Technology Enables Patient Empowerment

Kristin H. Darby, CIO, Cancer Treatment Centers of America®
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Kristin H. Darby, CIO, Cancer Treatment Centers of America®

We are entering a time of dramatic transformation within medical care with a focus on technology. Every clinician I speak with expresses elevating needs and expectations for how technology will support them in care delivery. As a healthcare CIO, it can be a daunting task to determine what the right approach is for your organization and clinical teams.

Throughout my career, the approach I have found most effective in navigating these challenges is to put the patient at the center of all decisions. If you design your environment and culture in that manner, technology will allow clinical capabilities to reach new levels of excellence in healthcare. Technology doesn’t forget the patient is first.

The cost of healthcare in the United States is high and our nation’s combined clinical outcomes do not reflect the investments being made. Although we may not be able to solve the larger problem, we must all tackle this issue within our own systems when making strategic decisions around the technology portfolio. This is where technologists must become dedicated business partners to our clinicians and hospital operators. Before we use technology to provide automation, we must ensure we understand the business at a level that allows us to drive constructive disruption. Often, if we simply reframe the question being asked so it translates to patient value, we will come to very different conclusions.

The focus of value-based healthcare is now driving us to care models that rely on evidence-based guidelines where adherence is tied to financial models. As we incorporate the functionality to enable this care model into our clinical applications and track the analytics to measure compliance, we should all be challenged to consider how to ensure patients can be easily flagged so that physicians can make care plan adjustments as needed.

As seasoned healthcare technologists, we can be challenging patients or caregivers. I recently learned this firsthand when my 17-month-old son was hospitalized with a respiratory condition.

Following his pediatrician’s recommendation to go home and monitor, the condition was not improving so we opted to drive to a local children’s hospital for an assessment in the emergency department. Once there, we found that our son’s breathing accelerated to a high of 72 breaths per minute (the average is in the 20s) and we had no clear answers. I requested to see a pediatric pulmonary specialist numerous times to no avail.

Thirteen hours after being admitted, we eventually saw a hospitalist but still had no diagnosis and his care plan remained the same. Again, I requested to see a specialist despite significant push back.

Approximately five hours later, a specialist walked into our room. He sat with us and conducted a full history and assessment. He concluded some adjustments to the care plan were necessary and entered the new orders on the spot. My son started to improve immediately. His breathing returned to a stable level over the next 12 hours and he was running around the room and playing. We thanked the specialist the next day for his intervention and for getting us on the track to recovery. The hospitalist visited us shortly after to process our discharge and acknowledged that this was an example of “where evidence-based care falls down.”

I share this story to encourage us all to consider patients who do not have the same deep understanding of our healthcare system. How do we ensure we have the systems in place to trigger the need for alternative care plans when appropriate progress is not being made? How do we use technology to provide the tools and information to empower our patients and caregivers to be advocates to guide their interactions to ensure optimal care is being received? Do our systems have the capability to allow our physicians to easily track reasons for altering care from the standard approach to ensure the payer has the necessary information to support reimbursement?

We will all approach solutions to these problems differently based on the needs of our organization, clinical teams and the type of healthcare being delivered. Results will be maximized when we keep patient value at the center of all decisions we make. I recommend the following themes be incorporated into your technology development approach:

- Leverage technology to drive better health and enhance patient value.

- Consider the full continuum of care when designing technology solutions for a patient rather than focusing on needs around a specific condition or an acute or chronic situation.

- Enable patients to be informed and strong advocates in their care.

Technology will be the way in which we take clinical capabilities to new levels of excellence in healthcare with the patient at the middle of all approaches.

About Cancer Treatment Centers of America®

Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA), headquartered in Boca Raton, Fla., is a national network of five hospitals that serves adult patients who are fighting cancer. CTCA® offers an integrative approach to care that combines advancements in genomic testing and precision cancer treatment, surgery, radiation, immunotherapy and chemotherapy, with evidence-based supportive therapies designed to help patients physically and emotionally by enhancing their quality of life while reducing side effects both during and after treatment. CTCA serves patients from around the world at its hospitals in Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Tulsa. Consistently rated among U.S. hospitals that deliver the highest quality of care and patient experience, CTCA provides patients and their families with comprehensive information about their treatment options and encourages their active participation in treatment decisions.

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