Social Networking Sites For Delivering Patient Education And Communications

Kirk M. Hale, Director-IT, Brooks Rehabilitation
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Kirk M. Hale, Director-IT, Brooks Rehabilitation

Challenges in technology to meet enterprise needs in 2013 and expectations

Sharing of patient information amongst internal divisions and external partners efficiently and securely is more important than ever. Data standards and common practices in this area are lacking. Tools for storing, integrating and sharing this information are still in development and there is no clear leader. The effective implementation of a Health Information Exchange (HIE) strategy, too is critical for today’s health care system.

The areas in business environment where solutions do not yet exist or not up to the mark, and which if existed, would've made job easier

Acute and primary care providers are feeling the pressure to address meaningful use initiatives which include ways to share patient information within their own walls and with their business partners. Standards and common tools for this are still lacking and, as mentioned earlier, there are no real leaders in this space yet. Currently the demand is greater than the available solutions and many providers are creating their own solutions to accomplish this.

Manner in which data is used to head off problems and complications before they happen

The demand to accommodate new payment methods and the emphasis on quality measures is requiring health care providers to develop creative ways of capturing timely data, correlating it and transforming it to useful information that can be used for improving patient care real time. One way we are doing this at Brooks is through the use of tablets that we hand to our patients at the point of care to have them enter input to capture quality metrics. This in turn will be used to make adjustments to care plans to maximize outcomes. With timely information being shared both internally and externally, providers will have the information available to more quickly assess a patient’s needs before admission. This can reduce re-hospitalization and can also reduce unnecessary or redundant physician orders. Hence the focus on HIE initiatives.

Thoughts on how IT strategic planning supports organization wide efforts to improve quality, cut costs and improve efficiency in the Healthcare sector

The IT strategic plan needs to be a reflection of corporate strategy and goals. In fact, IT strategy should be an outcome of the overall corporate strategy and planning process. The future success of healthcare providers will continue to be largely leveraged by how well we can use information to our advantage. Bundled payment, ACO’s, Quality Measures, HIE’s and any number of other initiatives that providers are trying to implement as part of their strategic plan will rely heavily on the successful and creative use of IT.

Technology trends impacting enterprise business environment

Incorporating mobile technologies and consumer devices into the healthcare environment securely and safely is certainly a trend impacting healthcare leaders. There are varieties of vendor solutions out there attempting to address this, but the lack of focus on corporate use by the mobile vendor and the dynamic environment make selection of a solution difficult. Another trend is the ongoing development of cloud based solutions. Many cloud providers are improving their security and reliability and are willing to enter into a business agreement with healthcare providers. This is providing more opportunity to consider them as part of the IT strategy.The use of social media and social networking is also a trend. Leveraging these for both marketing and patient communications continues to grow. We have a presence on most social networking sites and use YouTube, Vimeo and other tools for delivering patient education and communications.

My roles and responsibilities as a Senior IT Leader

The CIO or IT leader needs to be seen more as a business leader than a technology specialist. The CIO’s obligation to strong business acumen and understand the business and the business strategy continues to grow in importance. Business strategy comes first and the CIO’s obligation is to provide direction and strategy to integrate and leverage IT as effectively and efficiently as possible. I’ve also seen the expansion of the scope of the CIO’s role over the years. CIO’s responsibilities have expanded into project office, medical records management, compliance and partner relationship management. Even further, CIO or IT Leader is being used and seen as a senior business leader. I think worth mentioning, but on a more of the tactical level is the ever challenging buy vs. build decision. Trying to manage an IT department to the optimal size and complexity is always a challenge. With the lack of off the shelf solutions, it’s easy to get caught in the build and build trap. Systems integration, information sharing, standardization and the creative use of technology providers will help this.

Lessons learned and advice for fellow CIOs

Understand the business first. Keep abreast of IT and Healthcare industry trends including regulatory changes. Keep things simple and keep an open mind. Be careful of responsibility sprawl and share that responsibility with other business leaders. Imbed IT knowledge in all areas of business and reduce the “IT for everything IT” demand. Build agility into the IT environment and maintain a culture of change as change is inevitable in healthcare. Stay focused on the patient.

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