UIHC named to 2011 "Most Wired" list


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Douglas Van Daele compared new technologies in hospitals to the introduction of the stethoscope in 1816.

"When the stethoscope was invented, doctors felt it was going to get in the way of patient interaction," said the UI professor of otolaryngology. "They would put their ear to a patients chest to listen to the heartbeat. As technology is introduced into medical changes that occur, [doctors should] view it as a tool. A tool that is a benefit to the patient"

The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics was recently named to the 2011 "Most Wired" list, compiled by Hospitals and Health Networks and also placed on the sixth stage of seven on U.S. News & World Report's Most Connected list.

The first list is a survey of 530 hospitals and health systems — only 154 organizations made the final list. The systems are judged on how they have adopted, implemented and used information technology. This is UIHC's second year being placed on the list.

The second list shows the UIHC — which has spent around $60 million on new technologies since 2007 — is a leader in electronic medical records.

Those records became available to all UIHC patients in June 2011 and are available through MyChart.

But some doctors, as was shown in a recent New York Times article, said they feel new technologies can have a negative effect on doctor-patient relationships.

According to the article, technology can ruin the intimacy of a patient visit and also make it difficult for doctors to maintain eye-contact with them if the clinician is continuously answering questions — regarding their visit — on a computer screen.

Van Daele said he has heard doctors complain about the effect technologies can have on their relationship with patients, but ultimately technology is beneficial in the field of medicine. He pointed to the U.S. News as a sign the technology at the UIHC makes the hospital stand out.

"It's showing we're leading the pack… it can be a detriment to people sometimes," he said. "[But] we're all finding our way of how do we best utilize the tools."

Lee Carmen, the associate vice president of information systems for UIHC, said he thought too much technology does have the potential to negatively effect the doctor-patient relationship.

"It comes down to the clinician remaining focused on the patient rather than other things," he said. "You could make the same claim that if a pager or cell phone goes off all the time the clinician would become distracted from talking to the patient and focus more on the technology. It really requires the physician to stay focused on the patient."

But Carmen also said technology is important as health care providers have a massive amount of information to continuously sift through.

"Health care today is very complex. The amount of current knowledge about how to take care of various diseases and conditions is growing very fast," he said. "[Also], I think it would be very difficult today and it will be more so in the future for care providers to keep track of all the data that's associated with a patient if they didn't have advanced computer systems to help them."
Erma Turner, 74 and a patient of Van Daele's, agreed.

"I think [the technology is] wonderful," she said. "I probably wouldn't be here as healthy as I am without it."

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