Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan stressed the importance of utilizing technological advancements in healthcare not strictly “just COVID-19 tailwinds.”

Those medical tech advancements must not just be the result of advances related to the pandemic but also to make decisions to help reduce the cost of healthcare as well as increase and improve delivery systems and methods.

His remarks came during the 14th annual Lt. Governor’s Business & Education Summit in Rome on Tuesday.

Rapidly advancing technology related to healthcare was the focus for the virtual conference based at Georgia Northwestern Technical College. More than 250 people from around the state participated in the summit online.

With the amount of data available, a panel discussed the importance of security and accuracy of data.

“The accuracy of data becomes everyone’s responsibility,” said Dr. Ed McBride, chief medical information officer at Harbin Clinic.

One step beyond just looking at data is using that information to look forward to potential medical outcomes. Julie Barnes, chief medical officer at Redmond Regional Medical Center, said she can foresee much greater use of predictive analytics in patient diagnosis.

Many hospitals and other providers are now eyeing telehealth and telemedicine services as essential to continue treating patients, said Dr. Kenneth Jones, chief medical officer at Floyd Medical Center.

But in rural Georgia, having access to broadband internet is a stumbling block to providing medical inroad to underserved communities, Jeff Buda, the chief information officer at FMC said.

State Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, told participants that legislation recently enacted to facilitate data-sharing between state agencies is a major step in the right direction. Previously, a lot of important information was held in separate “silos.” That information was accessible only to a specific agency, like the Department of Public Health or the Department of Behavioral Health, and wasn’t easily shared.

If the COVID-19 pandemic has been good for anything, Redmond CEO John Quinlivan said, collaboration between the local medical community has been greater than ever.

FMC President Kurt Stuenkel agreed, saying the teamwork that has been displayed during the COVID-19 crisis has been “breathtaking” and “a rare privilege” to watch.

As far as cybersecurity goes, Redmond’s Brad Treglown, director of information technology, speculated that ransomware and phishing are probably the two greatest concerns.

On top of the security risks, preventing those forms of electronic attacks also cause a financial burden. He said that he spends a great deal of time educating professional and clerical staff how to recognize threats.

“Locking down electronic medical records would have a huge impact,” Treglown said.

A panel of current and former students at the Floyd County College and Career Academy stressed the importance of interdisciplinary education going forward.

Four of the students discussed their development of a thermo-activated door locking system, which requires someone to lean forward and have his or her temperature checked by infrared sensors to gain access to a room.

Eli Abdou and Shane O’Neill, students at Model High School, developed the technological equipment while Carolyn Smyth and Kendall Buford from Coosa High designed the door.

Bringing together components from the electronics engineering, robotics, construction technology and healthcare programs at the college and career academy, Smyth said, are a key for learning for future generations.

Capitol Beat contributed to this story.

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