Best Hospital IT 2016: Winners' cutting edge tech projects tap Microsoft Xbox, AppleTV, Raspberry Pi, patient-facing apps

A look inside some of the most ambitious initiatives happening at Healthcare IT News' 2016 Best Hospital IT Departments, which are cultivating a bold new era of care delivery by homing in on the patient experience.
By Tom Sullivan
07:10 AM
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Best Hospital IT 2016

Pictured (left to right): Inspira Health CIO Tom Pacek, Mahaska IT director Chris Hickie and Roper St. Francis CIO Keith Neuman.

Inspira Health Network is currently in the process of building two gyms on its New Jersey campuses and developing a fitness app that patients and trainers can use to determine personalized exercise regimens.

The software captures patient generated health data from wearables and workout equipment, such as cardio machines. Users can also manually input old-fashioned types of exercise, including weight lifting repetitions, and trainers can verify that patients are doing what they're supposed to be doing, said Inspira (#3 Large hospital) CIO Tom Pacek.

Such data will ultimately be pulled into the EHR. Inspira is a Cerner shop, he said, undertaking an 18-month enterprise wide switch from 18 disparate platforms. 

New EHRs: A platform for innovation
Much like Inspira, three other health systems – Roper St. Francis and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford – are also harnessing their relatively new EHRs as a foundation for innovation.  

Lucile Packard (#3 Super hospital), for instance, earned a HIMSS Stage 7 award for ambulatory and inpatient within one year of implementing Epic, according to CIO Ed Kopetsky.

The team invented and put to market a continuous monitoring tool for Type 1 diabetics, Kopetsky added. 

"One of our physician fellows here worked with Apple and Epic to develop GluVue, a tool to continuously monitor blood sugar levels regardless of the patient’s location," Kopetsky said. "This technology replaces four to five needle sticks a day and data is sent every five minutes to our EMR and doctors. You can see patterns of glucose levels and we can actually intervene."

[Best Hospital IT 2016: CIOs divulge their worst nightmares]

Roper St. Francis (#5 Large hospital) went live with a Cerner EHR this fall, said CIO Keith Neuman.

"An integrated system is primary," Neuman said. "And then the ability to implement fresh technology in our environment that will allow us to more easily pivot toward where we need to go."

That new direction includes what Neuman described as an App Store-like scenario.  

"We want to provide that same kind of experience to our patients when they book an appointment or see a doctor or be there for follow-up," Neuman added. "Virtual visits and Open Table-like appointment scheduling, that sort of thing."

Mission Health (#5 Super hospital) is also ramping up its patient experience efforts with an unlikely technology: Microsoft Xbox. The game console, in fact, works with Mission's electronic health record software as well as an app, camera and microphone to comprise what CIO Jon Brown called "virtual sitters," that enable clinicians to communicate with patients from a central location rather than having to be in the room every time they get out of bed.

Not limited to large providers
Cutting-edge technologies are not the sole domain of large and super hospitals.

Mahaska Health Partnership (#2 Small Hospital) is also embracing innovation out of a spirit of necessity, using Raspberry Pi technology – inexpensive single-board computers – to create digital signage across the organization, IT director Chris Hickie said.

Meanwhile, when Mahaska built a new wing for surgery patients, Hickie said the IT team installed Apple TV in every room and integrated iPads with a third-party translation service patients can use.

[Best Hospital IT 2016: CIOs share secrets of managing a happy IT team]

Next up for Hickie and his team: MIPS and MACRA. "A big part of that for us is onboarding to patient-centered medical home in our medical group," Hickie explained. "I think that is going to have a large impact on our ability to drive toward increased value-based reimbursement."

Back at the gym
Inspira CIO Pacek said that the network is doing everything it can to create the kind of patient experience that keeps people coming back.

In addition to building the gyms and fitness app, Inspira is beginning work that Pacek said will ultimately enable clinicians to prescribe medical devices to patients.  

The next phase for Inspira will be using social media tools and chatbots, pulling appropriate data into the EHR, then analyzing it to better understand patients.

"We're developing apps for patient engagement, trying to improve patient registration so they don't have to fill out papers, also to get rid of the clipboard," Pacek said. "We're working on interfaces for call ahead seating so patients can look at wait times for urgent care or put yourself in line."

Jessica Davis and Mike Miliard contributed to this report. 


Healthcare IT News Best Hospital IT Departments 2016: 
⇒ Meet the winners
⇒ Post-EHR era: Bunk buzzword or almost here?
⇒Interactive map: Best Hospital IT Departments 
⇒ Gallery: The people behind winning IT shops