An unknown author commented, “If necessity is the mother of invention, then despair is her father.” As I think of 2020, it has been unequivocally highlighted and emphasized as the most important year of my life so far regarding the healthcare industry’s response to the despair caused by the Coronavirus.
Regarding the necessity of invention and responding to this viral threat from a technological perspective, innovative agility has been applied relentlessly in such a short time frame, otherwise it would never have been imagined.
Several Healthcare Information Services teams were called in quickly to scale up the appropriate support for our caregivers and patients. Fellows adopted an attitude of solidarity and embodied the characteristics of resilience, pivoting at any moment, and maintaining resilience.
From moving non-clinical personnel in an entire healthcare organization to working remotely, rapidly ramping up telemedicine, establishing patient testing sites, enabling hospital expansion, adapting the organization’s electronic health record to support required clinical pathway adjustments, everything in between, and more information services teams It strengthened its role as a strategic partner to the organizations throughout 2020.
One of the major components of strengthening this partnership is the collaborative spirit that must exist within the culture of the organization.
For decades, my leadership team has emphasized the importance of integrating three main areas of focus, “People, Process, and Technology” in order to lead successful projects. The combination of these disciplines together acts as a major driver to enable innovation and technological advancement. It’s the secret sauce.
For example, technology has advanced to support new methods of care delivery such as sophisticated telemedicine efforts. However, it took the desperation associated with the pandemic to connect like-minded team members to collaborate for telemedicine to become an innovative pillar of patient care delivery.
The technology has been around for many years, but organizations have been slow to adopt this technology for a number of reasons, including restrictions on reimbursement and a lack of operational workflow.
The telemedicine scenario is just one example of the collaboration required with information services to support an alternative way of delivering patient care.
In addition, great emphasis has been placed on leading significant efforts in data analytics, support for new COVID-19 testing platforms, surge planning, addressing employee safety, and more recently, support for the deployment of multi-platform vaccines that are abandoning the center’s information services to innovate in troubled times.
In order to make these technologies a reality, it takes the energy and ability of people to organize the results, the process of setting the tempo towards the set goals, the right technology strategy, vendor partners and governance to bring the means to the end.
Since my arrival at Penn Medicine in 2006 (at the time we were known as the University of Pennsylvania Health System), I have always believed that our team should be oriented towards “services” rather than “systems / technology”.
The name of our Information Services department has become by design in order to communicate our focus on support and collaboration. But our name is not just a symbol, it is our culture and it drives much of our department’s behavior.
Such an example is our employee recruitment effort, which specifically seeks candidates with an operational background for the area (s) they support. For example, we usually seek those who have nursing, pharmacy, revenue cycle, and physician experience as part of our hiring process. This operational experience allows for a deeper relationship and understanding with the end users and greatly aids in the overall design and approval of the system.
One of the consequences of the epidemic has been to cause a more amalgamation of “people, process, and technology” to facilitate the many industrial breakthroughs that are now a reality. Now, our industry is preparing for more innovative developments.
Building on industry efforts in response to desperate measures in the past year, we’ve proven that anything can be done. All that is required is a spirit of collaboration and actions to adapt innovative processes and workflows.
2021 could be the hottest year for the healthcare industry. We hope here that our actions dictate “affirmation” rather than despair.
Mike Restuccia is Penn Medicine’s Chief Information Officer.