How 9 hospital innovation chiefs want health IT to further adapt to the pandemic

Hospitals and health systems across the U.S. have accelerated digital transformation efforts in order to maintain communication and relationships with their patients while promoting safety from COVID-19.

Here, nine hospital digital and innovation leaders share how they want health IT to continue innovating and adapting to the pandemic.

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

Eduardo Conrado, executive vice president and chief strategy and innovation officer at Ascension (St. Louis): IT will continue to move into the end-to-end experience space to fully integrate both workflows and data across sites of care with a focus on value-based care and population health accelerating the tools to improve care and lower total cost of care while improving patient experience. 

There's also tremendous opportunity for using traditional and non-traditional data, such as personal history of COVID recovery, community syndromic surveillance, consumer time and location data, person-person proximity data surrogates, combined with comprehensive vaccination data at the individual level, to help understand community risk, better anticipate hot-spot emergence and further refine specific consumer cohorts for vaccination prioritization. These insights will be important to reducing near-term pandemic burden for individuals and communities as well as sustain and improve their longer-term health and wellness. 

We're committed to delivering personalized and compassionate care for all, especially those most vulnerable among us. Predictive analytics can help us with data on social determinants of health like housing, food and transportation to support populations that are less likely to get care they need.

Daniel Durand, MD, chief innovation officer at LifeBridge Health (Baltimore): I think we need to harness the power of self-scheduling, mobile patient engagement and at-home testing to help create true scalable solutions that will allow society to meet the great challenges looming before us in 2021. How can we vaccinate the public as quickly as possible? How can we use data on COVID-19 status and immunity to continue to re-open society in a thoughtful fashion that is both informed by science but preserves personal liberties? Health IT will be at the center of our answers to both of these pressing questions.

Pankaj Jandwani, MD, chief innovation officer at MidMichigan Health (Midland, Mich.): 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.

Claus Torp Jensen, PhD, chief digital officer at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (New York City): We live in a Next Normal where change is a constant. Finding the right balance between excellence, experience, safety and speed is the challenge of our generation. I am confident that we are up to the task.

Sara Vaezy, chief digital strategy and business development officer at Providence (Renton, Wash.): It's less about adapting to the pandemic and more about leveraging our learnings to further the health systems mission to serve all patients in a more effective, scalable and equitable way. For instance, now that so many patients have had exposure to virtual visits, can we create new products with new payment models — like subscriptions — or even new communication or health education models, to serve patients in different, more relevant ways. The degrees of freedom are opening up and it’s incumbent upon us to seize them.

Speaking of equity, if COVID has taught us anything, it’s that our integrity and ethical commitment to our communities for years to come will be judged by how well we achieve health equity in all its forms. Digital has tremendous potential to advance health equity, but first health systems, entrepreneurs, and digital health companies have to learn how to design and build for broader groups of people or everyone suffers. Historically, many groups have often been excluded from the benefits of digital products and COVID has shown us the consequences of those actions.

Richard Zane, MD, chief innovation officer, UCHealth (Aurora, Colo.): I think the most important thing when we talk about health IT and the concept of delivering healthcare is that we need to stop separating the two and putting them in silos. It is simply part and parcel of the way we deliver care. Just like banking, just like investment management, just like the airlines, just like anything else — we could not see ourselves as separating out IT from our core businesses. The way in which we deliver care is organized around an IT platform, and that's how we deliver care.

Lisa Prasad, vice president and chief innovation officer, Henry Ford Health System (Detroit): I would like to see increased leveraging of technology and analytics to enhance remote care and education, and to promote healthcare equity across our community. This requires us to think critically not only about creating new products, services and payment models, but also about implementing them in a way that promotes inclusion and access.

Tom Andriola, vice chancellor of IT and data, UC Irvine: We're certainly not through this, but there is a glimmer of light on the horizon in what we could call "a post-pandemic world." I think now we need to return to bimodal thinking and realize in the near term we still need to adapt to what COVID-19 throws at us. At the same time, we cannot shy away from the conversation we need to be having at the leadership level about the "new normal," what we've tried and learned during this horrible period and which aspects do we want to keep in place in the new normal.

It's been a unique situation in that we've stepped into our future to deal with these unique set of circumstances, and now we have this opportunity to step back from our future, discuss what we've been through, what in it has been better (and what has not), and then strategically decide what stays in place in the post-pandemic world. It just doesn't normally play out this way, so we'd better take advantage of it.

Albert Chan, MD, chief of digital patient experience at Sutter Health (Sacramento, Calif.): It's clear we've embraced the next normal. Virtual care has quickly become an important touchstone for our patients. It also is destined to play a larger role in the care we provide to our communities across our integrated network. As we look ahead to new care models, we remain focused on building our digital health capabilities in a way that adds value to the patient and care team experience. Technology will continue to enhance human connection.


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