When will Meaningful Use Become Meaningful Experience?

Aaron Miri, CIO, Walnut Hill Medical Center
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Aaron Miri, CIO, Walnut Hill Medical Center

Aaron Miri, CIO, Walnut Hill Medical Center

It’s Tuesday afternoon and Walnut Hill Medical Center is bristling with energy and enthusiasm from patients and clinical staff as another day of busy surgeries had gone well and patients are being happily discharged. Suddenly the overhead page states calmly “Ambulance in route, STEMI, ETA 10 minutes.”In non-clinical terms, someone was having a heart attack and they were zeroed in for our emergency department (ED) to save them.

If like myself, you’re not a clinician, you often don’t realize what’s going on behind the scenes. So in the case of this event I decided to then tag along and observe from the background. Calmly assembled in our ED ambulance bay was a small clinical army of nurses, physicians, and other specialties with instruments and carts ready to go. The ambulance arrived and suddenly I was watching a grand orchestra play out of the highest caliber. The EMT’s brought the patient out, the clinical staff immediately went down the checklists to stabilize and then immediately transport the patient up to the cardiology surgical rooms.

The national goal for a STEMI patient is 90 minutes from door to the operating suite, and in this marvelous and professional orchestra of clinicians and caregivers, it was completed in a 1/3 of that time.

“The healthcare technology industry is abuzz with Meaningful Use Stage 2 and Stage 3 rules and ICD 10”

As a CIO, my life revolves around technology, process, people, operations, government regulations and a fast paced industry where every day seems to be a new discovery or gadget promising to turn healthcare on its head. However, the one thing I continue to wonder in the infinite sea of change is-“When will we get it that it’s the patient that matters the most?”

Walnut Hill Medical Center opened its doors in April 2014 and was heralded by Forbes Magazine as the “Hospital that Steve Jobs Would Have Built.” However, it wasn’t coined or designed this way for the purposes of technology. No, the hospital was built one thing only: our patients. Have we invested in top of the line clinical modalities, virtual computers with badge tap secure roaming access, and 50” flat screens in patient rooms that can have videos prescribed by the nurses via our Electronic Medical Record? Absolutely, we have. However, what good are all the gizmos and gadgets of the world if the culture of the organization isn’t geared around the patient and the simple things that help our patients in their greatest time of need?

One of the many hats that I have been afforded the opportunity  to wear is the chance to co-facilitate our WECARE culture meetings with the front line staff, physicians and clinicians. WECARE stands for:Warm greeting, Empathize, Communicate and connect, Address the concerns, Resolve and reassure, and End with a fond farewell and invitation to call upon you once more. These WECARE meetings serve as the catalyst which help Walnut Hill to define the very patient-focused culture and principals that the organization was founded upon by our visionary physician and executive leaders, and are borrowed best practice concepts from some of the leading customer service organizations such as the Ritz Carlton’s Gold Standard or Apple’s famed 5 Steps of Service.

Right now the healthcare technology industry is abuzz with Meaningful Use Stage 2 and Stage 3 rules and ICD-10. Once again healthcare CIO’s are embattled to figure out why the EMR won’t intuitively chat with XYZ vendor supported system and send a healthcare record from one system to another. Yes, all of that is critically important. Knowing that my daughter is allergic to penicillin is something I want the world to know should she ever find herself in their healthcare institution. No, that should not be the end all be all of what healthcare IT does or helps to enable.

So how do we start to turn an industry that is focused on important quality mea­surements, interop­erability objectives, clinical decision sup­port rules, and HL7 interface bonanzas around into an indus­try that rewards based upon how well and how happy we leave a patient? When will patient-focused organi­zational programs like WECARE be the new normal in healthcare? When will CIO’s stop worrying about widgets and instead focus on the patient?

The Meaningful Use program was designed to help gain adoption in a market that saw IT as a cost rather than an enabler. For the most part, I would say it worked based upon data driven evidence around the rapid adoption of EHR systems across a majority of hospital and health system settings. Now, we need to ask ourselves the simple question – “what are we really trying to achieve?” Is it enough to simply report on how well we have adopted CPOE measurement or have clinical decision support rules that fire for various scenarios?

Healthcare IT must break away from the “no” culture and adopt the “yes” mentality and become an enabler that helps the clinicians achieve what they want – to see their patients healthy. So what does that mean? It means that CIO’s need to leave their office and go round the surgical floors. It means IT teams need to gown up and watch a surgical case happen leveraging the technology tools they have put into the clinicians hands. It means that technology teams must hold vendors accountable and make them into partners in the quest to have better clinical outcomes. It means that technology teams lead and participate in organizational activities that allow for WECARE programs to organically develop within their organization. From revenue cycle, to materials management, to rounding on the patients, to quality reporting – this is a collaborative universe that must be driven around and rewarded within the patient-focused realm.

Meaningful experience is right around the corner for healthcare if we can simply pause for a moment, look in the mirror, and realign our priorities and in what we recognize and reward in. Only then can we truly make the difference that our children are looking at us to make and ensure that we break away from the culture of yesterday and into the WECARE culture of tomorrow.

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