As the Summer Olympics approaches, U.S. athletes' medical records are headed to London in electronic format and leaving loads of paper behind. The U.S. Olympic Committee announced on May 24 that it will deploy GE's Centricity Practice and Centricity PACS-IW electronic health record (EHR) applications to ease the workflow for doctors tracking athletes' health across the globe for the Olympic Games.
"It's the equivalent of going from banging on a log to communicating using a smartphone," Dr. Bill Moreau, USOC managing director of sports medicine, told eWEEK in an email.
Moreau explained that for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, medical staff had to ship a boatful of palettes of paper records and collate them on arrival.
"We previously had to ship, sort and store pallets of paper records for each Gamesthose days are gone," said Moreau. "We'll now be able to simply log on and help these athletes to succeed on the field by treating them more efficiently off it."
Centricity Practice combines EHRs with practice management functionality. The application will integrate with record image viewing and storage in PACS-IW. PACs are picture archiving and communication systems that allow medical professionals to store and transmit files such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans and X-rays.
"The integration between the PACS and the EHR was a big differentiator for the USOC," Jan De Witte, CEO of GE Healthcare IT and Performance Solutions, told eWEEK.
U.S. Olympic training centers also use GE's MRI, X-ray and ultrasound equipment.
With easy access to athletes' medical history, USOC doctors will be able to make faster decisions on treatment and get athletes back on the field quicker following injuries, according to De Witte.
Doctors will be able to identify ailments such as a strain or sprain earlier and have access to information on allergies and medications, he said.
"If there's a strain or sprain happening, the better information you have the earlier you can start treating or start identifying there's an issue," said De Witte. "It's as much about preventing more serious injuries as it is about better treatment of injuries," he said.
Doctors will also be able to access athletes' medical records on tablets, De Witte noted. The software will be able to accommodate records for 700 athletes in the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. USOC staff will also maintain 3,000 additional medical records using the GE software.
Medical data for athletes and USOC staff will be accessible on Centricity by early June, according to De Witte.
Centricity will link with the database of the Medical Quality Improvement Consortium (MQIC) to provide access to 13 million EHRs, said De Witte.
MQIC is a group of providers who invest in and implement clinical information systems for outpatient, or ambulatory, care.
Combined with MQIC, Centricity Practice will provide USOC doctors with analytics capabilities to benchmark medical data on athletes and staff, said De Witte.
As the USOC tracks athletes over time, it will be able to create benchmarks on health trends and use this information to develop treatment protocols, he explained.
Given that athletes are in the public eye, doctors can protect the privacy of the medical records with extra caution by customizing access levels for different medical personnel, said De Witte.
For stars such as the well-known basketball players, the USOC tends to limit the number of caregivers with access to the data, he said.
"Centricity Practice Solution allows Dr. Moreau to fine-tune which caregiver can have access to which athlete and to which types of information on a specific athlete," said De Witte.
In addition to EHRs, GE's wide-ranging partnership with the Olympic Games extends to TV coverage of the games by NBC Universal, of which GE has minority ownership, as well as services in power, water treatment, transportation and security.