IT is a 'key enabler' for Intermountain's COVID-19 preparedness: 3 Qs with CIO Marc Probst

Andrea Park - Print  | 

With the coronavirus pandemic now spreading across all 50 states at a rapid rate, telehealth and data-tracking technologies have come to the forefront as crucial tools to slow the spread of the virus and treat infected patients.

Hospital and health system CIOs, therefore, have a key role to play in their organizations' COVID-19 preparedness strategies. At Salt Lake City-based Intermountain Healthcare, for example, CIO Marc Probst is leading the IT-enabled response to the coronavirus.

Here, Mr. Probst, who is also vice president of the health system, discusses the role of both the CIO and of IT as a whole in responding to the pandemic, and outlines the technologies that have been most crucial to enabling a rapid and effective response.

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

Question: How are you as CIO contributing to Intermountain's strategy to handle COVID-19?

Marc Probst: Technology is a key enabler for our preparation for COVID-19. As CIO, I lead a team of 1,100 professionals that each must work in coordination to support these actions. Along with our chief health information officer, I serve as the section chief for IT in our response team.

Q: Where does IT come into play in a health system's COVID-19 preparedness strategy? 

MP: IT is a key component of our response. Access to data and the ability to quickly communicate are key. The EMR is foundational, and changes have been required to support our preparations and care delivery. Because we have moved as much of the workforce as possible to their homes, we have had to boost capabilities in these areas. 

There are too many projects to list, but I am inspired by how quickly each team has executed and focused on these new priorities.

Q: Has any particular technology been especially helpful so far?  

MP: Telehealth has been a key technology. Scaling this has been a technical and practical challenge — in terms of just having enough caregivers to provide tele-services — but, again, it's been awesome seeing how quickly we can act to better serve our communities.

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