Dr. Danny Sands becomes Cisco’s
medical IT director
Sands (pictured), a high-profile figure in the
U.S. health informatics sector, has taken on the role of International
Director of Medical Informatics for Cisco Systems. The hiring of Dr.
Sands reflects the growing importance of medical I.T. to communications
equipment giant Cisco, which last year did $1 billion worth of business
in the healthcare sector, a 40% increase over the previous year.
Dr. Sands was previously VP for Clinical Strategies for Zixcorp, a
Dallas-based provider of secure e-mail systems and e-prescribing
solutions. He also teaches at Harvard University and maintains a
part-time primary care practice at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center,
in Boston, part of the CareGroup constellation of hospitals and clinics.
He played a key role in the development of CareGroup’s leading-edge I.T.
system, which includes a patient portal that allows patients to maintain
their own electronic health records, electronically book appointments
and communicate with their doctors.
In his new position at Cisco, Dr. Sands will play a consulting and
advisory role, informing and educating decision-makers at hospitals and
health regions about the ways in which I.T. can improve the delivery of
healthcare, now and in the future.
At a recent meeting in Toronto, Dr. Sands sketched a picture of how most
healthcare systems in Canada and the United States could employ I.T. to
great advantage. He did this by recalling a recent personal experience.
One of his own patients, a man in his late 50s, contacted him by secure
e-mail, as he was suffering pains in his shoulder and requested a
referral to a specialist. The patient lived quite far from the medical
office in Boston, and the computerized communication saved him an
hour-and-a-half drive, not to mention the waiting room time.
Dr. Sands could easily book an appointment with a specialist
electronically, and to prepare the physician for the encounter, he also
ordered lab tests and X-rays for the patient – all on-line.
The patient, moreover, asked for a prescription – which Dr. Sands could
send directly to a pharmacy for pick-up, with the system automatically
checking for possible adverse reactions with the patient’s other
medications and allergies.
Later, Dr. Sands received the X-rays and the radiologist’s report
online. While reading the X-ray, the radiologist had also noticed
multiple lesions in the patient’s lung. Dr. Sands quickly ordered CT
scans for the patient, which confirmed the presence of tumours.
The patient entered a cancer treatment program, and Dr. Sands also
enrolled him into an on-line support group, with lung cancer patients
worldwide sharing their experiences and helping one another. As well,
Dr. Sands encouraged the patient to e-mail him daily or whenever he
wished. “It’s therapeutic,” said Dr. Sands. “I’m not always able to
reply, but I told him that I’m interested in hearing about how he is
Dr. Sands noted that much of the care process for this patient was
conducted on-line – enabling him to keep in contact with the patient and
arrange the appropriate care quickly and conveniently. This scenario
contrasts with the delays in health systems that don’t make effective
use of information technologies.
He observed that clinical applications require robust I.T. systems.
“They all sit on infrastructure that needs to be secure and reliable.
It’s mission-critical infrastructure.”
Supplying such equipment, of course, is Cisco’s business.
Steve Lawrence, Healthcare Business Development Manager for Cisco
Canada, said the company last year released a ‘medical grade networking
system’ for healthcare customers. “It’s a relatively new architecture,”
said Lawrence. “It’s high bandwidth and high availability. The goal is
He noted that the London Health Sciences Centre, in London, Ont., is the
first site in Canada to acquire the new medical grade network. The
system supports multiple applications, including wireless and video.
On a related front, Cisco is developing applications for healthcare,
including workflow solutions for radiology. This new application,
designed to make the work of radiologists easier through enhanced
communications, is being piloted in Canada.
Cisco is also engaged in implementing leading-edge solutions for
wireless communications in hospitals, including nurse-call systems and
radio frequency identification (RFID) for equipment and patient