Technology investment with an eye on consumerism: Q&A with Deborah Heart and Lung Center CIO Richard Temple

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Richard Temple is vice president and CIO of Deborah Heart and Lung Center in Brown Mills, N.J.

Here, Mr. Temple outlines organizational strategy around consumerism and how he sees technology evolving to take the patient experience into account.

Question: How does consumerism in healthcare affect your hospital or health system's IT strategy?

Richard Temple: Consumerism has had a profound impact on not only our IT strategy here at Deborah, but our overall organizational strategic posture as well. As consumers become more facile with technology, especially mobile technology, they are expecting to interact with healthcare providers in the same way that they interact with their airlines or their hotels or with e-commerce sites.

We have to 'wow' the patient at every touchpoint we have with them, and we have to define what those touchpoints are much more broadly than we have in the past. Now these touchpoints have to include texting, app alerts, and online two-way secure communications with providers, among many other things. And, as we invest in this new technology and this new customer-based paradigm, we cannot in any way let up on our commitment to the highest quality of care because our quality scores are fully transparent right online, alongside our competitors, also due to the advent of consumerism in healthcare. So quality of care continues to reign supreme, but quality of customer interaction is right there, too.

Q: What has been one innovation that you have implemented to improve patient experience? Can you share any lessons learned from the implementation?

RT: We have recently rolled out a tool that will automatically send a text message to a patient's cell phone shortly after they depart the hospital with educational information about the medications that have been prescribed for them, locations of nearest pharmacies, and, in some cases, the ability to enjoy discounted pricing on particular drugs. While it is early in the deployment, the feedback we have received has been overwhelmingly positive — well in excess of 90 percent.

This type of program has legal considerations that must be fulfilled, such as assuring that the patient has signed appropriate consents to allow us to text them and advising the patient that they can opt out of texts at any time. This is one of those opportunities that we were very eager to pursue, while recognizing that there would be some logistical hurdles we would have to conquer in order to do it properly.

The big lesson for us is: 'if it feels like the right thing to do for a patient, go with your instinct and see it through to conclusion, even if it looks like it could be challenging.'

Q: Where is the best opportunity to improve the patient experience in the future?

RT: Leveraging mobile technology and new ways of interacting with patients and truly making them part of their care team is going to be a huge win for both patients and hospitals. Part of how we succeed is utilizing these technologies, but equally important is making sure that the patients have a full set of their personal clinical information from multiple providers at their fingertips and readily sharable with whatever provider may need to see it.

I see the new FHIR protocols and mandates in Promoting Interoperability Stage 3 requiring EHR vendors to allow patients easy access to their data through advanced programming interfaces as a real tipping point to taking us to the next level in providing excellent and patient-friendly care.

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