'At no other time in my career has the role of CIO been more impactful': insights from Bon Secours Mercy Health's Laishy Williams-Carlson

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Health system CIOs are comfortable leading several projects at once, including EHR communication, data management and cybersecurity. But the spread of COVID-19 requires a huge shift in focus to support caregivers on the front line and lead remote teams.

Laishy Williams-Carlson, CIO of Bon Secours Mercy Health, is taking an all-hands-on-deck approach to ensure her care team has the clinical and operational data they need to make the right decisions for all patients, whether they have COVID-19 or need other essential care. Her team also supports the transition to telehealth for many visits and vendor partnerships for rapid rollout of new capabilities.

"At no other time in my career has the role of CIO been more impactful," she said. "Every day I see how our information and technology team meets the needs of our caregivers and patients and I am blessed to work with such a committed and hard-working group."

Here, Ms. Williams-Carlson outlines her top priorities and how she anticipates her strategy will change in the next several months due to the coronavirus.

Question: What are your top two to three priorities today?

Laishy Williams-Carlson: Our top three priorities to support clinical operations include (1) rapid changes to our Epic instances to build COVID-19 dashboards and registries, build or configure repurposed inpatient care units, and support changes in accessing records; (2) deployment of technologies supporting new approaches to care, such as workstations on wheels located in isolation rooms to provide caregivers a way to communicate with the patient from outside the room decreasing use of PPE; mobile technologies for patients to communicate with their families; and provider assessment of patients remotely, for example in a long-term care setting; and (3) rapid expansion of virtual visits including practice visits as well as hospital based services such as physical or occupational therapy.

Q: How do you anticipate COVID-19 will change your strategy in the next six to 12 months?

LWC: Our overall health system strategy will undoubtedly need to add a focus on rebuilding our ministry after a swift and profound pivot to meet our communities' needs. There will be important changes we need to consider both in our health system and throughout the country. What is the right number of beds needed in our country, where do they need to be, and how will services be provided and more than ever, how do we address healthcare disparities?

Q: Where do you see the biggest need for technology resources and budget to support caregivers through this time?

LWC: Additional mobile devices and new configurations to support constant innovation and new use cases. The partnership of clinical informatics and IT has never been more essential to assure we meet caregivers' needs. I would also like to commend many of our vendors who have stepped up to say 'what do you need' and have partnered with us to get equipment and assist us in building out solutions.

Q: What keeps you up at night?

LWC: Worry for our caregivers and their emotional and moral distress as they care for very sick patients with rapid demise. Is our IT team doing everything we can to provide our caregivers the tools they need?

Q: How do you see COVID-19 changing the health IT landscape going forward?

LWC: As we return to a 'new normal,' we must appreciate the radical disruption that has occurred and implement the best aspects of the new care model, including remote work, new uses of virtual visits, and rapid deployment of minimally viable products which value speed over perfection.

 

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