Aside from their difference in size, both types of facilities are businesses that become more reliant each day on their computer systems and the efficiencies these systems offer. Yet, while hospitals and their large counterparts may be able to use proprietary information technology solutions to their advantage, these gains are often lost for a small practice whose computer systems have not yet caught up with the status quo, according to Patrick Z. Abuzeni, M.D., a cosmetic surgeon in private practice in Coral Gables, Fla.
"When trying to computerize a cosmetic surgeon's office, they will run up against software and hardware incompatibility challenges that cannot be easily overcome," reported Dr. Abuzeni here at the 22nd Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery (AACS)."Too often, our existing software and hardware cannot 'talk' to one another, and if you try to update one piece of hardware or software, you'll suddenly realize that you'll have to update everything else, which can (seem prohibitively) expensive, even when you consider other electronic medical devices, such as lasers where we make large financial investments that cost on average $100,000. And yet they lack basic networking capabilities and a standard communication protocol."
To benefit from a streamlined information technology solution, many practices are finding that they must correct potential "incompatibility" by investing in medical software, and making additional investments in a specific hardware and platform. Unfortunately, as with anything in technology, these solutions can quickly become outdated and create an unnecessary dependency, according to Dr. Abuzeni.
"It is desirable to have a system where all of the computers or your satellite offices can talk to each other," Dr. Abuzeni tells Cosmetic Surgery Times. "A Web-based solution will accomplish all that, and it further reduces the need for maintenance and compatibility. A Web-based solution only has to be updated on the server, also known as the 'back end.'"
To reap the benefits from information technology, medical software systems should be user- and task-centric; platform- and hardware-agnostic; scalable and extensible; and standards-compliant. To date, no single solution meets all of these standards. Because of this, Dr. Abuzeni is forging his own technology path, one he hopes other cosmetic surgeons will learn from.
"In my office, I began developing my own medical office automation software called XeoMed," he says. "I have developed XeoMed using the Enterprise Object Framework (EOF) in an object-oriented manner. I chose to develop with EOF because it allows the application to adapt to new requirements, and, above all else, allows me to develop a user- and task-centric solution. The XeoMed application uses a browser to interact with the users. The application resides on a server, and the client computers need only to have a modern Internet browser for compatibility. In this manner, I can spend my resources adding further refining features instead" of buying software and hardware updates, explains Dr. Abuzeni.
Because doctors as a whole have been very passive with regard to technology, Dr. Abuzeni hopes to enlighten dermatologists and cosmetic surgeons so they can become involved with and demand cooperation from the technology industry to better meet the needs of these practices.
"We should be establishing the minimum standards for compliance and communication protocols," Dr. Abuzeni says.