NFL embracing technology to improve player safety

All 32 teams in the NFL are utilising electronic health records (EHR) and related systems in order to improve injury assessment and recovery times.

At the annual HIMSS healthcare conference, Dr Matthew Matava, former president of the NFL Physicians Society and Michelle McKenna-Doyle, chief information officer at the NFL, discussed how technology had greatly improved the sport’s medical record.

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In particular, McKenna-Doyle praised the use of EHRs, which provide the sort of flexibility needed in a sport like the NFL.

"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."

Private healthcare firm eClinicalWorks operates the EHR system, which is able to easily integrate with other clinical, pharmaceutical and imaging platforms, allowing medical professionals to access a comprehensive health record without delay.

The NFL also uses the X2 Concussion Assessment tool, placed at the sidelines during all matches, to rapidly assess head injuries.

"It's our job to determine in a very rapid fashion if a player has been concussed," Matava explained to HealthCareITNews. "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."

Rather than provide a general assessment, the concussion tool is pre-loaded with information on each player so the most appropriate course of action can be taken. The diagnosis takes approximately five minutes, after which the player is able to return to the field or receive the necessary medical attention.

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Although the NFL’s medical programme is extensive, players are free to seek a second opinion if they wish to do so.