3 health execs on how IT is transforming care at their hospitals

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Health system IT leaders are excited about accelerated digital transformation and how it can solve some of the big challenges in healthcare.

Three health system IT leaders recently joined the Becker's Healthcare Podcast to discuss their IT organizations, touching on how virtual care, connectivity and digitization of the vaccine distribution process can make big improvements in care delivery.

Question: What are you most excited about today?

Scott MacLane. Senior Vice President and CIO of MedStar Health (Columbia, Md.): I think providers and patients, we were all astounded by the pivot to telehealth services [during the pandemic], which proved critical. We scaled our platform in weeks over the plan we had, which was to do that over many months. So I think this has been a COVID-19 silver lining as both patients and providers have had to become comfortable with the model. Clearly there are still regulatory and payment issues we are working through, but the operational issue has been solved. This is a solid channel we can offer through our digital platform going forward.

I think we have abundant opportunities to scale and add functionality to this digital space we are building, and we think it will make interactions more convenient for patients in their local markets as well as clinicians and other administrative folks who are interacting with the care processes. We also hope these additional functions will help solve some of our clinician burnout issues.

We also think there are great opportunities to use artificial intelligence and machine learning and other tools in our dataset to improve outcomes and make things more efficient and overall reduce costs. I'm excited for the overall possibilities to make the experience better for patients and give clinicians the opportunity to function at the top of their licences.

Matt Runyan. CIO and Vice President of IT at Mount Sinai South Nassau (Oceanside, N.Y.).: Building on the base technology. In 2020, we weren't doing a lot of project work. We focused on putting in a base infrastructure that will tie in our security cameras to our real-time location services to badging in order to make sure that going forward as we start adding functionalities such as the mobile phones, they all tie in. We wanted to start with a great foundation like any large building or any type of structure. The better the foundation, the more functionality and interoperability you can build onto it.

When people come in to make a purchase, it comes through IT. IT is a big part of the purchasing process to say we understand they need a product, but here is a like product that better fits into the interoperability we want to build here. It's not always about replacing old technology with the exact same brand of the original product. Let's buy one that will fit into the overall infrastructure and foundation that we built. This will allow us, in real time, services and mobility to where we are much more agile in how we even put patients on floors. For example, there is a lot of built-in telemetry; that means when patients come in certain medsurg rooms, they have to go into a specific room. With mobile telemetry made by the same manufacturers, any room can become a telemetry room, not just one where it's built into the wall.

Paul Testa, MD. Chief Medical Information Officer of NYU Langone Health (New York City): [I'm excited about] the efforts around vaccination. As we have evolved to a digitally connected process [for distribution], the opportunity to vaccinate tens of millions of people, and then hundreds of millions of people, in the space of months exists. We need doses, we need the stock, but once you make this process digital, and you have it deeply integrated as we have done with our EHR, the moment you get a vaccination you have the opportunity to schedule the next vaccination with the right dose in the right window [of time].

We can't do 100 million doses in 100 days if we are going to rely on disparate systems and phone lines to call people. We've had great experiences so far. We are doing thousands of doses per week, and the only rate-limiting factor is access to product. It really excites me to be able to partner with our clinical colleagues and operational colleagues to digitally support the vaccination initiative, and I have great faith we will get to where we need to be when we have the product.

What keeps me honest and measured, and nervous, is making sure we have equity. Not only around the vaccination, but as we connect digitally with our patients, it implies tremendous responsibility to do that in an equitable fashion. We can't be completely obsessed about equity in how we distribute vaccinations because at a certain point we are holding back just getting shots in arms, but we have to be incredibly thoughtful even outside of the vaccination process as well. Can our patients access us through video visits if we are doing all our preadmission testing for procedures virtually? Are we unintentionally locking out populations or subpopulations that may not have access to smartphones or the proper bandwidth? There is no way to not think about the equitable access to healthcare whenever we are talking about digital health.


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