October 1, 2007


Electronic Tools for Infectious Diseases Practitioners


As the development and implementation of health information technology (HIT) continues, incorporating its use in daily practice has become quite an endeavor.  Steven D. Burdette, MD, FIDSA, and Steven K. Schmitt, MD, FIDSA, tackled this vast arena at IDSA 2007 in the Meet-the-Professor session, “Electronic Tools for Infectious Diseases Practitioners.” The informative overview covered electronic medical record (EMR) software selection, unintended consequences of EMR, Internet resources for practitioners, and a live demonstration of the use of health information technology in daily practice. 

EMR software varies widely and each package will look different, use different data structures in databases, and have different means of input, Dr. Burdette said. Choosing the right EMR software requires time and commitment. He identified a useful set of key tasks and considerations for navigating the decision-making process. Some of those considerations included: 

  • Identifying key stakeholders and forming a decision-making team
  • Scheduling demos with vendors and ranking them according to cost, function, and service
  • Visiting working sites and compiling references
  • Presenting the findings to your group 

Dr. Schmitt added that ID doctors must get involved at the decision-making stage. ”What we need is not what the generalists need; it’s not what the family physicians need. We need ways to quickly review cultures and the only one who knows that is you. “ 

HIT tools also include online resources, clinical electronic prescribing, electronic scheduling software, and personal health records. As with any technology, there are some unexpected consequences of implementing the new processes that accompany these tools. Distraction from the doctor-patient relationship, plagiarism and ethical concerns, and additional functions being performed by physicians rather than ancillary personnel are just a few of these consequences. 

Both Dr. Burdett and Dr. Schmitt provided ID-specific web resources and a live demonstration of just how personal technology can aide practitioners on a daily basis.Managing technology rather than letting it manage you is key to successful integration with daily practice.


Slides from this session and many more can be found on the IDSA website.

Audio files of individual sessions or a full-conference CD-ROM are available for purchase from Sound Images.

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