How hospitalists can drive healthcare innovation

Hospitalists are uniquely positioned to bring about the unrealized revolution of healthcare promised by technology, according to Robert Wachter, M.D.

Wachter, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, writes in the Annals of Internal Medicine that despite the $30 billion in federal incentive payments allocated to providers to encourage adoption of electronic health records systems, much of the promised innovation has failed to materialize.

Two keys, he says, are needed to "unlock the benefits" of IT: better technology, and the ability to "re-imagine" work in healthcare for the digital age. However, Wachter notes, many in the industry are unable to do the latter until they are immersed in the new environment and start questioning why things are done the way they've always been done.

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The greatest innovations will occur at the intersection of the drive to provide high-value care and digitization of healthcare--the hospitalists’ exact position, he says.

As one example, he says, UCSF hospitalist, Raman Khanna reimagined the pager to create a new hospital communications technology called CareWeb, in which the pager is linked to the EHR system.

“Reimagining the work is not easy, but it is achievable, particularly if there are people who have a deep understanding of both clinical work and technology, who can build and run teams effectively, and whose thinking naturally gravitates toward system improvement,” he says.

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