4 questions with CHIME-HIMSS CIO of the Year Ed Kopetsky

In January, two of health IT's biggest trade groups — the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society — named Ed Kopetsky the 2018 CIO of the Year, honoring of his decades of leadership in the hospital space.

Mr. Kopetsky, now CIO of Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford and Stanford Children's Health in Palo Alto, Calif., has worked as a hospital CIO for nearly 30 years. In the 1980s he helped lead the development of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' homegrown EHR, VistA. Since then, he's served as CIO of Centura Health in Centennial, Colo., and Sharp HealthCare in San Diego.

CHIME and HIMSS jointly selected Mr. Kopetsky for the 2018 John E. Gall Jr. CIO of the Year award for his ongoing leadership and commitment to the field. Mr. Kopetsky was among the founding members of CHIME in 1992 and started a HIMSS chapter in San Diego in 1988. He also helped launch the CHIME Opioid Task Force in 2018, after losing his son to an accidental opioid overdose the previous year.

"I really wanted the challenge of working in a new field to tangibly improve results — for me, healthcare met that goal," Mr. Kopetsky said during an interview with Becker's Hospital Review, describing his decision to dedicate his career to health IT.

Becker's Hospital Review caught up with Mr. Kopetsky ahead of HIMSS19, where the two trade groups will formally present Mr. Kopetsky with the CIO of the Year award at the CHIME-HIMSS CIO Forum. HIMSS19 runs from Feb. 11-15 in Orlando, Fla.

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

Question: How has the IT landscape changed for hospitals since you began working in healthcare?

Ed Kopetsky: Very early on, health IT functionality was primarily focused on revenue collection and payroll. Although early clinical data repositories helped centralize and share data, they lacked direct clinician interaction. It was actually the Institute of Medicine [now the National Academy of Medicine] and other patient safety studies that led to the mandate for direct computerized provider order entry, or CPOE, as a solution to errors or harm. From there, healthcare reform and the Affordable Care Act incented widespread adoption and use of CPOE and integrated EMRs. Now, in the last 10 years, over 95 percent of hospitals have achieved EMRs and CPOE. The industry now has the benefit of big data and analytics capabilities to build new knowledge and innovate new processes.

Q: How has the position of technology in the hospital setting changed in recent years? How has it affected your role as a CIO?

EK: Technology is now a strategic asset to healthcare organizations, and the CIO is at the table and an integral part of the executive team and board. Nowadays, CIOs are partnered with executive teams to envision and lead innovation and change. Our digital health program, for example, is co-led by the CIO, along with the CMO and our vice president of outpatient services. Nearly every major health IT initiative requires partnership with executives and clinicians to advance clinical practice and develop innovative ways to care for patients. A couple examples that highlight the importance of technology at Stanford Children's Health are:

  • The Lucile Packard Children's Hospital expansion, which opened December 2017 and has numerous new technologies integrated with our EMR and directly support patients and families.
  • The HIMSS Davies Award, which we received in 2017, validated the advanced use of our EMR patient data and analytics to change care delivery and have sustained improvements in patient outcomes.

Q: Which health IT initiative has required most of your time during the past few months?

EK: Our digital health strategy is now our primary health IT initiative. I co-chair the digital health steering committee at Stanford Children's Health, and in partnership with clinical leaders, we focus on ensuring that patients and families have access to the care they need regardless of their location. This has been a priority for Stanford Children's Health over some time, and promotes the organization's "in our care anywhere" strategy, which provides patients with multiple access options to care through virtual and telehealth visits. We're pushing the boundaries to be able to extend care and make healthcare continuous, not episodic. This is the driver of our digital strategy, and, consequently, technology and connectivity decisions fall into place from there.

Q: Looking toward the future, what are a few emerging health IT trends you want to learn more about?

EK: There are several, for sure. One is going to be the future of virtual care, including telehealth visits and remote monitoring. These technologies will expand greatly in the next five years, and could significantly impact in-person visits and office overhead costs. Rapid development in sensor technology, wearables and remote monitoring will also drastically alter the healthcare delivery system in the next 10 years, promoting access to care and continuous data capabilities regardless of location of the patient. Another trend I want to learn more about is how consumerism and related technologies alter healthcare and drastically improve access to care and health information, and how people with long-term needs will be connected continuously to promote proactive care and interventions.

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