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Near-Fatal Med Incident Leads Hospital To Redesign Alerts

Posted on June 13, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

It only took a couple of mistakes – but they nearly led to tragedy.

Not long ago, a patient with a deadly allergy to a common pain reliever was admitted to Brockton, Mass.-based Good Samaritan Medical Center. The patient’s allergy was recorded in the EMR. But somehow, despite the warning generated by the system, a nurse practitioner ordered the medication and a pharmacist approved it. The patient recovered but was forced to spend time in the ICU, according to a story in the Boston Globe.

When state and federal regulators descended upon the hospital, its leaders said that they felt alert fatigue was a factor in the error. Of course, this forced the hospital to address some complex issues and the path wasn’t simple. CMS almost booted Good Samaritan from the Medicare program over the issue, in part because it didn’t address the problem quickly enough.

Since then, parent company Steward Health Care has made changes to the EMRs at all of the facilities to cut the chances of patients being harmed by alert fatigue.

Today, if a new patient at any of the Steward hospitals has a serious drug to allergy, they must follow a new procedure. Under new rules, a pharmacist cannot place an order for any of the potentially harmful drugs until they speak with the doctor or nurse to discuss alternative treatments.

Dr. Joseph Weinstein, chief medical officer at the health system, told the newspaper that the new procedure forces staff who are “moving through screens at a rapid pace” to stop. “The two people have to sign off on [the prescription] together,” he said. “This is one of the safest ways to reduce alert fatigue.”

Steward also cut back the list of reasons providers can override analogy alert from 14 to 7 of the most important, giving them a shorter list of items to read through and check off as part of the process.

It’s good to see that Steward was able to learn from the medication error and improve the alarm systems across its entire hospital network. These changes are likely to make a difference in day-to-day patient care and reduce the odds of patient harm.

That being said, clinicians are still besieged by alerts generated for other reasons, and simplifying one process, however vital, can only shave off points of the larger problem.

It seems to me that vendors ought to be more involved in the process of refining alerts rather than making individual hospitals figure out how to do this. Sure, hospitals need to address their individual circumstances but vendors need to take more responsibility the problem. There’s no getting away from this issue.

What? In Some Cases, Additional IT Spending May Not Prevent Breaches

Posted on June 11, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

A new research study has come to a sobering conclusion – that investing more in IT security doesn’t necessarily reduce the number of breaches.

The research, which appeared in the MIS Quarterly, looked at how many breaches hospitals experienced relative to their IT security spending. The study authors started with the assumption that hospitals spending more on security would enjoy better protection from breaches.

The researchers assumed that looked at broadly, some security investments were “symbolic,” making superficial improvements that don’t get to the root of their problem, while others were substantive investments which met well-defined security needs.

After reviewing their data, researchers noted that many classes of hospitals turned out to be symbolic security investors, including members of smaller health systems, older hospitals, smaller hospitals and for-profit hospitals. They also noted that faith-based and less-entrepreneurial hospitals were prone to such investments. The only category of hospitals routinely making substantive security investments was teaching hospitals.

But that’s far from all. Their more controversial conclusions focused on the role of IT security investments in preventing security breaches. In short, their conclusion was pretty counterintuitive.

First, they found that larger IT security investments did not in and of themselves lower the likelihood of security breaches. Not only that, researchers concluded that the benefits of substantive adoption wouldn’t generate greater breach protection over time.

Researchers also concluded that the benefits of substantive IT security adoption by hospitals would take time to be realized. If I’m reading this correctly, mature IT security systems should offer more advantages over time, but not necessarily better breach protection.

Meanwhile, researchers concluded that the negative consequences of symbolic adoption would grow worse over time.

I don’t know about you, but I was pretty surprised by these results. Why wouldn’t substantively increasing security spending reduce the occurrence of breaches within hospitals? It’s something of a head-scratcher.

