20 hospital execs' most thought-provoking quotes on health IT in 2021

From their thoughts on "hospital-at-home" programs to technologies hospitals should adopt to how to improve health equity, here are 20 quotes about innovation in health IT that hospital executives shared with Becker's Hospital Review in 2021.

D. Geoffrey Vince, PhD. Executive Director of Cleveland Clinic Innovations: It all comes back to helping patients. That's the reason why we have an innovations office. We have some of the best physicians, scientists and engineers in the world right here in Cleveland who come up with brilliant ideas every day. And we need a way of bringing these to the market to help patients today and in the future. We want to reduce healthcare costs if we can come up with a less expensive way of doing something. We need to innovate around what we traditionally do but then also look at new avenues that we can explore to impact patient care. 

Maneesh Goyal. Chief Operating Officer at the Mayo Clinic Platform (Rochester, Minn.): We invest in partners that are bold and can help us transform healthcare together by producing ideas and capabilities that not only lead the market, but oftentimes create it. ... In my 20 years’ experience in investing, I observed that winners tend to have two things in common: keen understanding of market timing and patience.

Aaron Martin. Chief Digital and Innovation Officer at Providence (Renton, Wash.): The most promising technology is AI combined with what we call "digital endpoints" for each service we provide. Digital endpoints are technologies like online scheduling, asynchronous video visits, and voice and application programming interfaces. The combination of AI and these endpoints mean that we can enable more sophisticated navigation, new business models, reduce friction and improve care delivery.

John Brownstein, PhD. Chief Innovation Officer at Boston Children's Hospital: ​​As an innovation group, you can get very distracted by a lot of shiny objects and innovations that may not be the most valuable for patients and providers. We have a really strong sourcing strategy that starts with real enterprise-level goals where we're trying to understand areas that might be impactful, like primary care behavioral health. We also do a deep dive from the bottom up. We're trying to learn from the staff, whether it's on the clinical side or administrative side, where the major issues are. As opposed to getting wrapped up in whatever buzzword of the day, we want to point our team toward where we're going to be highly evidence based in terms of selective [projects]. 

Sara Vaezy. Chief Digital Strategy and Business Development Officer at Providence (Renton, Wash.): It’s less about adapting to the pandemic and more about leveraging our learnings to further the health systems mission to serve all patients in a more effective, scalable and equitable way. For instance, now that so many patients have had exposure to virtual visits, can we create new products with new payment models — like subscriptions — or even new communication or health education models, to serve patients in different, more relevant ways. The degrees of freedom are opening up and it’s incumbent upon us to seize them.

Jason Szczuka. Chief Digital Officer at Bon Secours Mercy Health (Cincinnati): The way I view the promise of digital health and where, as a society, we have not optimized it yet, is the extension of the actual delivery of great care in the more convenient, connected and consistent forums, so that all participants can be greater contributors and greater receivers of the benefits of this new forum. And that will require that we connect at the nexus of virtual care and in-person care. Only by doing that will we begin to fulfill the digital health promise.

Michael Restuccia. CIO for corporate information services, Penn Medicine (Philadelphia): The vaccine rollout process is a classic case study for successful projects requiring "people, process and technology." In this equation, the technology infrastructure of an electronic health record and network connectivity seem to be sufficient at most health systems and communities to support the cause. As a result, the most crucial elements to enable success is the project leadership and teamwork amongst all segments of the healthcare delivery system (people and process).  

Tony Ambrozie. Chief Digital Officer at Baptist Health South Florida (Miami): Like innovation, we see data as telling us how to respond to the future rather than only revealing what has happened in the past. The information, trends and feedback we gather from consumers and patients to clinicians and staff marks the goal post for where we want to go. If the data tells a story, we decide how we can make that story a better one. 

Heather Nelson, senior vice president and CIO, UChicago Medicine: From my perspective, the best way to ensure telehealth remains a key part of healthcare delivery is to ensure the reimbursement and payment methods stay in place and even be enhanced as more and more patients want to have access to this model of care. We need those blanket waivers issued by CMS during the public health emergency to be made permanent. If we keep extending a few months at a time, it does not allow healthcare systems the confidence that we can continue this delivery of care as well as invest in supporting technologies and operations.

