healthcaretechoutlook

Embracing Change: The Healthcare Industry Focuses on Latest Progress Drivers

By Aaron Miri, CIO, Walnut Hill Medical Center

Aaron Miri, CIO, Walnut Hill Medical Center

Challenges in the Current Industry and Solutions

From Walnut Hill’s hospital of the future perspective, our biggest challenge is ensuring that technology is consistently agile and patient centric enough to enable our clinicians to provide the best quality care possible. Unfortunately in the age of Meaningful Use and HIPAA, sometimes applications or technology are not as friendly as you would hope, but it’s our job to ensure that we do the very best we can with what’s available.

“We are in the middle of a fairly large integration project, ensuring that every clinical instrument or modality sends appropriate clinically viable data into the patient’s electronic medical record”

When it comes to a wish list, first I wish we had healthcare industry reimbursement models that actually resemble the digital age that our consumer world lives in. From a business perspective, we are only now realizing the potential of video diagnosis (e.g.: telemedicine), however the business and reimbursement rules generally do not allow for true innovation to take off in this arena as they are still written for the traditional “you must show up and be physically present in your doctor’s office” methodology. I applaud organizations, like Walnut Hill Medical Center, that continue to push this technology envelope in advance of the industry modernizing towards a consumer model. Secondly, I wish privacy and security were easily understood and universally applied across the entire healthcare spectrum. Recently the U.S. Senate passed the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act which, once signed into law, begins to pave the way for a universally accepted healthcare IT security framework and allows for indemnification of organizations to enable them to rapidly share cybersecurity threat data to ward off cybersecurity attack. This is the first step of a series of steps that the banking industry, and other major industries have long since realized and are reaping the competitive and operational benefits from. Lastly, I wish the age of meaningful use was instead focused on meaningful experience. The patient seems to have been left out of the equation when determining the return on value proposition for healthcare information technology as reimbursement is focused more on metrics and financial savings rather than patient experience.

360 Degree View of Customers

The author Stephen Covey is known for the quote “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” So, the first thing that Walnut Hill Medical Center did was sit down with all of our customers who are not only our patients but also our clinicians, business leaders, and physicians to understand what their needs are. Then, it was a true data mapping exercise and understanding what all systems send what data and to whom. With a unified end game in mind and a concrete deliverable (e.g.: real time patient metrics or financial metrics), were we able to start to provide the data panacea that our customers required. The other aspect you have to remember is that as an IT organization, you are never finished with data. There is always another way to slice up the orange to understand how to get to the root of a question. The true art is taking a request from your customer, turning it on its head by showing how you can take their request and marry it up with another data set that perhaps wasn’t easily viewable. Another aspect is ensuring that all of the right data is available for assessment. We are in the middle of a fairly large integration project, ensuring that every clinical instrument or modality sends appropriate clinically viable data into the patient’s electronic medical record. It’s our fundamental belief that the best outcomes are a direct result of the clinician having rapid and available access to all of the patient’s pertinent data, including personal wearable data.

Unparallel Competitive Edge

Information Technology (IT) is no longer accepted as simply the organization that “keeps the lights on”. Leaders must accept that IT has become a commodity that can be purchased, just as electricity is, by the drip. So with a focus now on business value, the competitive edge will be tipped towards technologies that allow the business to rapidly assimilate data from the growing Internet of Things (IoT), and derive business intelligence from those data sets. Beyond big data, the other types of technology in healthcare that will continue to define organizations are those technologies which embed themselves into the routine of the consumers. The millennial generation is a generation that expects instant return on investment whereby a conversation can occur real-time via their smartphone with their doctor, their personal fitness smart device automatically alerts them that it’s time for another 8oz glass of water, or that their blood sugar levels have dropped to an unsafe zone and their body needs replenishment. If organizations continue to push technology that are of yesterday, then just as the floppy disc has escaped mainstream usage, so too will those organizations that continue to operate in a manner of yesterday’s electric company.

Advancement in Technology

First, I go back towards earlier comments I made on cybersecurity. The healthcare industry continues to be legally governed by a series of broken regulations, misinterpreted laws, and misunderstood mandates. As a personal example, in one of my previous leadership roles we had a vendor that shipped us three brand new network capable medicine dispensing cabinets for a nursing unit. When we powered those cabinets up and plugged them into the network, all of our monitoring tools alerted at malicious activity. After investigation it was discovered the manufacturer was installing an outdated and long since sunset version of a particular operating system and those cabinets were infected with computer viruses. However, from an industry perspective there is not a technology minimum mandate that forces manufacturers to modernize their equipment they sell. So with that norm existing within healthcare, we all must worry about this deficiency.

Secondly, I am personally a fan of keeping things incredibly simple and easy for our customers. In today’s healthcare age, it is literally a herculean effort in order to share patient data and exchange critical healthcare information. It amazes me that I can request my financial credit report from any location across the globe and it is generally universally accepted, but if I drive 10 minutes between hospitals there is a good chance my medical record from one facility is unavailable or not accepted at another hospital. The healthcare industry continues to spend billions on technology solutions to interoperability and yet the issue isn’t a technology magic button, but rather another series of broken and misunderstood regulations and competitive attitudes in which healthcare industry giants continue to put emphasis on their bottom line instead of the interests of the patients.