Health Care Technology Should Just Work

February 10, 2020 | 4 minute read
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By: BJ Moore, CIO of Providence St. Joseph Health

Not long after I joined Providence St. Joseph Health (PSJH) in early 2019, I met an emergency department  physician who told me he spent 20 minutes on the phone with the IT help desk trying to resolve networking issues in the middle of a busy day in the ED. When you’re a clinician doing the important work of saving lives, technology should just work. You shouldn’t even have to think about it  

Unfortunately, that doctor’s experience isn’t unusual. My wife, an oncologist, has often come home with stories about how she and her colleagues struggle with basic issues like critical clinical information such as patient medications or medical history into electronic health records, getting a reliable network connection, or working with outdated devices. 

I came to health care from the technology industry, having worked at Microsoft for 25 years, and I knew there were solutions to all these problems. Through my wife’s stories, I began to understand how technology could dramatically impact the health care industry. Her dedication to making a positive impact on the community inspired me to find out where I could make a difference. That’s why I joined PSJH.

Transformation starts with the basics

I came to my new job as CIO hoping to bring a fresh perspective and an open mind. I spent several months traveling to our many locations (51 hospitals in seven states) to find out what our caregivers wanted from their technology. 

Our caregivers told me they were accustomed to out of date computers and software, and long turnaround times for service requests—including needing up to two weeks to fully onboard new hires or requesting office supplies or services via email. Successive acquisitions had created a patchwork of 4,000 applications, including 14 enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, which added to their day-to-day frustrations. They were ready to embrace change.

To provide a best-in-class patient experience, we needed to give our caregivers and employees simple, accessible, and unified ERP and HCM technology behind the scenes, otherwise even the most basic tasks would be frustrating. The first time I tried to access my paystub, I had to navigate six different websites, and it took me 10 or 15 clicks to track it down. It should be a single click. By the same token, people might spend days pulling data together just so they can look at HR data alongside financial data. It just shouldn’t be that difficult.

ERP and HCM solutions aren’t the first things you consider when you think about patient care, but their impact goes way beyond finance, HR, or supply chain. Directly or indirectly, it touches every one of the 120,000 caregivers in our organization. Every minute we save our caregivers, is another minute they can spend on patient care. Every dollar we save in our financial and human resources operations, is a dollar in health care we can provide to our underserved communities. 

Early on, we decided that our digital upgrade would be based on four guiding principles:

  1. Transform business processes by standardizing and optimizing across regions and aligning to leading industry practices.
  2. Enhance caregiver experience by providing seamless and intuitive self-service with a modern user interface.
  3. Design for innovation, agility, scalability, and actionable insights.
  4. Limit extensions only as needed to support competitive advantage or regulatory requirements.

Given these four principles, we quickly dismissed on-premise solutions to focus exclusively on cloud to consolidate our ERP and HCM (human capital management) systems. A cloud solution offered standardized best practices, continuous innovation, reduced maintenance overhead, end-to-end data sharing, and ubiquitous access. 

We also knew that once we eliminated the pain points our caregivers experience in their daily lives—whether it’s an unstable Wi-Fi connection or a disjointed business process—we could look for ways to automate further using internet of things (IoT), blockchain, machine learning, and artificial intelligence (AI). When we automate basic tasks, it lets our caregivers focus more on their patients, while our back-office staff can spend more time on analytics and cost control.

Consolidate data to create personalized patient experiences

Technology can be a game-changer for health care. Today the patient experience is very episodic. You get sick, schedule an appointment, see your doctor, receive a diagnosis, and get treatment. Once we’ve consolidated the fragmented systems that patient data lives in, we can begin to think about creating a personalized experience for each patient. 

Imagine you grant your health care provider access to IoT devices like your smartwatch or smart scale. These devices could send data to your health record, letting providers evaluate the whole person, not just a small aspect of that person. Instead of being episodic, your health care is continuous. Using AI, the technology could reach out and notify you that your heartbeat, weight, or activity level was falling outside parameters your provider set. It could proactively recommend you see a doctor for a checkup. This is exciting stuff, but building it requires a solid foundation, with compliance, security and privacy protections, and emerging technologies built into the software.

We’ve grown familiar with hearing about breakthrough medical technology that advances health care every day. I see a tremendous role in health care for other types of technology, as well. In the end, we chose Oracle ERP Cloud and Oracle HCM Cloud  to meet our organization’s needs today while also serving as a platform upon which to build innovations for the future.

For more on the Providence St. Joseph Health story, watch their video.

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