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The Olympic Record You Didn't Hear About

WE Communications Blog: Health

— Sophia Lee 

This year Team USA had a record-breaking Olympic Games and topped the medal charts in every category – the seventh time in history, and the first since 1948.

But there’s one other record few people heard about at the 2016 Rio Olympics: electronic medical records (EMRs).

For the first time, all athletes, family members, coaches, officials and spectators had their EMRs managed across a single platform: General Electric (GE) Healthcare’s Centricity Practice Solution, which was selected by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). We know what you’re thinking…why does this matter? Well, it actually matters quite a bit. Here’s why:


Now that data is being collected, the IOC will be able to spot patterns to inform future Games planning. For example, we might see from EMRs at the 2016 Olympics that the rate of hamstring injuries was high in men’s judo, thus influencing how coaches focus training regimens. This isn’t just exciting for athletes, but companies such as IBM
Watson Health are applying the same concept of collecting health data to find solutions to chronic diseases. This growth in the use of data could translate to literally life-saving changes in healthcare.

Digital Transformation

We know the healthcare industry moves at an excruciatingly slow pace: the FDA’s drug approval process, the state of the insurance industry and the quality of care we receive in general. The 
reason why the use of EMRs at the Olympics is important is because it signifies that healthcare is warming up to the idea of digital transformation. Imagine if a company like IBM or Google, who have the resources to crunch an enormous quantity of data, had access to the EMRs of every person in the United States – what kind of fascinating trends would we discover, and how many lives could we save? Even though the recent adoption of EMRs at the Olympics may be laughable progress to tech professionals, it’s still a big step in the right direction for healthcare.

Growing Health-Tech Market

Ask a random person what they know about GE, and they’ll probably say GE is the company who made their oven. Since GE has traditionally been viewed as a slow-moving appliances company, they wouldn’t be wrong. However, GE has picked up on the fact that the health-tech market is growing rapidly and expanded their offerings into that direction of growth. As a result, they were one of the most visible companies at the Olympics. This is testament of innovation and the benefits of keeping your eyes peeled and your ears open to trends that are coming around the bend.

One additional consideration for the implementation of EMRs is how they affect storytelling opportunities. Since the topic of EMRs converges on tech and health, it’s important to acknowledge the vastly different media styles of each industry: tech errs on the side of overpromising and looking forward, while healthcare errs on the side of caution and focuses on the past. Our job at WE is to help brands be the story they want to tell, while using our expertise to provide balanced storytelling across industries. And as data continues to drive discovery and inform new ways of solving problems, there will also be challenges with how to best leverage the new data and communicate its effectiveness to stakeholders and the public.

While the implementation of EMRs at the 2016 Rio Olympics may not have been one of the big highlights of the event, it certainly has significant implications for the growth and direction of healthcare. As our own healthcare sector at WE continues to expand, it’ll be fascinating to see how these trends influence our work, business and client profile.