Health innovation insider: 7 rapid-fire Qs with MidMichigan Health Chief Innovation Officer Dr. Pankaj Jandwani

Pankaj Jandwani, MD, an experienced physician and the chief innovation officer at Midland, Mich.-based MidMichigan Health, has been with the health system for over 20 years.

He joined MidMichigan Health in 2000 as a full time internal medicine physician. He went on to hold various leadership positions before settling into his current role — regional vice president of medical affairs and chief innovation officer — in 2018.

Below, Dr. Jandwani drew from personal experience to share his rapid-fire insights about healthcare innovation amid the pandemic.

Editor's note: Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and style.

Question: What COVID-19 data dashboard do you find yourself checking the most? 

Dr. Pankaj Jandwani: We have a set of health system comprehensive dashboards that give a daily snapshot of what's trending for our COVID-19 admissions, as well as our percent occupancy for inpatient beds, ICU beds, ventilator use, etc. I also frequently check our state’s website for COVID-19 positivity and hospitalization rates and trends.

Q: If you had to choose just one, which one of your organization's IT achievements has made you the most proud during the pandemic?

PJ: Our ability to easily conduct concurrent virtual visits with patients was one of the earliest and most significant achievements during the pandemic. That being said, it could not have been possible without a strong foundation of a robust, single EMR platform and over five years of progressive learning and experience with virtual visit workflows.

Q: In which ways do you think the pandemic has catalyzed innovation in health IT?

PJ: The pandemic forced action on a ton of ideas, especially those previously in the queue for resource prioritization and clinician engagement. As the pandemic hit, everyone was on board with offering patients an easy way to connect virtually. The final thrust came with CMS and other payers offering at-par reimbursement for virtual visits. As we know, it takes people following new processes, not just technology for innovation to be successful.

Q: How do you think the pandemic has shined a greater light on predictive analytics?

PJ: The pandemic brought an unprecedented amount of uncertainty. Everyone realized the need to have valid data and trends to better focus scarce healthcare resources. COVID-19 dashboards and trends, amongst other operational data, have become essential tools leading the efforts during this pandemic. Leaders in healthcare understand that predictive models aren’t a perfect science but are happy to use and improve upon the currently available algorithms over time. Our leaders are more willing to work with what is helpful rather than getting it perfect from the start — an essential step in the innovative approach.

Q: How would you most like to see health IT further adapt to the pandemic?

PJ: Starting at the bedside, there has never been a greater need to automate data collection and unburden clinicians with data entry as we face challenges with different types of tests for COVID-19, and now vaccination through health departments and commercial pharmacies. A lot of what is reported by various states and CDC is still entered manually by providers and clinicians — a monumental effort — fraught with inaccuracies and wasted healthcare resources. I look forward to seeing improved maturity of ambient sensing technologies, integration of remote monitoring and various point-of-care devices into the EMR. We need to help our clinicians reduce screen time and reduce burnout related to data entry so they can spend quality time with their patients.

Q: What's been the biggest roadblock to COVID-19 innovation? 

PJ: Resources and supply chain. Healthcare innovation isn’t resourced as well as it should be for a variety of reasons, including regulatory and supply-chain/infrastructural challenges. For example, even though we received the analyzers for the most advanced COVID-19 tests fairly quickly, the delivery of supplies to collect or analyze the samples was anything but predictable to meet the needs of our patients. Additionally, clinical studies and evidence published to support these tests has not been consistently available to providers. While the pandemic highlighted these issues and helped somewhat, I fear things will go back to "the old way" as everyone starts to focus away from COVID-19 through 2021 and beyond.

Q: What's the first word that comes to mind when you think about your innovation team's response to COVID-19? 

PJ: Agile — our teams have been focused on what matters and is needed the most for our patients and clinicians, each and every day throughout the pandemic.

He joined MidMichigan Health in 2000 as a full time Internal Medicine physician

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