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The Secret of Healthcare IT Innovation

October 14, 2011
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HCI Innovator finalists share the secret to their success

Last fall was my first working at Healthcare Informatics, and I received the best entré to the healthcare IT industry by helping judge our magazine’s Innovator Awards. I got the opportunity to review some of the most inventive and fascinating health IT projects happening around the country, all from the comfort of my desk. We ended up getting so many submissions, I had to start reading them outside of my normal work hours on my morning subway commute, just to keep up. What I love about the Healthcare Informatics Innovator Awards program is that recognizes leadership teams from patient care organizations, not just individuals. Because everyone knows that healthcare IT projects take more than just one individual to accomplish.

Last month I started interviewing some of last year’s finalists to learn what led to the success of these projects, and I learned quite a bit of what breeds accomplishment. One of the elements I learned that made these programs so successful, were that many were built atop previous successes. Take for example, Brigham and Women’s Hospital Chemotherapy CPOE project, which added safety measures and precise linking capabilities in its chemotherapy medication orders. According to Jen Rogala, corporate manager, clinical systems development at BWH, one of the benefits her team had was that it had already automated the hospital’s closed-loop medication administration. “We didn’t create a system that created a new process, we created a system that mimicked the already existing process,” she added.

That was also similar to Edward Hospital & Health Services, which leveraged its already robust EHR to create an algorithm to post ED wait times for patients. The actual project didn’t take that much man-power, mainly one programmer’s spare time over two months, but created a motivational force within the team. “For motivating technical individuals,” says Bobbie Byrne, M.D., Edward's CIO, “when they have to do a bunch of boring stuff, [for them] to have a project that they think of as fun and interesting serves both purposes—we get a great project, and they can be challenged technically.”

Another common thread among these Innovator projects is that the benefits all come back to the patient. Memorial Hospital & Health System’s OB Telemedicine monitoring project received much positive patient feedback to attest to its success. Many high-risk OB patients feel disconnected from care as questions arise about increases in blood pressure, or decreases in fetal kicks, but with the presence of telemonitoring devices to connect the patient with the clinician, that concern was been mitigated. Another thing CIO Steve Huffman is certain of is that the high-risk OB telemedicine program has also lowered the patients’ cost of treatment.

Next week I’ll be kicking off our Innovator podcast series, involving discussions with the top three finalists, Children's Hospital and Medical Center of Omaha, Southeast Texas Medical Associates, and Maine's HealthInfoNet, to see what improvements they’ve made to their projects and systems, and how winning the award has motivated their team forward. On Tuesday, October 18, I will be speaking with Dr. George Reynolds, CMIO at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska, to get the dish on where his organization stands since its Innovator achievement.