Healthcare Needs Tech That Empowers Physician Leaders

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FEBRUARY 20, 2019
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Jonathan Teich, M.D., Ph.D., chief medical information officer for InterSystems, describes how data, digital health and strong leadership can improve healthcare. This branded article is sponsored by InterSystems.

Healthcare thought leaders might speak as if the idea is novel, but the turn toward clean, actionable, real-world data is rooted in an old notion: Knowledge is power. And as healthcare’s digital transformation progresses, the benefits of strong data solutions and forward-thinking physician leadership appear more groundbreaking than ever.

Consider Stanford University, where research scientist Alison Callahan, Ph.D., and her colleagues built an informatics consult service that uses a custom search engine and electronic health record (EHR) data to empower doctors to answer treatment questions in mere days. At Ochsner Health System in Louisiana, innovation head Richard Milani, M.D., and his team launched a digital hypertension program that increased blood pressure data collection from an average of 1.6 times every three months to 93. And back at Stanford, chief medical information officer Christopher Sharp, M.D., leveraged data to look beyond EHR usability’s role in physician burnout — and build a program to fight the problem.

These three healthcare leaders joined other physician visionaries last week at the AMDIS HIMSS Physicians’ Executive Symposium to discuss how data, digital health and strong leadership can improve clinical outcomes and health system efficiencies. The event, opening the HIMSS 2019 Global Conference, highlighted how healthcare organizations can leverage new technologies to empower doctors and C-suites alike.

“The themes of this whole symposium are so relevant — data metrics, reducing redundancy and rework, learning from past patients to improve future ones and how to deal with care system mergers,” said Jonathan Teich, M.D., Ph.D., chief medical information officer for InterSystems, the database, integration and analytics software powerhouse that sponsored the event. “All of these things are important to our own quest to improve health.”

Physician leadership conjures up visions of lofty projects like Stanford’s attempts to fight physician burnout and mine EHR data for clinical insights. But healthcare, as any HIMSS veteran knows, has wrestled with information technology questions that other industries cracked long ago.

How can health systems achieve interoperability in their own walls? And what will it take for states to look past their geographical borders and facilitate patient data sharing wherever and whenever necessary?

Companies like InterSystems have already compiled track records of success in these areas. When state health information exchanges, federal healthcare providers such as the Department of Veterans Affairs and growing health systems have strived to empower their physician leaders, they turned to the vendor for underlying interoperability solutions.

“A lot of times, you might not understand that it’s InterSystems underneath because it’s not branded as that,” said Jack Varga, M.D., chief medical officer, public sector, InterSystems. “It’ll say, ‘New York State Health Information Exchange, Kaiser Permanente, Johns Hopkins or the Rhode Island Quality Institute,’ but we’re running that.”

Physician executives, meanwhile, are running a digital transformation that has come too slowly for many hospitals. But experts at the AMIDS HIMSS symposium argued that the problem was cultural, not technological. Competing healthcare organizations have not abandoned restrictive information technology policies, and many administrators have yet to comprehend the value of timely, secure data exchange.

When health systems change their culture and invest in data analytics, they also invest in their patients and physicians. One new tool, Teich noted, is what he called “wide data,” a term that embodies the advanced capabilities that nearly all doctors wish they could leverage.

“It’s about what we can do better for healthcare when we can aggregate the widest range of data from providers, payers, patients, social services, IoT and a whole lot more into a coherent, unified care record that combines fragmented data to deliver greater value and care,” he said. “And we can then layer decision support, population analytics, surveillance, care coordination, filtered data views, measurement and patient computing on top of that.”

What that means is simple: empowered physicians and better care. But the continued push for high-quality data and innovative healthcare initiatives requires all leaders to step up — whether they wear suits or scrubs.

Learn more about how InterSystems helps healthcare organizations extract value from data.

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