Emerson Hospital CIO Renee Fosberg: How AI and precision medicine fit into the health IT strategy

Renee Fosberg, senior director and CIO at Emerson Hospital in Concord, Mass., has worked in the healthcare information systems industry for nearly 20 years.

Under her leadership, she has worked with Emerson and its 75 affiliated physician offices to secure an EMR platform and the hospital has earned the HealthCare's Most Wired designation in 2016 and 2017. Here, she discusses where she sees big trends in health IT headed and her next initiatives at Emerson.

Question: Where do you see artificial intelligence and precision medicine fitting into your health IT strategy?

Renee Fosberg: Artificial intelligence and precision medicine will continue to transform how providers approach disease management. As the CIO of a community hospital, I think about the challenges we have to take advantage of these emerging technologies, compared to an academic medical center. For Emerson Hospital, we continue to see the value in strong data governance within our EMR system and continue to develop strategies that enhance the standardization and accuracy of our structured data.

We also are prioritizing the development of interoperability capabilities within our EMR and have recently enabled the FHIR and APIs capability. These two key strategies can lay the foundation for our ability to integrate with genomics and population health management systems, using 'advanced' clinical decision support applications that are able to tie into patient-specific data resources. This can empower providers to develop highly customized treatment plans that significantly transform how we approach prevention and disease management.

Q: What are the biggest initiatives you are developing today to prepare for the future?

RF: Like many health systems, we are currently in the vendor selection process to implement a new enterprise EMR system. We are looking at systems that can provide a single platform to connect our hospital with our referring physicians, home care services and our primary tertiary care facility. Having a single medical records platform across our care continuum is important for our care coordination, quality and population health initiatives and is a key pillar to deliver value-based care in our community.

Q: What are the top one or two technology investments you're making today that will make the biggest difference in the patient experience?

RF: A major initiative underway at Emerson is to increase the 'digital front door' opportunities for our patients to access Emerson services. We are currently investing in telehealth solutions for our patients, which will enable them to receive more accessible and convenient care. We have piloted tele-visits with a subset of primary care physicians and will be looking to advance the rollout to more offices in the upcoming year. We have planned investments this year to introduce telehealth to our Emerson Homecare service offerings, including access to nursing and remote monitoring of vital signs for patients with chronic diseases.

Q: What are the terms or conversations in health IT you most dread? What is the most cringe worthy?

RF: Data breaches. Security is a key pillar of Emerson Hospital's IT strategy. We continue to make significant investments with tools and resources to manage this evolving landscape. We are actively developing our culture of health information protection within our workforce – which we refer to as HiP. Through HiP, we have developed governance structures from the front line up to our board of directors. Despite all the good programs we have in place, there are always emerging threats and many healthcare organizations have been victims of cyber-attacks resulting in data breaches. Managing this risk with available resources, looking not only at our health system, but also ensuring that our business partners meet security best practices, is an evolving challenge.

To participate in future Becker's Q&As, contact Laura Dyrda at ldyrda@beckershealthcare.com.

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