Healthcare IT’s identity crisis: A conversation with James Templeton
As both a scientific director and an educator, James Templeton possesses an interesting perspective on the current power, and problems, of healthcare IT. He is an Assistant Professor of Biomedical Informatics at Nova Southeastern University. He is also a Scientific Director for Astellas Pharma, working in the pharmaceutical industry for nearly 25 years. He holds a Masters in International Business, a Ph.D. with a concentration in Biomedical Informatics, and is currently completing a Masters in Medicinal Chemistry.
I spoke with Templeton to gauge his perceptions of the past, present and future of healthcare IT. His insights describe not only an industry in the midst of tremendous transition, but also in search of its identity.
(Editor’s note: To hear audio excerpts of this interview, click on the media player buttons that run throughout this article.)
Taylor: What areas of work do you perform at Astellas Pharma?
Templeton: We focus on a number of disease states. The area that I focus my attention on now is urology, primarily in the field of overactive bladder and other urological diseases that are associated with that. I work with a team of field scientists, they are called medical science liaisons, and I am the director of the team for the West Coast. We bridge the internal and external research that is being conducted in the field of urology.
Taylor: With your experience and on-going work, how would you describe the current state of healthcare IT?
Templeton: I would say, we are slowly finding our way. We have done a fairly good job with electronic health records in terms of putting us on the map, but there’s still a long way to go. We need to look beyond the electronic health record and focus on things on a much larger scale.
For example, I think we really need to focus on health IT security. That’s one of the biggest vulnerabilities that we have. It puts a lot of us at risk in a variety of different ways. By healthcare IT security, I mean the confidentiality, the accessibility and the integrity of the data that’s being housed. We have seen in some instances where hackers have been able to gain access to large-scale healthcare databases with insurers. That robs us of our confidentiality, but there are a lot of other aspects of healthcare IT security that I think could put us at risk.
Taylor: Some feel as though government regulations have helped with issues such as healthcare IT security, but they have been overly restrictive in other areas, such as Meaningful Use. What is your opinion on how regulations have influenced how technology is used in healthcare?
Taylor: In addition to the government’s ongoing role in the evolution of healthcare IT, vendors have been a major influence on the industry as well. Again, some feel as though their influence has been more positive while other feel vendors have created many day-to-day difficulties for clinicians.
Templeton: I would have to agree more with the latter part of your statement. Some of these vendor issues are creating huge road blocks for us moving forward, not only in terms of health IT specifically, but also healthcare in general.
Healthcare IT faced a similar challenge several years ago with medical imaging. Each vendor had created a proprietay system that created and stored the images, creating an enormous challenge for the healthcare community. Issues arose when trying to manage the ever growing body of medical imaging that was being produced. Standards such as DICOM (digital imaging communications in medicine) as well as PACS (picture archiving and communication systems) were developed that provided a strong framework moving forward. The American College of Radiology (ACR) and the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) worked together to create the standards in the early 1980’s. These lessons would serve us well when considering today’s challenges. Healthcare IT should always maintain a vision of easing the burden on healthcare, interoperability of EHR’s is certainly an area of need.