Healthcare may be going through the biggest technological metamorphosis today, as the Internet of Things, smartphones and cloud computing are transforming patient care. As CIO of the University of Vermont Health Network, a four-hospital system serving Vermont and northern New York, Dr. Adam Buckley explained how his organization is leveraging tech to save lives.
Every CIO has to address different needs. What is your main focus?
Right now, we’re looking at four things on a regular basis: First, on a high level, aligning IT investment with the overall health network strategy; Second, the subcomponents of each defined area and what will enable strategic goals; Third, our biggest project is rolling out [the medical management system] EPIC, using the academic center as the hub and adding in critical access, and since the medical center will effectively be hosting EPIC, we’re making sure our infrastructure can support it; lastly, we’re focusing more on general security as a whole, not just specific data, but keeping everything secure.
Regarding EPIC, everyone in the network is on a whole tapestry of things. The maintaining of all these disparate systems is a Herculean task, and even though the staff does a wonderful job, it’s not good for patient care. Luckily, we far and away aren’t the first system to do a conversion, so we have others to give (us) insight into the process.
How does higher patient security inform your CIO role?
Healthcare as an industry is so far behind, say, the financial industry, as far as how it thinks of security. A lot of the vendors are completely removed from any concern, like with device integration, and some of them have virtually no security at all. We’ve been giving pushback, saying “We either have to sequester you off our network or we can’t look at you as a product.” Our Chief Information Security Officer has to be at the table for the major decisions.
IT has to be more inclusive than ever. How have you developed a connection with other, non-tech departments?
What’s helped is that everyone has a device – or two or three – so people understand that tech is ubiquitous. Tech touches everything, from the first time the patient accesses our system to when they leave our system. There is a growing sense here of tech’s importance and the opportunities, too. What’s helped with security has been the ubiquitous nature of breaches: Huge vendors and big institutions. The providers now realize that it can happen to anyone. People are far more open to the conversation about more security protocols along the way.
How has technology changed the medical field in the past 10 years?
For better or worse, the electronic medical record (EMR). It’s reached the point where every viable practitioner needs to have one. The big benefit with EMR is the aggregation of patient data over the long term. I don’t think we have leveraged it fully.
It’s why we are aiming to have a single patient with a single record. In some cases, a single patient’s information s spread across seven different EMRs.
What is the biggest challenge we have today that will be solved by 2020?
We have islands of data, which impacts your experience, depending on where you are in the space: From the patient side, you may get limited info; from the provider side, you can’t access all the patient data you need. My goal as CIO is to remove those islands, securely, so the patients don’t feel the jump from island to island as they go from primary to specialist to physical therapist. We’re trying to create one pool of data so the provider can redesign the care of the patient. We want to improve outcomes.