NHIT Week: Six Leaders Reflect on the Value of Health IT

By | October 15, 2018

Sue Schade, Principal, StarBridge Advisors (Former CIO, Univ. Michigan Hospitals & Health Centers)

October 8-12 is National Health IT Week, a time when our industry highlights the impact of IT in transforming healthcare and advocates for needed changes. This year’s asks revolve around the opioid crisis, prescription drug monitoring, telehealth and integrated data structures.

In recognition of NHIT Week, I asked several of our advisors at StarBridge to share how their work has supported transformation in healthcare delivery and how they think health IT can make for healthier communities. They emphasized the importance of a single integrated EHR, interoperability, patient engagement, telehealth and a focus on outcomes to name a few.

Michael McCoy, MD, has diverse experience as a practicing clinician, a physician executive in the EHR vendor community, a national consultant, and as the first Chief Health Information Officer for ONC. He has been involved with IHE International as Co-chair of the Board, helping not only this country with advancing interoperability, but globally. As one of the most important, foundational standards development organizations, IHE develops Profiles used in health information exchanges, such as XDS, as well as specialty related needs in Imaging, Cardiology, and a host of other domains. As he said, “Without having information that is clinically relevant, usable, and available, basic health decisions are not possible, or may lead to sub-optimal outcomes compared to having that data. Health information technology does not have to be the latest, greatest, flashiest kind of technology to achieve better health outcomes, and can be achieved by supporting clinicians and individuals seeking more knowledge or more engagement, even with very basic technology, such as SMS/text messaging in areas without advanced technologies.”

Ann Blouin, RN, PhD, is a quality and patient safety expert who served as the Executive VP of Customer Relations at The Joint Commission, where she provided leadership in aligning the strategic goals of the organization with its client base of more than 22,000 health care organizations and programs globally. She has worked with many teams across the country as a nurse, consultant, and administrator to help transform the way we deliver patient care through technology enablement. According to Ann, “The ability to seamlessly manage chronic diseases across the care continuum (acute care, home care, and ambulatory care) and be able to communicate real-time, through multiple modes, among team members has made a significant difference in patients’ lives. Every IT advancement can make a real difference in everyday patient care delivery.”

Rich Pollack has more than 40 years of healthcare management experience, 20 of which were focused on EMR success. He served as VP and CIO for Virginia Commonwealth University Health System (VCU Health) in Richmond, VA from 2005 until last fall. As he describes, “I was an early and consistent evangelist for truly integrated systems (i.e. single EMR) as the only truly safe and efficient path. Today that is considered the starting base and interoperability needs and challenges have expanded well beyond the walls of a single provider institution no matter how large and complex.” Looking to the future work, Rich said, “The partnership between provider and patient working toward improved health, while benefited by the growth of patient portals and open notes, has a significant journey yet to travel before our patients are truly engaged in and motivated and supported to play their critical and accountable role. Fostering HIT innovation at this crossroads will be key.”

Rick Schooler is a veteran healthcare executive and IT leader who served as VP and CIO at Orlando Health for 16 years. He worked closely with provider colleagues, vendors and consultants to bring about lasting improvements in the overall efficacy of healthcare delivery throughout his career. As he said, “Doing so has required unending commitment and focus on improving care quality, productivity, efficiency and cost management throughout the continuum of care. As value-driven healthcare continues to evolve, these past and future such efforts will enable the transformative change that can deliver an even better healthcare experience for all.”

Amy Maneker, MD is an experienced physician executive and CMIO with expertise in leveraging information and technology to improve the quality and value of healthcare. She is a pediatrician and pediatric emergency medicine physician with more than 25 years of clinical experience. For the last 15 years, her career has been focused in the Clinical Informatics arena, including a stint as VP and CMIO at Akron Children’s Hospital, where she supported the development, implementation and adoption of clinical information systems to assist in delivery of care and maximize patient safety and quality of care. Amy talked about the importance and value of having physicians with ownership and engagement in the EMR. From her perspective, successfully engaging physicians in this work requires the 3 E’s: Enable, Empower, and set Expectations.

  • Enable: provide physicians with the tools which means basic education in clinical informatics, an understanding of their EMR’s functionality and time to do the work
  • Empower: allow them to make decisions, lead their peers to develop a consensus
  • Set Expectations: establish clear expectations, set goals, provide coaching/mentoring

As Amy said, “Engaged physicians forming a clinical informatics team and partnering with an organization’s quality group can create the tools that make an EMR more than a very expensive pencil or data entry tool.”

Nancy Beale, RN-BC, has over 30 years of healthcare experience spanning clinical operations, vendor experience, consulting, and IT operations. Most recently, Nancy led a division of 250 people at NYU Langone Health, recruiting and developing award-winning talent to achieve HIMSS 6, HIMSS 7, and the HIMSS Davies Award, as well as several innovation partnerships. Some of the initiatives included deploying iPhones to every nurse and clinician to improve real-time secure messaging, leveraging the iPhone camera for point of care bar-code medication administration, integrating smart alarms and alerts from multiple systems on a mobile device, and mobile lab label printing mounted on the workstation on wheels in every room to integrate the lab system and the EHR directly. According to Nancy, “These innovations and interoperable systems provided efficiencies in information access, delivery and workflow enhancing efficiency, quality and safety.”

She also commented on the importance of patient engagement systems in the inpatient setting which allow patients to actively participate in their care. “These systems have capabilities which allow the patient to order meals, consume health education and information, as well as access their record and communicate with their care team. Health IT is providing patients and families the tools to be active participants in their care. Patients want to engage in their care, and now have the tools to actively contribute to their health information via patient portals. This data enables providers to gain additional insight into patient health from integrated patient devices as well as from patient entered data such as questionnaires.”

And then there’s telehealth, which allows timely access to care and consultation for patients, who may otherwise make unnecessary trips to the ED. According to Nancy, “Telehealth is another example of how health IT has provided an enhanced level of service for patients and families, while also preventing unnecessary patient visits to emergency departments or urgent care centers.”

[This piece was originally published by Sue Schade on StarBridge Advisors’ blog page. To follow Sue on Twitter, click here.]

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