Tom Andriola. Vice Chancellor of IT and Data at University of California Irvine: The availability of technology is opening people's minds on how we might deliver services differently, consider a more patient-centric experience, and discuss where this type of care is appropriate and where not. Technology is the enabler, but clinicians and caregivers will always be in the lead.

Tom Barnett. Chief Information and Digital Officer of Baptist Memorial Health Care (Memphis, Tenn.): With respect to healthcare, I see digital transformation as a formula:  simplified patient journey + streamlined employee workflow = a memorable experience. The ability to distill the patient touch points down to only what is necessary, make the behind-the-scenes workflow less cumbersome (reducing silos and friction points) and accelerate the entire throughput with carefully selected and complementary technology is the essence of digital transformation. Process is always upstream from technology, and any digital effort should take that into consideration.

Daniel Durand, MD. Chief Clinical Officer at LifeBridge Health (Baltimore): As the chief clinical officer of a health system that includes five hospitals, I start almost every day by asking myself the question, "What will we need hospitals for in 2030?" How much that we do today will be safely done either at home or in the ambulatory setting in the near future given advancements in point-of-care diagnostics, telehealth, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, robotics, drones, 3D printing, virtual reality, 5G, etc.?

Zafar Chaudry, MD. CIO at Seattle Children's: I find that the phrase "digital" is overused. There are so many different definitions as to what "digital" really is, and it is different for each organization. Many tack on "transformation" leading to the term "digital transformation." I find that people often talk about "digital transformation" without understanding it. For example, enabling the clinical workforce to use mobile devices — now is that really "digital transformation" or simply playing catch-up to 2021?

Nick Patel, MD. Chief Digital Officer at Prisma Health (Columbia, S.C.): External disruptors can serve as accelerators instead of threats if you have the right organizational support to grow your digital health strategy in an agile way. Healthcare routinely doesn’t move at the speed of business. Healthcare is hard, and no one group has figured it out. Health systems need to learn from these disruptors and on occasion even partner with them.

Richard Zane, MD. Chief Innovation Officer at UCHealth (Aurora, Colo.): Our guiding principles are simple: Digital health must be easier and not harder, fewer clicks and not more, the path of least resistance, bulletproof, and must enhance human connectivity and not decrease it. The bottom line is that if a tool does not make providers' jobs better and easier and does not improve our patients' experience and lives, then it needs to stay on a shelf. 

Brian Herrick, MD. CIO at Cambridge (Mass.) Health Alliance: The biggest retail disruption so far to healthcare has been convenience. Healthcare has been built based on what is easiest for the healthcare system to deliver great care. The introduction of retail into healthcare has people voting with their feet. 

​​Andy Lehman. CIO at Kettering (Ohio) Health: Transformation implies an order of magnitude improvement in performance, as opposed to incremental improvement. Digital implies the convergence of technologies in which the total is greater than the sum of the parts. Thus, digital transformation unlocks breakthrough or innovative business performance through the synergistic use of technology. Said another way, digital transformation is what turns the lead into gold.

Jason Joseph. Senior Vice President and Chief Digital and Information Officer at Spectrum Health (Grand Rapids, Mich.): As we innovate, we are forcing hidden barriers into the light via experimentation. We saw so many of these barriers uncovered within healthcare, such as lack of connectivity, digital competency, and the need for comprehensive managed workflow. We have shined a spotlight on how much of healthcare relies on people and inconsistent manual processes to get through the system. That needs to change, and that also requires changing a leader’s traditional mindset.

Kathy Azeez-Narain. Chief Digital Officer at Hoag Hospital (Newport Beach, Calif.): Technology for the sake of having all the systems you need is no longer enough. We have spent more time on identifying the key problems we have to solve for the patient/provider/consumer and overlaid a deep focus on where digital/innovation plays a role. We want to pursue the ideas that will improve healthcare, not just focus on implementing what already exists in the industry.

Jon Manis. Senior Vice President and CIO of Christus Health (Irving, Texas): Adopting modern care and compensation models that utilize available technology tools and digital channels will increase access, improve satisfaction and reduce costs. It should also help to reduce physician burnout and improve job satisfaction. How would physicians feel about their profession if they were able to work regular hours and maintain both their status and standard of living by spending more high-quality time with fewer patients — the clinical exceptions — that actually need to be seen in person?

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