'Continue pushing the boundaries of innovation': 5 health system execs on what they need from their IT teams

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Hospital and health system CIOs and IT leaders are looking to their team members to push innovation boundaries and help craft the new normal in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

From rapid rollouts of teleworking and telemedicine programs, IT teams have been tasked with providing digital platforms and IT infrastructure to support patients, employees and businesses during the pandemic and now moving forward as states begin re-opening.

Here, five health system executives answer the question: What do you need from your IT team right now?

Nader Mherabi, CIO of NYU Langone Health (New York City): Firstly, we need teams at NYU Langone Health to remain safe, healthy and continue to take care of themselves and their families. We also need teams to continue being agile and creative and to leverage the foundation that NYU Langone Health has built over many years in an ongoing effort to effectively overcome future challenges. We have developed and perfected techniques for scaling up technologies quickly, innovating as you go, responding promptly to sudden demands, and continuously improvising. Instead of being reactionary, we need to use the tools and skills we've developed when managing other crises as an asset when confronting COVID-19.

Rhonda Medows, MD, CEO of Ayin Health Solutions and president of population health at Providence St. Joseph Health (Renton, Wash.): We have a diverse talent of IT specialists supporting our established population health management services and our newer service, COVIDReady, for helping employers reopen businesses more safely. We need our IT caregivers to continue being integral members of our leadership and strategy teams as we navigate uncharted waters stemming from COVID-19 business recovery and rapidly changing business needs. 

We also need our IT team members to continue pushing the boundaries of innovation – especially as we continue to operate via teleworking and provide health services via telehealth and digital health services. Finally, we need our IT team of experts to help us ensure the IT platforms, applications and wearable technologies provide a seamless, secure and consumer friendly experience to our ultimate customers: patients, members and employees.

Eric Yablonka, CIO of Stanford (Calif.) Health Care: One thing is to continue to be agile. We demonstrated unbelievable agility in responding to the COVID-19 crisis, and that agility and creativity need to be sustained as part of the new normal we are coming to. I would also say that it's not only what we need from our IT team, but also what we provide to our IT teams in response to what is happening in HCO’s and our communities. To that end, I believe it is to be kind, supportive, respectful and good to each other, whether it is matters of pandemic response or racial justice. We as leadership need to listen, be open and engaged to be part of the change necessary as a healthcare provider and community member to support our teams as we go through the change that is so obviously needed.  

Kristin Myers, executive vice president, CIO and dean of IT at Mount Sinai Health System (New York City): With so much change in the world, and in the light of us all experiencing COVID-19, there has never been a more critical time to build stronger, long term relationships with patients and their families. To do this, we need to continue to enable the use of digital platforms to impact and improve the patient experience.

Tressa Springmann, senior vice president and CIO of LifeBridge Health (Baltimore): As the needs of our communities have changed as a result of this pandemic, we, too, need to change in order to continue to effectively support our organizations and the communities we serve. We are in the business of caring for our communities, so right now, I think we need to recommit to our mission. 

This has been the classic change management exercise, and we all know change is hard. That being said, open communication, open mindedness to new opportunities and experiences and an open attitude to new ways of working are key. We IT professionals are known for the structure we bring – this makes sense as so many are relying upon the foundation we support in order for their day to be effective. We need to do this and pivot at the same time if we are to create safety with a sound, secure infrastructure while asking and encouraging new ways of practicing healthcare as well as working together.

What I appreciate most is the trust of the team that we will succeed through this together even though we've not ever experienced anything like this and have no real compass, map or path. If we are mission-focused, open-minded and trusting, everything else will follow.

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