Magazine article USA TODAY

Emergency Medicine Goes High-Tech

Magazine article USA TODAY

Emergency Medicine Goes High-Tech

Article excerpt

When five-year-old Jessica entered the Emergency Department of Atlanta's Scottish Rite Children's Medical Center with a fever, rash, headache, and infected eyes, the doctors on duty were concerned. Emergency Department director Joseph Simon said, "This is a very unusual constellation of findings that most physicians see maybe once every five to 10 years. What does it mean? To get to the roof of such a case quickly, it's important to have a database to ensure you've considered all the possibilities before making a diagnosis."

Scottish Rite's patented database is the country's first computerized diagnostic system for pediatric emergency medicine. Developed by Simon over several thousand man hours, the system has been in use for more than two years.

The "doctor-friendly" system asks emergency-care physicians for a list of patient symptoms, then draws on a database of 450 pediatric emergency illnesses to determine a list of possible diagnoses. Each diagnosis is classified by the computer as common, infrequent, or rare. The physician can access additional information about these diseases including other signs, symptoms, and recommended tests. The computerized process takes about 60 seconds. In contrast, the old method of referring to textbooks for information about several diagnoses could take one or more hours.

"Emergency room doctors have difficulty keeping up with the explosion of medical knowledge," Simon points out. "Each month, I receive eight medical journals, and each is reporting new information. …

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