Consumerism isn’t just a buzzword: Why Medical City Healthcare’s CIO is dedicated to empowering patients

Mackenzie Garrity - Print  | 

Patients are no longer just seen as “patients” for healthcare leaders. Rather, they have transformed into consumers. As consumers, they demand convenience, simplicity and transparency from their healthcare providers. 

Leah Miller, CIO at Dallas-based Medical City Healthcare, which was formerly known as HCA North Texas, is no stranger to viewing patients as consumers. 

Serving as the CIO of the 12-hospital system for the past five years, Ms. Miller has been dedicated to delivering high quality care to patients through easy channels. Ms. Miller never wants a patient, or consumer, to question his or her care or treatment plan. 

Below, Ms. Miller discusses why healthcare tech leaders should focus on empowering patients as well as a non-tech character trait everyone on her team needs to succeed. 

Editor’s note: Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length. 

Question: If you could solve one health IT challenge/headache overnight, what would it be and why? 

Leah Miller: Empowering patients. While it doesn't sound like a technology resolution, what is lacking in healthcare is true consumerism. Think about how you interact with your bank. And then think about how you interact at a hospital visit or an urgent care office. If the healthcare industry could overnight get to a place where patients interacted and had the tools and the power to have their medical records on their phones and convenient care, it would be extremely powerful for overall population health as well as costs. 

Consumerism is having the power to manage your health just as you would any other aspect of your life. So, for example, if I am banking and I want to move assets or manage my portfolio, it's the click of a button. Why should managing my health, understanding my labs or talking to my physician be any different? 

In the financial world, when you see something abnormal going on, you click a button and are talking to an adviser. Healthcare should be the same way. Consumerism is also having the convenience of care at low costs. Patients should also not have to be confused by healthcare. Rather, they should feel confident to navigate their care with a few clicks of a button. 

Q: What has been one innovation that you implemented to improve patient experience? 

LM: Around 11 million patients misuse or mismanage their opioids annually. So, our IT team partnered with the chief medical officer to develop a solution to this problem in our care setting. We use alternative virtual reality to help patients manage their opioid prescriptions. Patients in this program go home with a VR headset, which we teach them how to use in the hospital. From using it, 30 percent of patients said they experienced a pain reduction. Another 60 percent said they had a reduction in anxiety because of the VR program. The goal is to hopefully give patients the opportunity to never use an opioid or shorten patients' use of opioids. 

Q: What is the key character trait for a successful IT team? 

LM: Employees must be purpose driven. For us, above all us, our team members must be committed to the care and improvement of human life. Innovation comes from taking risks, and all the good characteristics of amazing IT teams can lead back to being purpose driven. It is a purpose higher than any one of us or a job or function. I can take risks differently; I can do the right thing for our patients differently; I can empower differently. It's all about being purpose driven. It's never about just one person, but the focus is on the patient in the bed.

More articles on consumerism:
Rush launches new EHR app
6 tech initiatives with the biggest impact on patient engagement
At Children's Health, 'consumer-centricity' is more than just a business strategy: 4 questions with CXO Keri Kaiser

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