This is a guest post provided by Jon Burns, Senior VP, CIO and Associate Performance Improvement Officer at University of Maryland Medical System. Huntzinger periodically invites its clients and partners to contribute to The Huntzinger Blog.
By Jon P. Burns
Senior Vice President, Chief Information Officer
Associate Performance Improvement Officer
University of Maryland Medical System
Time in Healthcare
38 years, starting in 1980 at Geisinger Medical Center.
Time in Current Role
Since 2006 (12 years) as Senior Vice President, Chief Information Officer and Associate Performance Improvement Officer for the University of Maryland Medical System.
What are the Greatest Current Challenges Facing Healthcare IT?
I think one of the biggest challenges we face is the ongoing threat of cyber-attacks, targeted or random; the threat is real, broad, and can expose nearly any organization at any time. The entry way into a healthcare system has many doors. Recently, the White House Council of Economic Advisors (CEA) released a report suggesting that the cost of cyber-related incidences on the US economy in 2016 was between $57 billion and $109 billion. While that is a broad gap, it is a significant impact. This problem is not going away, and unfortunately it is a new cost of doing business that does not contribute to the care and services we deliver.
I believe another core challenge is making sure the IT organization can deliver true value for the costs it generates. Given that we know the investments in technology will continue to rise, it is critical that the IT organization partner closely with clinical and business leaders to consistently optimize the use of existing technologies and assure new technology investments have clear business and/or clinical leadership support. Building internal partnerships is absolutely critical for the healthcare enterprise to maximize the use of these investments.
And finally, I think the ability to attract, train, and maintain a high-quality staff is both critical and a challenge. Great people, of which I am so blessed to have on all our teams, are the backbone of IT. I used to joke with my physician colleagues that you should have just gotten a specific IT certification — you can make as much money and your student debt would not be nearly as large. While this is a stretch, the point is we need to carefully keep our IT staff trained, their salaries and benefits competitive, and keep them challenged and motivated with interesting and impactful work. The additive cost of turnover can be substantial.
What will be the Next Major Impact Area of IT on Healthcare?
I look to other industries and the consumer space when thinking about the next big IT impacts in healthcare. While the EMR is and was a catalyst for many changes in the industry, we have failed specifically on behalf of the day-to-day physician and nursing users in creating a highly efficient user interface with the EMR. Again, I think that an integrated EMR is an outstanding tool, but the average end-user still finds it cumbersome to navigate. In my home, my wife and I are fans of the Amazon Echo, “Alexa.” When thinking of applying that, or similar technologies from Google, Nuance, and others, to the provider and patient experience, I think there are some great opportunities to eliminate keyboard and mouse clicks, and advantage work flows by imbedding artificial intelligence within that interface. Some organizations, such as Northwell and Beth Israel, are already moving down this path.
I certainly think the millennial generation will also force a change in healthcare, both as consumers and employees. I am no generational expert, but as I watch my children and grandchild interface with technology in the consumer space, I believe their expectations on how we deliver healthcare to them will be vastly different. Perhaps the home visit is returning, but now facilitated by technology. I believe it will be more commonplace in the near future. Going back to the consumer space, just look at how advanced technologies have changed many other industries. I think healthcare is ripe for major change in the next 5 to 10 years, driven by very new consumer expectations.
As the industry, and organizations, such as University of Maryland Medical System, become more mature and adept at blending data from multiple sources — both inside and outside the organization, surrounded by a robust analytics infrastructure, and enhanced through artificial intelligence and machine learning — we will be able to make more complex, real-time clinical and business decisions that aid in the improvement of outcomes, business processes, and a lower cost of care. This infrastructure, blended with genomic science to truly create what we refer to as personalized or precision medicine, is going to also be a big game changer for the industry and for those of us in the supportive technology environment. I believe the care delivery ecosystem will be enhanced through more, and less costly, breakthroughs in personalized, or precision, medicine. This, again, will be highly dependent on managing and organizing vast amounts of data into a real-time usable format for direct patient care.
What is the Biggest Challenge of Being a Healthcare CIO?
The industry in general is under a lot of pressure. Bottom lines are compromised for all of us. So, with technology being a big part of our investment going forward, it is critical to understand “what to invest in and when to invest it.” While being leading-edge may have a cool factor, it must be seen as bringing value to the health enterprise and those we serve. Without that value proposition, the limited resources of the organization are wasted or better spent elsewhere. I think it is true that bricks and mortar costs are being replaced by technology costs. The variability is bricks and mortar generally had a 30- to 40-year life span, not so with technology. So working with all aspects of the organization to assure the technology investments are driving value is a big challenge for CIOs. It is easy to get caught up in the promise of technology, for folks inside and outside of the IT space. It is critical for the CIO to be just as focused on process improvements, people management, change management, and driving outcomes as it is on the technology itself. I see partnering with your internal constituents and managing to common outcomes is the only way to keep pace in our dynamic industry.
Lastly, as someone who has been around for a while, I just feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to work and grow in this industry for many years. I have had the opportunity to work for great organizations, work with and for great people, and learn from so many folks. What a blessing it has been to have been a participant. I am looking forward to continuing this journey.