As a hospital CIO, it’s not too often that you have to be involved in a patient care issue when the police SWAT team shows up ready to tango.
In one of the more peculiar events from my previous lives, I was contacted late in the day by the Chief Nursing Officer because the police were called from the hospital by a patient who was reporting that the convenience store across the street, which she could see from her room window, was being robbed at gunpoint.
Thing is, the patient didn’t just call once. She called a dozen times, each time more frantically claiming hostages, and whatever other criminal activity. Naturally, the police responded immediately, only to find out that the store had been closed for months. They immediately traced the calls to the hospital, which is how I got called to figure out how the patient managed to do this with the local patient in-room telephone, without alerting the nurses attending to her.
What stood out to me about this particular event wasn’t that there was an obviously distraught patient that legitimately thought she had witnessed a scene from a movie occurring out her window; it was that the clinical staff took it all in stride as just another day on the job. Any non-clinical person (in this case, me) who got swept up in the event was just dumbfounded that this sort of bizarre thing happens on a routine basis. In fact, one of the nurses turned to me, shrugged at this event, and said, “Oh honey, this is nothing.”
In another example of events that just amaze me, I remember getting a call from the hospital house supervisor that there had been an event at the medical center, and that all disaster team sector coordinators needed to report in.
Now, when you get a call like this, it’s never a good thing. It turns out a patient who was on pure oxygen had decided — against all regulations, posted guidance, and common sense — that it would be a good idea to light a cigarette. Have you ever seen what happens when you put an ignition source next to pure oxygen? Boom. And that’s exactly what happened to the patient, room, and half of the medical surgical floor. Luckily there was no loss of life, but what I witnessed was an amazing clinical team who continued to care for the patients, moving them to other floors, and making sure the event was contained.
I am steadfast in my belief that the clinicians and physicians out there serving our communities are true heroes. In an era where hospitals have operating margins that are shrinking and staff that are expected to “do more with less,” it’s no wonder burnout is approaching critical mass. I have a cardiologist friend who constantly, and appropriately, reminds me that doctors are in the business of being doctors and not data entry clerks. In my admiration for him and his profession, I often ask: “How can I help make things easier with technology?” His answer to me is usually, “Give me more hours in the day.”
These days, patients are showing up sicker with complex co-morbidities, hospitals are cutting back the number of support staff, and nurses are running dangerously high patient care ratios, all while the government healthcare mandates and regulations continue to ratchet up. The only answer to any of this is to leverage technology to improve efficiency.
In one of the more successful stories of giving more hours back to the doctors, I adopted a virtual desktop infrastructure across several of my previous hospitals. With this, I also added technology that allowed the doctors to seamlessly wander between computers and their desktop to securely follow them with the simple tap of a badge. This gave them minutes and hours back in their day and was a big hit.
In another example, I embraced a ‘bring your own device’ technology stack which virtualized the entire desktop experience, complete with EMR access, via a web browser. Now, clinicians could show up with any device of their choosing, including their beloved MacBooks, and visit a simple and secure browser page to get to the EMR from anywhere in the world. In fact, I once received a call late at night from a neurologist who was trying to complete a quick clinical consultation. She had a simple application question leveraging the browser desktop experience. When I heard seagulls in the background I asked where she was. Her answer? “I’m in Hawaii at the beach.”
As hospital CIOs, the only way to help combat the growing fatigue with our clinical partners is to continue to work side by side with them, giving them additional hours back in the day through technology. It’s through the simplification of their workflow that they are able to really achieve the gains necessary to meaningfully and positively impact their day. The best question we can ask of ourselves and of our clinical partners is simply this: “How can I help you?”
Currently serving as CIO and VP of Government Relations with Imprivata, Aaron Miri has held various roles on the provider side, including CIO (Walnut Hill Medical Center), CTO (Children’s Medical Center) and IT director.