Of course, the answer to this question may lie in what type of substantive security investment hospitals make. The current set of results suggests, to me at least, that current technologies may not be as good at preventing breaches as they should be. Or maybe hospitals are investing in good technology but not hiring enough IT security experts to get the installation done right. Plus, purchasing security infrastructure can only do so much to stop bad user behavior. The issue deserves further research.

Regardless, this study offers food for thought. The industry can’t afford to do a bad job with preventing breaches.

Bias In Medical Records Can Affect Patient Care

Posted on June 4, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

In the past, doctors wrote whatever they wanted in their notes, including sarcastic and derogatory comments about the patient, assuming that the comments were no big deal. And largely, they were right, as in prior times, few patients would have asked for those records.

Today, however, such records are becoming increasingly public, particularly through the efforts of the Open Notes project. Not only that, when an EMR connects the health system, such notes may be viewed by many types of professionals, ranging from hospital-based doctors to outpatient physicians, residents to outpatient specialists and more.

But how important is this? Doctors need to reduce tension with a bit of gallows humor, don’t they? Is it worth making the effort to discourage such comments and criticism in the notes? A recent study of physicians in training suggests that it is.

The study, which appears in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, was designed to measure whether patient records serve as a means of transmitting bias from one clinician to another. Specifically, the study was intended to assess whether stigmatizing language written in a patient medical record had an effect on students’ clinical decision-making and attitudes toward the patient.

To tease out this information, the researchers created chart notes, one of which used stigmatizing language in the other neutral language to describe hypothetical patient, a 28-year-old man with sickle-cell disease.

Researchers then surveyed medical students and residents in internal and emergency medicine programs at an urban academic medical center to see how their subjects related to the vignette.

The conclusions drawn by this study should concern everyone in the healthcare business. Researchers found that when the medical students and residents were exposed to stigmatizing language in the notes, the exposure was associated with more negative attitudes toward the patient. Even more concerning, the note using stigmatizing language was associated with less aggressive management of the patient’s pain level.

Addressing this problem is not just an ethical issue, as important as that is on its own. If stigma and bias affect how medical students and residents care for patients, it undermines larger goals of the health system, particularly the need to manage populations effectively, promote patient-centered care and reduce healthcare disparities, it’s a clinical and operational issue as well.

No one is suggesting that it’s possible to squeeze all bias out of the healthcare process. However, it seems reasonable to limit how much of this bias makes it into the chart and influences other providers.

Mayo Clinic EMR Install Goes Poorly For Nurses

Posted on June 1, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Ordinarily, snagging a contract to help with an Epic install is a prized opportunity. Anyone involved with this kind of project makes very good money, and the experience burnishes their resume too.

In this case, though, a group of nurse contractors says that the assignment was a nightmare. After being recruited and traveling across the US to work, they say, they were treated horribly by the contractor overseeing the Mayo Clinic’s go-live of its Epic EMR.

According to a recent news story, the Clinic hired a team of seven nurses to help with the final stages of the rollout. The nurses, all of whom were familiar with Epic, were recruited by Mayo vendor the HCI Group. One nurse, Angela Coffaro, was offered $15,000 for her work. However, she found the way she was treated to be so offensive that she quit after only days on the job. Working conditions were “horrendous,” she told the reporter.

Nurse.org reported that another nurse said the contract nurses were verbally abused, intimidated, and even threatened that they would lose their jobs on an “hourly” basis. They also noted being assigned to positions well outside the skill set. For example, Coffaro said, she was sent to the outpatient eye clinic instead of the OR, and an OR nurse to radiology.

What’s more, the HCI Group executives apparently treated the nurses brutally during training sessions. According to some, they were not permitted to leave the training room even to use the restroom during 6 to 8-hour orientation sessions.

Adding insult to injury, the contractor allegedly failed to provide adequate housing. For example, Nurse.org tells the story of Cleveland-based nurse practitioner Kumbi Madiye, who arrived at 9 AM the day before her training was scheduled to begin and found only chaos. Madiye told the publication that she waited 14 hours without a room, only to find out at 11 PM that her assigned room was an hour and a half away.

