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Emergency Doctor Improves Health Care Through Information Technology


April 29, 2010 – Drawing upon his expertise in both information technology and emergency medicine, Dr. Mark Smith focuses on developing information systems that dramatically improve patient care.

Smith is department chair in emergency medicine at Georgetown University Medical Center. He’s also an expert in medical informatics, disaster medicine, simulation training, complexity theory and systems medicine.

He believes the most potent force for improving medicine is the application of information technology in the service of hospitals’ care mission.

“Optimum information systems [to] enable care that is safer, faster, cheaper, and better,” says Smith, who holds a master’s degree in computer science from Stanford University and a medical degree from Yale University. “That has been my driving vision.”

With this in mind, Smith codesigned Azyxxi, an integrated clinical information system that reduces errors, inefficiencies and costs.

System Provides Centralized, Accurate Patient Record

Azyxxi (now known as the Microsoft Amalga Unified Intelligence System, after it was acquired by Microsoft in 2006) gives physicians and staff immediate access to current, accurate and critically important information about a patient from a multitude of disparate data sources and data types. These include lab test results, past medical history and electrocardiograms.

“Azyxxi provides a real-time, comprehensive picture of a patient’s health care history,” says Smith of the system, which is currently in use at the Georgetown University Hospital and other MedStar facilities.

The software also provides views across groups of patients – a unique feature that hospitals can use to drive organizationwide quality improvement and clinical research.

Emergency Experience Provides Practical Insights

Smith is also chair of MedStar Emergency Physicians, which provides emergency medicine physician leadership and staffing at four of the seven MedStar hospitals, including Georgetown University Hospital and Washington Hospital Center.

His colleagues at the medical school say that with more than 25 years experience running emergency departments, Smith is well-equipped to design systems that meet the unique needs of physicians, clinicians and patients.

“From his years of clinical experience, he knows the practical limitations of a range of theoretical approaches,” says Dr. Howard Federoff, executive vice president for health sciences and executive dean of the School of Medicine. “He can guide the development of systems that will have true clinical utility for improved patient care.”

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