For healthcare leaders, improving the experience for both patients and providers has become a top priority. Patients want seamless; they want to schedule appointments online and submit medical information through a portal. But no matter how much resources health systems have invested, simply implementing the technology – and training people on how to use it – isn’t enough, said Chris Paravate, CIO at Northeast Georgia Health System.
“If we don’t actually go into the clinic and support the operational flow, we won’t be able to make that connection,” he said in a recent interview. He knows this from experience, which is why one of his most pressing priorities as CIO is to iron out the kinks that exist and create better processes to be able to leverage technology. During the discussion, Paravate spoke with Kate Gamble, Managing Editor, about the importance of ensuring clinical and operational buy-in with digital initiatives; the challenges organizations face in navigating mixed care models; why he believes patient experience doesn’t have to be a “trade-off”; and the one aspect of healthcare he’d like to eliminate.
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- One of the biggest sources of frustration among patients? Waiting rooms, said Paravate, who believes they’re “the ultimate insult.”
- With violence against hospital employees on the rise, Northeast Georgia is piloting technology that can more quickly and accurately locate staff who are in danger. “Mobility continues to be a key piece of technology to support all of these functions.”
- As a “technology company,” Northeast Georgia is “completely dependent on digital solutions and technology to run our organization. And so, leveraging that as an asset and being thoughtful about how it’s shaping our patient experience and our employees’ experiences is paramount.”
- Paravate’s most significant goal for 2023? Supporting strategic growth, he said. “We want to make sure we’re not just expanding or extending what we already have in our portfolio, but really taking the opportunity to test new technologies, implement new tools, and bring them back to other existing facilities.”
Q&A with Chris Paravate, CIO, Part 2 [To view Part 2, click here.]
Paravate: From the patient experience standpoint, it’s leveraging the smart TV in the room to give them their care plans — what’s the plan to get discharged, what are they waiting on, and when someone walks in the door, it can present their credentials. It’s also leveraging that TV for video consults with family, translation services, things like that. There are tons of ways in which we can make our organization more efficient in our care delivery and create a patient experience that is far superior.
I think we can all agree that as a patient, probably the most frustrating thing to do is to wait. Frankly, waiting rooms are the ultimate insult to every patient because to me, it’s saying, ‘it’s okay for you to wait on me,’ which I don’t think is a good message.
We’re always trying to help patients understand where they are and what they’re waiting on. And as they flip to inpatient status, the questions we get are ‘when can I go home’ or ‘what is my next step.’ To be able to show that to family members who are overseeing care is a big part of our overall design and architecture, both in the inpatient facilities we’re building and in our ambulatory clinical destinations. That’s the direction in which we’re headed.
Gamble: Do you tend to pilot these things on a smaller scale? What has been the strategy with things like smart room technology?
Paravate: It’s a lot of piloting. We have some really challenging facilities, which is part of the reason why we’re doing replacements and expansions and making changes. One pilot we’re doing is for staff distress. The idea is to have people wear a badge with a button on the back that you can press if you need help. There are a few things we’re looking for with that technology. One is accuracy; being able to locate that person. Often the problem isn’t pressing a button — that’s not technically challenging. The challenge is finding the person who pressed the button.
It’s improving the accuracy of the floor plans. Am I in the first corridor or the second corridor? Is there a wall separating them? What kind of help do they need? Violence against our staff is on the increase, particularly in areas like the ER, and so, protecting our staff is really a high priority. We’re looking not just at RFID technology but accuracy — how do we deploy that?
It’s not helpful for me to know where you are in a workstation. I can’t sit in front of a workstation and respond to that. I need a mobile platform that’s dynamic and gives me turn by turn instructions to find you in the most expeditious way. I also need that technology to alert the person who is closest.
“These things start to become complex”
When you start adding layers to this, you quickly realize how important that is. That same type of information will be really important for wayfinding as well. How do we provide wayfinding for patients and families? There are public corridors I want you to utilize, but there are other hallways, passageways, doors, and stairs that you as a patient or a family member don’t have access to that I need to leverage for these things like transport, distress, and rounding. All these things start to become pretty complex.
From a technology perspective, you have to think about what technology is needed to track, find, and map it. How do I support it? I don’t want to support a network solely for RTLS because I’m also supporting a Wi-Fi network. I’m also supporting a structured network — how do I leverage, consolidate, and simplify the technology and architecture support?
Mobility continues to be a key piece of technology to support all of these functions. We’ve invested a lot in mobile technology for our staff and will continue to do so.
“We’re a technology company”
Gamble: It sounds like a lot of this comes down to making sure technology works, but also that the support is there, and that’s where culture comes in.
Paravate: Right. I think when I say this out loud, a lot of times people look at me twice. But we’re a technology company. On the surface that may sound benign, but in a very big way, that changes our mindset. We are completely dependent on digital solutions and technology to run our organization. And so, leveraging that as an asset and being thoughtful about how it’s shaping our patient experience and our employees’ experiences is paramount and will continue to be.
It’s not just getting some nifty technology and implementing it; it’s how you support it and how do you provide stability so that it can grow if it becomes a capability you can continue to evolve.
Gamble: That’s important. Technology is being adopted at an astounding rate, and there’s so much that goes along with that.
Paravate: Exactly. Everything you deploy has to be upgraded and supported and replaced eventually. How are you accounting for that in the overall lifecycle?
Gamble: Another initiative you mentioned is the Workday implementation. I imagine that’s a pretty big lift, but an important part of achieving your goals as a technology organization.
Paravate: The Workday implementation certainly brings a lot of new capabilities. It’s still very fresh. We’re still working through it. Like any ERP implementation, it takes about a year to go through the whole go live lifecycle because you have monthly, quarterly, and annual evaluations and assessments. Each of those feels like new things because it’s a new system. But overall, it’s gone really well. It’s another example of how we’re adding to our portfolio of mobility. That’s been a big satisfier for our employees.
Gamble: And I’m sure there’s more. What are some of the other objectives in 2023?
Paravate: There’s a lot. We’re continuing to refresh our technologies and make big improvements — similar to the trends you hear across the industry. We’re looking at migrating a lot of our large systems, including Epic, to the cloud. We’re looking to improve business continuity and, of course, our security posture.
Our mobility strategy continues to be a big part of our technology deployment as we look to incorporate into day-to-day operations the capabilities that we’ve come to expect in the consumer world.
It’s also supporting our strategic growth. With our new facilities and entities, we want to make sure we’re not just expanding or extending what we already have in our portfolio, but really taking the opportunity to test new technologies, implement new tools, and bring them back to other existing facilities.
And, like everyone else, we’re continuing to refine and improve our analytics in the AI and machine learning space to help drive population health initiatives. If you look at the market growth with all of the new construction, it’s clear we need to be in tune with how care delivery is changing. We believe population health is the road to value-based care; it’s an important component in being able to provide more effective care delivery to our patients.
Gamble: And you have to do all of that without burning out your staff.
Gamble: That’s a challenge everywhere. Well, I’ve really enjoyed speaking with you. Thanks so much for your time.
Paravate: Thank you. I really appreciate it. Always good to catch up with you.