The story stresses that while the nurses said they were astonished by HCI Group’s attitude and performance, they had no problem with the way they were treated by Mayo Clinic personnel.

That being said, if even half of the allegations are true, Mayo would certainly bear some responsibility for failing to supervise their vendor adequately. Also, my instinct is that one or more of the nurses must have told Mayo what was going on and if the Clinic’s leaders did anything about the problem the nurses never mentioned it.

I’m also very surprised any vendor might have abused IT-savvy nurses with precious Epic experience. As sprawling as the health IT world is, word gets around, and I doubt anyone can afford to alienate a bunch of Epic experts.

In The Aftermath Of Sutter Health EMR Crash, Nurses Raise Safety Questions

Posted on May 24, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

In mid-May, Sutter Health’s Epic EMR crashed, accompanied by other technical problems. Officials said the system failures were caused by the activation of the fire suppression system in one of their IT buildings.

As you might expect, employees at locations affected by the downtime weren’t able to access patient medical records. On top of that, they didn’t have access to email or even use their phones. In addition, the system had to contact some patients to reschedule appointments.

On the whole, this sounds like the kind of routine issue which, though embarrassing, can be brought to heel if an organization does the disaster planning and employee training on how to react to the situations.

According to some nurses, however, Sutter Medical Center may not have handled things so well. The nurses, who spoke on condition of anonymity with The Sacrament Bee, told the newspaper that the hospital moved ahead with some forms of care before the outage was completely resolved.

The nurses told that when some patients were admitted after the systems failure, clinicians still didn’t have access to critical patient information. For example, a surgical nurse noted that the surgical team relies upon EMR access to review patient histories and physicals performed within the previous 30 days. According to Sutter protocols, these results need to be certified by the physician as still being valid on the date of surgery.

Instead, patients were arriving with their histories and physical exam records on paper, and those documents didn’t include the doctor’s certification that the patient’s condition hadn’t changed. If something went wrong during elective surgery, the team would’ve had to rely on paper documents to determine the cause, the nurses said.

They argue that Sutter Medical Center shouldn’t have taken those cases until the EMR was fully online. “Other Sutter hospitals canceled elective surgeries,” one nurse told a reporter. “Why did Sutter Medical Center feel like they needed to do elective surgeries?”

Also, they say that at least one surgical procedure was affected by the outage, when a surgeon needed a particular instrument to proceed. Normally, they said, operating room telephones display a directory of numbers to supply rooms or nurse stations, but these weren’t available and it forced the surgical team to break its process. Under standard conditions, the team tries not to leave the operating room because a patient’s condition can deteriorate in seconds. In this case, however, a nurse had to hurry out of the room to get instruments the surgeon needed.

While it’s hard to tell from the outside, this sounds a bit, well, unseemly at best. Let’s hope Sutter’s decision-making in this case was based on thoughtful decisions rather than a need to maintain cash flow.

Let this also be an important reminder to every healthcare organization to make sure you have well thought out disaster plans that have been communicated to everyone in your organization. You don’t want to be caught liable when disaster strikes and your staff start free wheeling without having thought through all of the potential consequences.

5 Ways Allscripts Will Help Fight Opioid Abuse In 2018

Posted on May 22, 2018 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Paul Black, CEO of Allscripts, a proud sponsor of Health IT Expo.

Prescription opioid misuse and overdoses are on the rise. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 40 Americans die every day from prescription opioid overdose. It also estimates that the economic impact in the United States is $78.5 billion a year, including the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment and criminal justice involvement.

The opioid crisis has taken a devastating toll on our communities, families and loved ones. It is a complex problem that will require a lot of hard work from stakeholders across the healthcare continuum.

We all have a part to play. At Allscripts, we feel it is our responsibility to continuously improve our solutions to help providers address public health concerns. Our mission is to design technology that enables smarter care, delivered with greater precision, for better outcomes.

Here are five ways Allscripts plans to help clinicians combat the opioid crisis in 2018:

1) Establish a baseline. Does your patient population have a problem with opioids?

