How tech bends the cost curve for value-based care in data-drive systems from OSU Wexner Medical Center CIO Phyllis Teater

Phyllis Teater is the CIO of The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, overseeing technology across the three-part mission of patient care, education and research.

She has spent more than 25 years with the medical center, playing an instrumental role in its EHR rollout and advancing the strategic use of technology to impact the organization. In the coming year, she will be focusing her efforts to meet several of the health system's IT-related goals to support strategic growth and digital healthcare delivery.

Here, Ms. Teater outlines her strategy for success and how technology fits into an academic medical center’s mission while supporting the industry’s need to bend the cost curve of healthcare.

Question: If 2020 is a successful year for you, what will it look like?

Phyllis Teater: At the end of the year, all areas here would be meeting or exceeding their strategic goals. As a member of the executive team, I share responsibility to achieve these goals and specifically for ensuring that we leverage technology where needed to do it. In the upcoming year, the goals that fall under that category include making sure our organization is on track with our facility growth plans. We are building and planning a number of facilities in central Ohio to expand our reach, including a new hospital tower, a number of outpatient multi-use facilities, a multi-disciplinary healthcare education center, and a new research facility.

If we are successful next year in this space, we will know fully what capabilities will be delivered in those buildings from a technology perspective and will be on track with our plans to implement them.

The second priority for 2020 is continuing to move into the digital delivery of healthcare and having a presence in the virtual health space. For us that includes a number of foci, such as being able to significantly increase the amount of virtual visits that we can offer patients through technology so they have increased access to our services and it's more convenient for them. We also plan to do more remote virtual monitoring for patients who need it to improve their outcomes.

Another space that we have some big goals over the next 14 months is around becoming a data-driven and analytics-driven organization. We are thinking about how we structure to move those initiatives forward and provide a holistic analytics service that can drive us towards the future.

Q: When you look at everything you need to accomplish, is the big challenge now the technology or change management?

PT: For almost all of our projects, the technology is becoming the easier part. The culture change, alignment and decision-making are more of a challenge. Technology has become the way we do business and we need to agree on that “way” before we can select the right technology. We want to make sure that our culture is aligned around the technology advances so we are advancing our goals.

Q: Where will you focus most of your time and energy next year?

PT: In my role as CIO, I will spend most of my time in the strategy space and building a vision and structure for implementing that strategy to help achieve our goals. We have a fantastic team that is readily able to execute on initiatives and also work with our business leaders to ensure execution meets our operational goals. In addition, I help to break down organizational barriers when they stand in the way of execution.

Q: What do you consider the biggest potential threat to your organization?

PT: The most visible threats come in the cybersecurity space. Those threats are very real and we spend a lot of energy on them, as do all organizations in today's climate. But a bigger long term threat is how we prepare for the future of healthcare and for the change to value from the fee-for-service world. What you wish for is that the healthcare industry would pick a day to change from fee-for-service to value-based care and have one big go-live and be done; that is not the way it works.

For us, the biggest threat is that our timing or preparation is not in line with the speed at which the industry is changing. We need to pay attention to our value proposition and make sure it's in line with market changes.

Q: Based on your experience, how does technology fit into the bending of the cost curve in healthcare?

PT: Healthcare in the U.S. is the most expensive in the world, and our comparative outcomes do not support that higher cost. Technology can help reduce overall costs; it does require an initial investment, but then it can contribute to cost reductions. For example, analytics platforms can help us design better, less expensive processes for more effective patient care through better knowledge of our work and ensuring we are spending our resource on the very best initiative. We can also use robotic processing to reduce manual work and move workers to knowledge-based roles that add value. As healthcare costs continue to grow, it is one of my duties as a CIO to be a good steward of resources so that we are efficient in our use of technology and focusing on advancing healthcare at the lower possible cost.

Q: What is the most interesting initiative you have planned for 2020 that will affect the patient experience?

PT: The most interesting work we are doing is understanding how to use artificial intelligence (AI) to think through the virtual health space, our user experience, and our future with analytics. AI at its heart is teaching machines to behave more and more like humans. Going forward, we need to leverage those capabilities to provide better patient care, and that includes making healthcare easier to obtain. All of us as patients know that interactions with the healthcare industry are not easy.

We want to leverage voice technology for an amazing customer experience so they can learn about OSUWMC services from Alexa like the nearest ED and interact with us virtually via chat. This can both elevate the user experience as well as increase the efficiency of offering these types of services.

Everything from the first interaction of trying to schedule an appointment to paying the bill requires several steps in the healthcare world. We want to make that feel as streamlined as our personal actions in terms of shopping, booking a hair appointment or making dinner reservations; all the things that have made the digital world in these industries easy need to be brought to healthcare.


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