This post is part of an occasional series focused on the health care industry, where escalating costs are posing unprecedented challenges, new models are upending longstanding ways of doing business and the digital age is fueling a new era of innovation. When you consider the technological advances in medical science and treatment, it’s surprising how long it’s taken the industry to begin the transition from paper charts to electronic record keeping. But medical data poses a variety of challenges that have complicated digitization, including privacy, the high cost of undertaking such an endeavor, and the disparate parties who need access to various subsets of health care data. But, thanks to government incentives and market forces, that change is well underway. Health IT leaders have overseen a rapid shift as hospitals and medical practices implement electronic health record systems and try to make meaningful use of the data they capture there and elsewhere in their systems. The ultimate goal is to fuel the quality and efficiency improvements needed to survive in the new world of health care. One of those leaders is Myra Davis, who is senior vice president and chief information officer of Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston. She was awarded the CHIME-AHA Transformational Leadership Award in 2013 for her work spearheading an enterprise-wide data warehousing system that revolutionized her organization’s handling of data. She answered a few questions for SmartBrief about the state of health IT.
What do you think was the biggest challenge CIOs dealt with last year? The biggest challenges for CIOs in 2014 were cybersecurity; enabling technology solutions that will meet (federally defined meaningful use of electronic health records) objectives, particularly patient portal optimizations and EMR optimizations ; and talent acquisition, balancing demand vs. supply. What new ways do you predict data will be used by health care providers this year? Providers will take advantage of the data they collect in EHRs to provide population health, targeting cohorts; achieve patient engagement (training and educating targeted populations); and developing best practice advisories and alerts. How is your organization handling patient engagement? Do you think the goals set by the ONC are realistic? We currently have a patient portal, and we have placed significant emphasis on enabling as much functionality as possible to interest patients in using it. We have also made a big push to engage our providers to want to use the portal as a way to interact with patients. Do you think most health care organizations will be ready by October for the transition to ICD-10? How has your organization prepared for the transition? I can only say that I hope health care organizations will be ready. We are and it was only because we decided to continue the journey despite the federal decision to delay the ICD-10 transition for one year. I was pleased our organization made the decision to keep going. We are ready whenever it happens. What has your organization been doing to recruit skilled health IT workers and keep them happy once they are hired? We have partnered with local universities – our strategy is to hire recent graduates in computer science. We’ve also partnered with multiple recruiting firms; while the hiring fees aren’t cheap, we’ve found the benefit of the firms being closer to the IT market. We are also looking outside of the health care market – IT is IT, no matter where the individual is coming from. While we can’t compete with consulting or in our case, the oil and gas industry in Texas, we have been successful in attracting talent when we share our culture and our values. In your organization, you developed a clinical data system with help from members throughout the health system team. What did the different team members need to understand about how their colleagues work to make this collaboration successful? What we discovered is whether you are in IT, administration or the clinical end, we needed to have a respectful appreciation for each role and how it relates to the overarching goal we, as a team, are there to achieve. IT needs to understand how clinicians work, with respect to a system or entering data into a system; clinicians need to understand the differences in the screen or field where data is entered and how it appears to IT staff, particularly from a back-end perspective. Building on the collaboration theme, what are some best practices to achieve this type of teamwork with people coming from very different disciplines? There were no best practices; more than anything, we have lots of meetings where all roles are represented. A great deal of communication is needed, and more than anything else, having the topic of discussion, whether it’s discussing a screen or a system, present during the dialogue. How can leaders foster collaboration among distinct teams? Transparency is key and the willingness to acknowledge what you don’t know and are willing to understand.