The beginning of my career in healthcare had nothing to do with helping patients; it was simply a way to pay bills during college. After high school, I was lucky enough to land jobs working in the storeroom in the winter and mowing lawns in the summer; my plan was to earn my Associates Degree, get a job in computers, and get moving with my life.
Little did I know I would be blessed to work for an incredible mentor in my first role at Community Hospital Anderson who taught me that so much about doing whatever is needed to “get it done.”
After a few years of bouncing around doing whatever work I could get during college, I was granted an internship in IT. I was given opportunities to grow as a leader, and eventually landed my role today as CIO. This journey has taught me so much and has allowed me to learn about how the hospital operates in all of its many areas. I’ve been able to meet incredible people and have developed an appreciation for what healthcare really means.
I’ve learned how important it is for all of those who work in a hospital to believe that everything they do is for our patients. Housekeepers don’t just clean; they provide an infection-free environment for the patient’s stay. Dietary doesn’t just cook; they provide nourishment to help those who are sick get healthy as soon as possible. In IT, we don’t just fix computers or keep a network up; we provide a system that can keep patients safe through interaction checking, barcode identification, and even predictive analytics.
I believe our role in IT is to do more than just be a utility to the organization, but to actually provide solutions to problems across our organization. One of the big challenges in healthcare is patient engagement, a Meaningful Use requirement that is measured through access to a patient portal. To me, a patient portal is simply a tool to achieving true patient engagement. Providing lab or radiology results or allowing a patient to pay bills online might engage a small portion of our population, but is it really going to drive our population to better health? When the Stage 2 requirements originally came out, many in the industry talked of how unfair it was to force hospitals to make patients become engaged. My stance is more the mindset that if we as hospitals don’t work to engage patients, who will?
Now, by no means do I believe technology is going to solve the problem of patient engagement, but I do believe it can play a major role. For example, we recently started using a product from Vocera that allows us to record discharge instructions and enable the patient or family member to review anything they may have missed at discharge, from the comfort of their home. We all know that after a hospital visit, patients are ready to go home, and it’s very likely they may not comprehend all of the information that was given to them.
Big Data has been such a big buzz word in healthcare IT for the past 12 months. But ask six people for their definition of it, and you will most likely get six different ideas of what it means. I believe that with the implementation of EMRs across the country, we are able to capture enormous amounts of information that, over time, can be used to predict risk levels for patients and hopefully help educate them on how certain health choices can impact their lives. And not just because we know certain things are bad for their health, but because we have data and trends that can show correlations that are hopefully more relevant.
But before any of that can happen, we’ve got to get patients on board, and that means using the tools we already have to get it done.