Before healthcare organizations can start addressing opioid abuse, they need to understand how the crisis is affecting their patient population. We are all familiar with the national statistics, but how does the crisis manifest in each community? What are the specific prescribing practices or overdose patterns that need the most attention?

Now that healthcare is on a fully digital platform, we can gain insights from the data. Organizations can more precisely manage the needs of each patient population. We are working with clients to uncover some of these patterns. For example, one client is using Sunrise™ Clinical Performance Manager (CPM) reports to more closely examine opioid prescribing patterns in emergency rooms.

2) Secure the prescribing process. Is your prescribing process safe and secure?

Electronic prescribing of controlled substances (EPCS) can help reduce fraud. Unfortunately, even though the technology is widely available, it is not widely adopted. Areas where clinicians regularly use EPCS have seen significantly less prescription fraud and abuse.

EPCS functionality is already in place across our EHRs. While more than 90% of all pharmacies are EPCS-enabled, only 14% of controlled substances are prescribed electronically. We’re making EPCS adoption one of our top priorities at Allscripts, and we continue to discuss the benefits with policymakers.

3) Provide clinical decision support. Are you current with evidence-based best practices?

We are actively pursuing partnerships with health plans, pharmaceutical companies and third-party content providers to collaborate on evidence-based prescribing guidelines. These guidelines may suggest quantity limits, recommendations for fast-acting versus extended-release medications, protocols for additional and alternative therapies, and expanded educational material and content.

We’ll use the clinical decision support technologies we already have in place to present these assessment tools and guidelines at the time needed within clinical workflows. Our goal is to provide the information to providers at the right time, so that they can engage in productive conversations with patients, make informed decisions and create optimal treatment plans.

4) Simplify access to Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs). Are you avoiding prescribing because it’s too hard to check PDMPs?

PDMPs are state-level databases that collect, monitor and analyze e-prescribing data from pharmacies and prescribers. The CDC Guidelines recommend clinicians should review the patient’s history of controlled substance prescriptions by checking PDMPs.

PDMPs, however, are not a unified source of information, which can make it challenging for providers to check them at the point of care. The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) has called for better EHR-PDMP integration, combined with data-driven reports to identify physician prescribing patterns.

In 2018, we’re working on integrating the PDMP into the clinician’s workflow for every patient. The EHR will take PDMP data and provide real-time alert scores that can make it easier to discern problems at the point of care.

5) Predict risk. Can big data help you predict risk for addiction?

Allscripts has a team of data scientists dedicated to transforming data into information and actionable insights. These analysts combine vast amounts of information from within the EHR, our Clinical Data Warehouse – data that represents millions of patients – and public health mechanisms (such as PDMPs).

We use this “data lake” to develop algorithms to identify at-risk patients and reveal prescription patterns that most often lead to abuse, overdose and death. Our research on this is nascent, and early insights are compelling.

The opioid epidemic cannot be solved overnight, nor is it something any of us can address alone. But we are enthusiastic about the teamwork and efforts of our entire industry to address this complex, multi-faceted epidemic.

Hear Paul Black discuss the future of health IT beyond the EHR at this year’s HIT Expo.

Geisinger Integrates Precision Medicine Into Care

Posted on May 21, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Lately, it seems like we read about new advances in precision medicine every day. Increasingly, physicians are able to adjust drug therapies and predict conditions like cancer and heart disease before they blossom, particularly in the case of some cancers. However, many health organizations are still focused on research rather than delivering genomic medicine results to consumers.

The process of basing medical decisions on genomic data has certainly begun, with a number of health systems jumping on board. For example, a few months ago Intermountain Healthcare begin the process of validating and launching several tests designed to identify hereditary genetic patterns that might lead to disease. Intermountain expects this work to be particularly fruitful for individuals with a family history of breast cancer or ovarian cancer. The test should identify both those previously diagnosed with cancer and healthy individuals with hereditary cancer gene mutations.

