The biggest tech investments on leaders' minds: 3 hospital execs weigh in

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the industry's shift to telemedicine and remote care, highlighted the importance of getting data to decision makers quicker and forced health systems to adapt business plans, among other key trends.

Three innovation and health IT leaders reflected on the key trends and technologies that will directly affect healthcare leaders, employees, patients and the industry as a whole during an Oct. 7 keynote session at the Becker's HIT + Revenue Cycle Virtual Event. Panelists included:

  • Bruce Metz, PhD, executive vice president and CIO of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education

  • Sandra Powell-Elliott, vice president of life sciences and innovation at Edison, N.J.-based Hackensack Meridian Health
  • Albert Villarin, MD, vice president and chief medical information officer at Danbury, Conn.-based Nuvance Health 

Here are three excerpts from their conversation, lightly edited for clarity. To view the full session on-demand, click here.

Question: What technological investments should healthcare leaders consider over the next two to three years?

Dr. Albert Villarin: For us, it's remote process automation — really enhancing the capability of one access point for data, whether it be for our patients, clinicians, business models or executives. Data provides us the knowledge of what's actually going on with our clinical workflows and networks. As we optimize and improve the workflows, we need to measure those improvements. We have key performance indicators in place across the network from management all the way up through executive leadership, so we're all aligned with one focus: creating the best model of healthcare possible for our network, which includes the patients. 

As we develop that unification from the EMR perspective, we're automating both above that — to share it through a health information exchange — and below it to allow for more care collaboration throughout the network. So we can move patients from one hospital to another without having to change the modality as we access that clinical information. It's about creating a frictionless, efficient care collaboration platform across the network, utilizing multiple layers of health information exchange, artificial intelligence, business intelligence and analytics to allow transparency of knowledge. Knowledge creates wisdom, and the wisdom to care for our patients is why we all work together to enhance that experience for them. 

Dr. Bruce Metz: Given that we're still in a pandemic and there's still so much work to do around recovery, it's going to be important to not only introduce as many efficiencies as we can, but also enhance the effectiveness as we're going along the way. To support that strategy, an acceleration of some level of a digital transformation is going to be required. In-person visits have been obviously shortened, and the need for e-visits or e-consults has accelerated. But it needs to be integrated more with the care delivery model.

I also believe it's very important that we understand the underpinnings that are going to make any future trends successful as we try to execute on the kinds of really exciting advances that Dr. Villarin was talking about. One of those underpinnings is the evolution of maturity of cloud computing. Over the next two to three years, it really behooves us to figure out a plan and how we're going to start to migrate to the cloud, not necessarily for isolated applications, but as an overall series of continuously available new services, and access to advanced technologies through one of the mega cloud vendors like Microsoft, Google and Amazon. Because that is the way we could begin to get lower barrier innovation going, or more widespread access to the kind of capabilities we're going to be talking about throughout this session.

Sandra Elliott: We've gone through the same effort [Dr. Villarin mentioned of integrating datasets]. We're hoping to better understand how to take that information, and not just take care of the patients today, but understand how to take that information and create real-world evidence to begin to transform outcomes across patient populations.

How do we achieve different kinds of outcomes as a health system in a very different way? We're trying to figure out how to not only develop the technology that helps us collect that information in a useful way, but also tap data scientists to help us understand what are critical areas for us.

From a technology standpoint, the other area we're spending a lot of time looking critically at is natural language processing. Not only to automate processes, connect with patients and create a different kind of patient experience, but also using that information to better understand and diagnose certain kinds of clinical conditions. At the end of the day, as a health system, we have two core businesses: diagnosis and therapeutics. What is it that we can do to diagnose faster, better, cheaper and further up the chain of a disease progression? And then on the therapeutic side, how do we take care of patients differently that's more efficient and improves outcomes? Those are the core areas we're looking at and deciding where we're going to spend our resources over the next few years.

More articles on health IT:

Nebraska hospital going live this month on Epic EHR: 4 details
UPMC joins $15M funding round for AI startup, providing summary transcripts of clinical encounters
NYU researchers develop AI tool that predicts COVID-19 patient outcomes with 90% precision

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