The game-changers: 4 CIOs share the tech that has humanized the healthcare experience

From the advent of EHRs to rapid telemedicine adoption during the COVID-19 pandemic, technology has drastically transformed the patient and provider experience.

While people looked to stay connected during one of the hardest periods in our lifetime, technology became a vital source of interactions across all industries including healthcare. From widespread telemedicine usage to ushering in devices like iPads and tablets when hospital visitor restrictions were enacted, technology has helped us maintain human connections throughout the pandemic.

Here, four hospital and health system CIOs share the technologies they view as game changers in humanizing healthcare interactions.

Question: What technology has been a game-changer in helping humanize the healthcare experience, and why?  

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

Richard Mohnk. Associate CIO for Operations at Bayhealth (Dover, Del.). I would say that the one item that we experienced as perhaps a game changer would be in-room use of tablets to communicate with family. Our patient advocates would set up and coordinate video calls or WebEx with family members. Two special circumstances that hit me were one call with a family to a patient in the intensive care unit so they could say goodbye one last time. The other was a video streaming to a patient so they could attend a funeral virtually. There are many examples, however, feedback is that personal visitation cannot be replaced. Perhaps augmented, but not replaced.

Sheila Sanders. CIO at Emory Healthcare (Atlanta). At Emory Healthcare there were several scenarios where technology helped enhance the patient experience during COVID 19. We rolled out iPads with Zoom in the early days to provide a connection for our patients to their families when they were unable to be on site. This was important for our patients and their families to maintain this connection during their healing. The rapid expansion of telemedicine using Zoom also allowed us to quickly provide continued care to our patients in the safety of their home.

Steven Smith. CIO at NorthShore University HealthSystem (Evanston, Ill.). I wouldn't call providing video access to allow patients and their families to see and talk with each other during COVID-19 game-changing technology, primarily because the technology is commonplace these days. That said, by adjusting procedures and providing this functionality so quickly during the pandemic truly made an impactful difference for our patients, their families and our employees' lives. The functionality helped with preserving and improving human life.

Donnie Parish. CIO at Cherokee Nation Health Services (Tahlequah, Okla.). For me the greatest opportunities converge in two areas: digital patient engagement strategies and remote patient monitoring/Internet of Things/'Hospital at home' strategies.

These strategies allow patients to become more engaged in their own healthcare and will create a better health and wellness culture. Providing open communication through text, email, chatbots, digital forms and other digital engagement for all areas of both clinical and non-clinical healthcare functions not only creates that 'digital front door,' but also allows both the patient and care providers the ability to proactively engage in care.

This convergence 'humanizes' care because so many people feel healthcare is cold and difficult to navigate. Better communication and interaction by both patients and providers should lead to a better overall feeling of connection.

This will not be easy as there are roadblocks such as lack of infrastructure and inequality of technology cost and organizational willingness to change or adopt these new practices, not to mention reimbursement issues.


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