The biggest factors in decision-making for 3 CMIOs today

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The pandemic caused a seismic shift in priorities and decision-making processes for health system executives. However, it isn't the only factor affecting trends for chief medical information officers.

 A panel of CMIOs discussed how their role has evolved during a session at the Becker's Healthcare Health IT + Revenue Cycle Management Virtual Event on July 22. The panel included Nicholas (Shetal) Desai, DPM, system CMIO of Houston Methodist; Pranav Kumar Jain, MD, the physician executive, vice president and CMIO of Northeast Georgia Health System; and Patrick Woodard, MD, CMIO and vice president of clinical systems for Renown Health in Reno, Nev. Mackenzie Bean, managing editor at Becker's Healthcare, moderated the panel.

Here is an excerpt from the conversation, slightly edited for clarity. To view the full session on-demand, click here.

Question: What are the two to three biggest healthcare trends really affecting your decision-making process as CMIOs?

Dr. Woodard: There are a couple of trends that have come to the forefront recently especially with the rapid iterations we have had to make due to the ongoing pandemic. We were talking about digital front doors, patient centered medicine and virtual care for years before the pandemic occurred. In March, April and May, many of us saw the need to take action immediately. I think it's heartening in a way because those types of evolutions in the way we work are really patient centered and that's something as CMIOs that we have been talking about and focusing on for quite some time. The other thing is the enablement of creating the digital front door and driving innovation in a rapid process has made it really rewarding to be a CMIO and see some of the things we've been talking about for years come to fruition.

Dr. Jain: To echo what Dr. Woodard just mentioned, the other trends I've seen are a change in operations for how we consume data. As we enter uncharted territory, we have leapfrogged into a learning organization. There are more requests for data to help make decisions because nobody knows how this is going to play out. So really that transformation and core decision-making has been very healthy to watch but fairly hard to support because the appetite is for so much more data, but there are really interesting things in there.

Dr. Desai: You've got data; you now need to know how to use it. As we start to think about what trends are coming next, let's think about what is pushing down on us. The pandemic has taught us that virtualization of care is important. The way we deliver care, even beyond the pandemic, has been completely shifted now. We've catapulted telemedicine into lightyears ahead of where we once were, no matter what the trajectory was. The brick and mortar solutions have also evolved to include the delivery of care in different ways that were once in the clinical setting. The engagement of the patient, or empowering the patient with information, has changed for us too. We were once the provider who dictated the care. The patient just received it and was ingesting the data, and that's all they did.

Now it's very bi-directional with patient, physician, family interactions. That's a push for the knowledge and empowerment of the patient and that has changed the way we deliver care. The next factor is really changing the role of AI. You can have all the data, but what do you do with the data? How do you synthesize that data? How do you normalize that data so we all are speaking the same language? That has come more to the forefront and it's required for us to understand and share, which then leads to interoperability. What does that mean for us now, and how can we leverage that in our decision making? Clearly COVID has really changed for all of us the entire way we even look at technology and clinical medicine all in one.

Dr. Woodard: We've seen a move away from best in breed options into a single enterprise option or at least deeply integrated systems. I know when we went live with our virtual visits as part of COVID, we did it within two weeks and we did it with some systems that we had — some legacy telemedicine systems. But we didn't expand those; we did direct integration within the EMR and expanded our ability within the EMR to do that. So I think in terms of supporting enterprise systems, but also being able to think long term and see what types of data we can get out of those enterprise systems and then report on that to see where the operational areas are where we can improve our efficiencies.

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