Now, at least one health system is taking things even further. Geisinger Health says it has announced that it plans to expand its genomics program beyond its research phase and into everyday care for all patients. The new program will not only target patients who have obvious symptoms, but instead, all patients Geisinger treats. The health systems clinical DNA sequencing efforts will begin with a 1000-patient pilot program taking place in mid-to-late 2018.

According to David Ledbetter, Ph.D., Geisinger executive vice president and chief scientific officer, the program will not only help current patients but also amass data that will help future patients. “As we sequence the exomes of our patients and learn even more about particular genome variants and their impact on different health conditions, we predict that as many as 10 to 15 percent of our patients will benefit,” he said.

The new strategy follows on the success of its MyCode Community Health Initiative, which it launched in 2014 in collaboration with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. Since then, Geisinger has been analyzing the DNA of patients participating in the program, which has attracted more than 190,000 patient sign-ups to date. To date, more than 500 MyCode participants have been notified that they have a genomic variant which increases the chance that they’ll develop cancer or heart disease.

Geisinger’s effort sounds exciting, there’s little doubt. However, programs like these face some obstacles which the health system wouldn’t call attention to a press release. For example, as my colleague John Lynn notes, integrating genomic data with other clinical information could be quite difficult, and sharing it even more so.

“Healthcare organizations have problems even sharing something as standard and simple as a PDF,” he wrote last year. “Once we have real genomic data and the markers behind them, EHRs won’t have any idea how to handle them. We’ll need a whole new model and approach or our current interoperability problems will look like child’s play.” Let’s hope the industry develops this new approach soon.

Hospitals Still Grappling With RCM Tech Infrastructure

Posted on May 18, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

While revenue cycle management isn’t the sexiest topic on the block, hospitals need to get it right or they won’t be able to pay their bills. One key element needed to accomplish this goal is a robust tech infrastructure that helps RCM specialists get their job done.

However, it seems that many hospitals are struggling to manage RCM data and pick out the right vendors to support their efforts, according to a report published by Dimensional Insight in collaboration with HIMSS Analytics. To conduct the research, the two organizations reached out to 117 senior-level decision-makers in hospitals and health systems.

According to the survey, more than two-thirds of health systems use more than one vendor for RCM. But that might be a bad idea. The research also found that organizations using more than one RCM vendor seem to face bigger issues with denials than those using only one RCM solution. Regardless, the execs said that denials were the biggest RCM challenge for health systems today.

Pulling together RCM data is a struggle too, respondents said. More than 95% of health systems reported that the way data is collected is a challenge. Also, nearly all respondents said that collecting RCM data from disparate sources is also difficult.

One reason why it’s tough for hospitals to put effective RCM technology in place may be that health information management directors and managers aren’t at the top of the influencer list when it comes to making these decisions.

When asked who the key stakeholders were in RCM. 91.5% said that the CFO was the most important, followed by the head of revenue cycle, who was ranked as important by 62.4% of respondents. Meanwhile, only 48.7% of respondents saw the health IT leaders as key stakeholders in the RCM environment. In other words, it looks like tech leaders aren’t given much clout.

When it came to technical infrastructure for RCM, respondents were all over the map. For example, 34.5% were working with an EMR and 3+ vendors. Another 12.1% used in EMR with one vendor, followed by 11.2% with 3+ vendor solutions, 6.9% using an EMR plus two vendors and 4.3% using two to vendor solutions. Clearly, there’s no single best practice for managing RCM technology in hospitals.

Not only that, some hospitals aren’t doing much to analyze the RCM data they’ve got. According to the survey, 23.9% said that 51 to 75% of the RCM process was automated, which isn’t too bad. However, 36.8% of hospitals reported that less than 25% of the revenue cycle process was driven by analytics. Also, roughly a third of respondents said that collecting data from diverse sources was extremely challenging, which can cripple an analytics initiative.

Taken as a whole, the report data suggests that hospitals need to improve their RCM game dramatically, which includes getting a lot smarter about RCM technology. Unfortunately, it looks like it could be a long time before this happens.

