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NFL completes technology integration

EHR, imaging, video and communications technologies now integrated league-wide to accelerate diagnosis, treatment and care coordination
By Frank Irving
07:15 PM
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With all 32 teams live with an interoperable EHR and related systems, the National Football League is gaining ground in several areas related to player health and safety.

Matthew Matava, MD, immediate past president of the NFL Physicians Society, and Michelle McKenna-Doyle, chief information officer at the NFL, discussed at a HIMSS15 "View from the Top" session on Tuesday how those technologies are speeding up injury assessment and streamlining care coordination

McKenna-Doyle, who has been with the league since 2012, led the EHR implementation, which she described as a unique-use case.

"Unlike your own personal medical record, the players' medical records become part of their employment," she said. "All the regular HIPAA protections apply, but the record not only transfers around when players are moved from physical location to point of treatment, but also when they may get traded and move to different teams. It has to be able to move with them."

The EHR, provided by eClinicalworks, integrates with all clinical, pharmaceutical, imaging and video systems used to spot and treat injuries.

"Our goal was to provide a comprehensive record, medical history and images without delay – meaning it needed to be available immediately when treating injuries," said McKenna Doyle. "Storing images in a centralized location would not have solved the problem, as the images would have to be accessible in multiple places at multiple times."

Also vital to the league's medical operation is the X2 Concussion Assessment tool, which is available on the sidelines during games, on Microsoft Surface tablets.

"It's our job to determine in a very rapid fashion if a player has been concussed," said Matava. "And if so, determine what treatment should be rendered. The technology allows us to do this, which we had never been able to do previously in the field of sports medicine."

The assessment tool has baseline information pre-loaded for each player along with the appropriate diagnostic and treatment protocols. The process takes about five minutes to complete and can accurately determine whether a player should be allowed back on the field.

Matava noted players have access to their own medical records, and a collective-bargaining agreement with the NFL Players Association stipulates that players are free to get a second opinion on treatment at team expense.