Written by: John Lynn
Over the past couple weeks, a number of major athletic organizations have announced that they’re standardizing their healthcare documentation using EHR software. The NBA is using Cerner’s EHR and the NFL is using eCW’s EHR.
At first blush these announcements remind me of Walmart selling eCW at Sam’s Club and Costco selling Allscripts EHR. Everyone wondered why Costco and Sam’s Club were selling EHR. The obvious answer was that it was a great PR move by eCW and Allscripts. Although, I did hear about one doctor that hijacked an EHR selection process thanks to a Costco mailing. I think that’s the exception.
While big popular sports organizations like the NBA and eCW might be great PR for a company, it is really interesting to consider the unique healthcare needs of a sports league. The first thing that came to my mind was actually whether the teams would want to have their athletes’ health data on one platform. Often, the health of their players is part of their strategic advantage. Certainly there are a lot more rules about disclosure of injuries, but teams still play the injury card before games, in trades, and when signing new players. I imagine the staff doctors for the teams have to be careful how and what they document in the EHR if it’s going to be available to other teams. And we thought privacy was an issue in general EHR use. It’s much more complicated when you have millions of dollars riding on a player.
From a big data perspective, I’m interested to see if either of these leagues will be able to leverage the EHR data they collect in order to deal with the long term health issues of players. This is particularly true in the physically brutal NFL. I’m sure readers are familiar with the long term concussion questions and research that’s happening with the NFL. Not to mention the ongoing battle against the use of steroids and other performance enhancing drugs. Can a unified EHR help to provide a basis for research and understanding of the health consequences of playing in the NFL?
When I start to think about all the medical devices that are coming out, they’re really interesting in an NFL context as well. Imagine all the health data from various devices being sucked into the league’s EHR. When I talked with FitLinxx at the mHealth Summit, they said that the Boston Red Sox used their activity tracking device the year they won the World Series (Seems like Boston might want to consider using it again). From what they described, The Pebble (their activity tracking device) was a great way for the trainer to keep track of compliance with the fitness regiment they suggested. Should this data be in the league’s EHR? I can see health reasons to do so, but it does go back to the question of teams’ competitive advantages.
I bet device makers would love to compare professional athlete’s use of their devices against all of the other data that’s being collected by regular users. Would make for some pretty compelling charts if I could compare my health indicators against Lebron James or Peyton Manning.
What’s also interesting to consider about a major sports league using an EHR is a connected PHR. In these situations you want your players to be well connected to the doctor and you have a real financial interest in their compliance with doctors orders. PHR in this case could make a lot of sense. Although, I wonder if many prima donna athletes would balk at the idea. Well, at least they can have their agent or assistan log in for them.
I do wonder what special features Cerner and eCW were asked to do for the NFL and NBA. Of course, not much of it would likely be useful for the rest of us.