Effort Focuses On Better Ways For Hospitals To Detect Drug Diversion

Posted on May 17, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Using a combination of machine learning technology and advanced analytics, a healthcare vendor has been working to find better ways to spot drug diversion in U.S. hospitals. The work done by the firm, Invistics, is funded by an NIH research grant.

The project has taken aim at a ripe target. According to a 2017 study by Porter Research, 96% of healthcare professionals who responded said that drug diversion happened often in their business. Also, sixty-five percent of respondents said that most diversion never gets detected. Clearly, there’s a hole you could drive a truck through in the drug dispensing process.

During the first stage of the research, Invistics worked with a pilot hospital to find opioid and drug theft across the entire facility. To get the job done, the vendor aggregated data from across the pilot hospital’s systems, including medical records, employee time clocks, wholesale purchasing, inventory and dispensing cabinets.

By leveraging data across several departments, Invistics got a much clearer view of potential problems than other efforts have in the past. The initiative was completely successful, with the technology picking out 100% of drug diversion happening within the project’s parameters, the company said. Since the completion of Phase I of the grant, Invistics has rolled out the solution at several other hospitals.

When it comes to avoiding opioid abuse, far morer attention has been focused on patterns of opioid prescribing, with the assumption that the opioid addiction epidemic can be stemmed at the source. For example, we recently covered a study looking at post hospital-discharge opioid use which centered on predicting which patients would be on chronic opioid therapy after discharge and planning for that discharge appropriately.

There’s no question that such research has a place in the battle against opioid misuse and abuse. After all, it seems likely that at least some needless addictive patterns stem from physician prescribing habits. It also makes sense that states are revising their guidelines for opioid prescribing, though to my knowledge these changes are being based more on ideology than rigorous research.

On the other hand, drug diversion creates a pipeline between drug supplies and drug abusers which must be addressed directly if the opioid abuse war is to be won. I for one was interested to learn about a solution that addresses this piece of the puzzle.

Beth Israel Deaconess Launches Health Innovation Center

Posted on May 7, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

In yet another example of a health system bringing innovation home, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center has launched an in-house center combining the feel of a startup incubator and the vast reach of a globally-known provider.

It’s not clear yet whether this emerging model will be more powerful than plain old incubators, but there are a lot of resources at play here. (It’s worth pointing out that only one of the factors that distinguish it is that the center will be based at a Harvard teaching hospital.}

The Health Technology Exploration Center will be led by John Halamka, MD, MS, chief information officer of the Beth Israel Deaconess system. As the health systems press release rightly notes, Halamka already has his fingerprints on many important advances in health IT, including patient portals, unique web-based medical records, and advances in secure patient data exchange. It also notes that he has brought together collaborations with global HIT thought leaders such Google, Amazon, Apple and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (Did we mention that the man is non-stop?)

The HTEC’s first focus areas will come as no surprise. They include helping patients manage their own health using mobile application; improving patient education and care through natural language interfaces; optimizing medical decision-making with dashboards and analytics; and enhancing patient/clinician communication using new devices and programs.

Though the press release doesn’t make a big thing of it, the website makes it clear that a lot of what its leaders would like to do haven’t been paid for just yet. However, the health system has already laid out its plans for when it gets enough contributions to support the program.

If the HTEC is fully funded, the system would make investments in faculty, staff and infrastructure that would help it take on local national and international partnerships. HTEC would also generate research intended to usher in breakthrough healthcare technology options.

I’d like to take a minute and say that not only is this great, it should be more commonplace than it is. Yes, few healthcare organizations have the clout and resources that a system affiliated with Harvard has, and that’s unlikely to change. But that doesn’t mean smaller facilities are out of the running.

What I’d like to see for virtually every facility to capture more of the value it creates during the process of everyday patient care. Given the extent to which healthcare data is shareable, recordable and integrable, providers don’t have to stop what they’re doing to amass data and expertise that benefit everyone in the profession. I believe it’s not only possible but necessary.