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Are You Ready to Create a (Healthcare) Revolution?

January 28, 2013
by Mark Hagland
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The winning teams in this year's Healthcare Informatics Innovator Awards program exemplify the spirit of pioneering innovation in our industry
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Lately, I’ve been dipping into Thomas Friedman’s groundbreaking 2008 book, Hot, Flat and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution—and How It Can Renew America. There have been many excellent books on the environment and on climate change for general audiences, but one thing I particularly like about Friedman’s is his placing the stark environmental choices facing our society into a geopolitical context, and his understanding of how the politics of the United States and other countries impacts our environmental choices.

After very incisively laying out the situation in his first seven chapters, Friedman, in chapter eight, writes this: “So how do we get there from here? How do we get from the Dirty Fuels System we have now to a clean-powered, energy-efficient, conservation-based system? We need to think strategically about how to build every part of the system.”

The complexities around environmental policy development and execution in the U.S. and internationally remind me very much of some of the tremendous intricacies of healthcare policy in this country, and the complex challenges facing our society as we move to address both costs and quality in the second decade of the 21st century. Fortunately, in healthcare, as in the environmental arena, pioneering organizations are getting down to the serious business of vision- and mission-driven innovations that can help lead the way to the future. And strategically leveraging healthcare IT will be  an absolutely essential ingredient in that innovation.

That’s why we at Healthcare Informatics are once again so very proud to be able to showcase the winning teams in our Healthcare Informatics Innovator Awards program for 2013. Beginning on p. 8, you will see profiles of our four winning teams and two runner-up teams, and descriptions of their accomplishments. Each team has effectively leveraged IT in order to facilitate groundbreaking innovations.

There is our number-one team, the North Shore Medical Group, affiliated with the Evanston, Ill.-based NorthShore University Health System. Under the leadership of Michael Rakotz, M.D., vice chair for quality in the Department of Family Medicine, leaders at NSMG harnessed data derived from their EHR to create screening algorithms for hypertension, and, after creating an advisory surveillance system embedded into their EHR, proactively contacted patients who might have undiagnosed high blood pressure, ultimately identifying 500 such patients; they are rapidly moving towards eliminating lack of diagnosis for hypertension in their entire 300,000-patient cohort.

Meanwhile, our co-number-two teams, the Louisiana Public Health Institute and the Colorado Beacon Consortium have, beginning from rather different starting points, moved very effectively to analyze and improve the health of their patient populations in the New Orleans metropolitan area and western Colorado, respectively, strongly leveraging care coordination and analytics tools in physician office-based EHRs to improve such phenomena as care transition management and communication, and proactive population health risk assessment. And our number-three team, the leaders of Shannon Medical Center in San Angelo, Texas, have leveraged an RFID system to automate the surveillance of clinician handwashing compliance in their hospital.

As always, we, the editors of Healthcare Informatics, are thrilled to be able to bring to you, our readers, examples of innovations that are pointing the way to the future of healthcare. Please read on, and please join me in congratulating our 2013, and celebrating their innovations!