Visit to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital- another hospital using electronic medical records

I was in Memphis yesterday at an amazing hospital, St. Jude Childrens Research Hospital. One of my long time ‘high energy’ collaborators, Dr. Erin Schuetz invited me to give a departmental talk. I also met many of her colleagues including her husband John and over 20 postdocs.. I have to say I really enjoyed getting to answer the postdoc’s questions and it made me feel old! I think there may be many more collaborative opportunities to come.

I also met with the departmental chair Dr. Mary Relling who took me through their use of pharmacogenomics and genotyping of patients.  This also gave me chance to see a second electronic medical records system in a week, following on from the system used at the University of Iowa. What was a complete surprise was they employ ~200 informaticians to work on their system. And at Vanderbilt they have 100 MDs in the informatics group. As Mary mentioned only 5% of US hospitals have electronic medical records systems in place it hit me, if each hospital needs a massive informatics group and there are 100s of hospitals in the USA – where are all these people going to come from to fill the jobs? Seems to me this may be rate limiting. Having seen two informatics systems very briefly, while functional, neither impressed me as looking like modern software we are used to interacting with, they look clunky, like something from the early 1990’s. So another observation, these software have taken so long to be used in hospitals they are outdated before they are put to use. A final observation is that each product needs lots of customization for different hospitals. This is not one size fits all software, let alone one size fits all healthcare. I feel very fortunate to have seen how hospitals are changing at least through the way they handle patient information, and through personalized medicine.

As I walked around the hospital I passed the cafeteria, it was very moving to to see all the very young patients making a massive gingerbread garden – this really brought home the impact the researchers and clinicians are having against cancer. As those St. Jude donation envelopes land in your mailboxes at this time of year, please be generous, your money will be used to help a lot of children. By coincidence my envelope arrived today as I returned home.

Thank you Erin for an inspiring 24hs in Memphis, here’s to another decade of collaboration!


Gingerbread house and garden


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>