How Penn Medicine is analyzing data to improve patient experience

At Penn Medicine, leaders aren't just focused on quality to meet benchmarks, but are using the data to improve the patient experience. 

Mary Buckley, entity information officer at the health system, is an expert at using and understanding data to improve patient outcomes and provider workflows. With more than 40 years of experience, Ms. Buckley is currently focused on implementing systems that work with clinicians not just for clinicians. 

Prior to her role as entity information officer, Ms. Buckley was the CIO at Penn Medicine Chester County Hospital. She is a member of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives and Healthcare Information Management Systems Society. 

Below, Ms. Buckley discusses how Penn Medicine is leveraging technology as well as how the health system is using its EHR to gather data. 

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

Question: What are you doing from a technology perspective throughout Penn Medicine’s physician practices to improve the patient experience? 

Mary Buckley: At Penn Medicine all staff members are encouraged to embrace a common goal — connecting to our Blueprint for Quality imperatives. During our Patient Experience Week, Oct. 14-19, we celebrated our advances in developing continuity of care for our patients and advocating for patients with initiatives that focus on taking the challenge out of being a patient. As patients encounter a variety of services to manage their healthcare or a specific course of treatment, they can take comfort in being personally acknowledged and heard. We have developed a variety of solutions to support this goal. 

One way we make this happen from a technical perspective is through our patient portal. The myPennMedicine portal connects patients to their care team, automating services like scheduling an appointment, filling a prescription, getting test results online, messaging providers and paying bills online. 

Telemedicine is used as another way to provide easier access to care, especially for those that are critically ill and live in the regions outside of the main city hub. Convenience and efficiencies are at the forefront of our society’s desires. We have seen geographical boundaries eliminated in other industries like the consumer products industry, banking industry and media and broadcasting industry. Healthcare is not immune to the same shift. The expectation is to apply a quality interactive patient experience.

Initiatives like e-Consulting at Penn Medicine allow providers to conduct virtual consultations and upload notes to the EHR so that it becomes part of the patient’s record.

Q: How is Penn Medicine leveraging its EHR data to improve the connection between the patient and their care team? 

MB: We are continually expanding the content available to our patients through our patient portal. In the past year, Penn Medicine implemented Shared Notes in our EHR. Our caregivers who are on the patient’s medical team share their notes with each other and specifically with their patients through our myPennMedicine patient portal. By having these notes available, patients are more likely to recall and adhere to plans from their providers. Patients feel more in control and exhibit a better understanding of their health by having this kind of information available. Additionally, shared notes is one more way to promote patient safety.

Q: Where do you go for advice regarding the role you are responsible for at Penn Medicine?

MB: Technology is just one part of what I focus on in my role. Understanding the requirements of this complex world of healthcare comes from those who live it every day. Operations and clinical staff know what it takes to deliver high quality care. I routinely attend governance committee meetings as clinical systems users work through the prioritization of their most pressing initiatives. Through operations led governance committees, we can be assured that opportunities expressed by our caregivers are being heard. This translates into patient needs being addressed in new innovative ways. 

From a business mentorship perspective, I regularly speak with executive directors in our organization to discern changes in healthcare. Experiencing different ideas in different settings drives collaboration and strengthens our relationships. 

For example, we are in the process of implementing CPT II Quality Codes to answer regulatory initiatives. At first, the request from operational leadership seemed like a routine request for new data elements. After learning more about quality at Penn Medicine, it was evident that they could meet the regulatory requirements and apply knowledge gathered from the data collected to enhance our quality programs.

Q: Looking back at your first year as information officer, what would you do differently? What do you wish you had known? 

MB: If I could roll back the clock four decades toward the beginning of my career, I would have engaged technology users from the very beginning. The industry could have benefited by implementing our information system with our users, not for them. Most clinicians did not traditionally engage in developing solutions for systems activity. It was the vendors that drove the functionality of healthcare technology. As healthcare technology systems have evolved, it has become apparent that users do have a stake in the game and their voices must be heard. Penn Medicine has embraced the collaborative approach taken to pursue information services integration with a far-reaching governance structure driven by systems users. 

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