now. The expectation, among others, is that they will improve registration process flow. Checking in at the airport using a kiosk is easy; it would be nice to have a similar experience in a health care setting. While the new technology is far from refined, expect the proliferation of such devices to continue.

That’s not really the point of this post, however. The branding of such products is.

medGadget reports on the latest entry to the patient kiosk market: SUKIT.

The device hails from Japan and while I’m not real sure on Japanese/English pronunciation translation, it becomes obvious that some component of the branding was lossed in translation. If you haven’t picked up what I’m putting down yet: take SUKIT, insert a C after the U and before the K, throw a space between the K and the I, and how is that pronounced? SUCK IT.


From the press release:

This electronic healthcare information system, the first practical application of the kiosk terminal, allows doctors, hospitals and other caregivers to provide their patients with easy access to all types of useful information regarding health and medicine, while at the same time creating an interactive communication channel. For example, patients can use the kiosk terminal to research the contra-indications and side effects of specific medicines, to find out new medical products and services available on the market, or to set up a medical appointment.

The company’s explanation of the product doesn’t provide anything Earth shattering either. The last thing I want to do is explore drug interactions and check out new products and services available on the market from the discomfort of a kiosk. Isn’t that what a personal computer and a home internet connection are for?

A convergence of technology, education, and health

Two of my favorite subjects converged on The Early Show this A.M.: education and health care.  A really neat story of what technological progress can make happen in the classroom when health care disaster strikes.

Here’s some more from Microsoft.

Pseudo-Vacation Update: Nearing an end, normal blogging to resume soon.

In: Technology Progression…

This is cool. Remarkable only in that such an idea isn’t the norm industry wide:

The service, unveiled Wednesday, offers a variety of free tech tools to patients who sign up to receive a credit-card-sized “myCommunity” card. The service features express check-in kiosks (similar to those at airports) to be installed at Community North first, then throughout the system eventually. Patients will swipe their myCommunity cards and use touch screens to complete the inpatient and outpatient check-in process.


MyCommunity — which took about three years and $1.2 million to develop — also allows patients to keep track of their conditions and medications. Additional features include a blog for new parents or long-term patients to write updates or post photos for loved ones.

Bust the Barriers

Dr. Benjamin Brewer is always worth the read.  His column today is especially pertinent to recent discussions on this blog:


1. Any form of communication has to make it easier to reach the doctor.

“The patients who send me email prefer to use their regular, unsecure email.  When it comes to e-visits my patients don’t seem to want another password to remember.”

2. Any type of consultation with a doctor should be paid for the same way.

“And they really don’t want to pay the $30 I charge for an online consultation and that their insurance doesn’t usually cover.”

3. Technology companies that make their money by skimming more than a bit off the top are not going to see widespread adoption of their products by physicians.

“Right now it costs my practice $1,800 a year to maintain our cool Web site. The company that provides it wants a $6 transaction fee for each e-visit, and 50 cents for every appointment and prescription refill I process with their software.”

4. Integration. Integration. Integration.  If the product doesn’t work (well!) with existing technology, don’t even try.

“Secure email programs can be had free, but they don’t integrate well with physicians’ EMR systems.”

A blatant work around in reponse to a system that is holding back innovation: “Other doctors have a low-cost Web site and keep a paper copy of their patients’ credit cards in a locked office file cabinet for billing e-visits and phone consultations.”

EMR companies looking to unseat the big guys or to set your product apart: “When my EMR allows patients to book appointments, order refills and leave me a video, voice, or text message with a cellphone we will have arrived.”

Immensely frustrating (to lots of people).

Possible approach: rogue bandit sets out to defeat the beast of tradition and practice medicine limitation free.

Someone has.

(His name is Jay Parkinson.)

Productive Waiting Room Time

This is cool:

Turning a doctor’s waiting room into an electronic chat room might be a key to getting teens help for risky behavior, according to a study by Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Health eTouch Pad is a 10-inch touch-screen computer that asks questions about health and behavior while patients are waiting to see a doctor.

The gadget, developed by Children’s researchers, serves as a screening device, allowing doctors to ask questions that might be rushed or forgotten in an exam. The information is sent to a control site, where it is summarized and flagged to indicate concerns. Doctors could receive reports right away, to discuss in the exam, or days later.

The Children’s Hospital study, in the June issue of Pediatrics, looked at nearly 900 patients ages 11 to 20 who used the wireless devices in clinic waiting rooms. It found that 59 percent of the patients screened positive for injury-risk behavior, depression or drug or alcohol use.

It also found that doctors who were given the results at the time of the exam identified problems in 68 percent of the patients who screened positive. When the results weren’t given to doctors before the exam, problems were identified in 52 percent of those patients.

I think the relevant question is why isn’t this happening everywhere?

Technology Advances: Cell Phone + Medicine = Good

BusinessWeek has a piece on the combination of medicine and cell phones that sheds light on some possibilities—predominately in the patient empowerment arena.

A personal mobile scanner that “plugs into the phone, which beams the data to the computer, generating an image that can be transmitted to a doctor or hospital far away.”

The cell phone may also be able to act as a constant monitor of vital signs.  A patient could also use the iPhone for mobile access to health information for a yearly nominal fee.

This may be a bit audacious, but I appreciate the goal:

“The cell phone is going to solve rural health-care problems, whether it’s rural India or rural Indiana,” says Kristin Tolle, Microsoft Research’s program manager for external research in biomedical computing.