Best Hospital IT 2016: A pop health, precision medicine, value-based care reality check

Healthcare IT News took the pulse of its Best Hospital IT Departments 2016 winners and found that progress on these fronts is fluctuating – from ‘dabbling’ today to leading-edge work toward next-generation care delivery.
By Mike Miliard
07:05 AM
Best Hospital IT 2016 CIOs

We hear the terms all the time: value-based care, population health management, precision medicine. But how far along are U.S. hospitals in actually achieving these new imperatives? Are they making strides in driving efficiencies and improving quality and care coordination? Are some even pushing the envelope with innovative uses of genomics?

A look at some of the winning Healthcare IT News' Best Hospital IT Departments shows varying maturity on these fronts: some hospitals are starting with smallish toe-in-the-water projects; others are well down the road to advanced 21st Century care delivery.

Tammy Curren, vice president of information systems at Kennedy Health System in Cherry Hill, N.J. (#4 Medium hospital), said the health system is "dabbling" in precision medicine and population health analytics – specifically with an eye toward preventing hospital readmissions. Curren sees big promise ahead, saying that the sky is the limit when it comes to what hospitals can do with analytics.

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Across the country in Hillsboro, Oregon, Tuality Healthcare (#1 Medium hospital) CIO Sonney Sapra said his hospital is doing a lot of population health projects with its affiliates, and with HealthShare Oregon, a coordinated care organization in the eastern part of the state, including the Portland area. "We started with Medicaid, now we are expanding to dental care," said Sapra. "We are working  on quality metrics, bringing the cost of Medicaid down."

When it comes to value-based care, Jon Brown, CIO of Asheville, N.C.-based Mission Health (#5 Super hospital) said the provider is well down that road.

“We are aligning physician incentives and focusing on quality and outcomes, and this is moving along quite well,” Brown noted. “We’re part of the largest ACO, in what I would consider leading edge for population health.”

Mission Health also has strategies for precision medicine and genomics-based treatments, Brown added.

"We're making sure we’re incorporating all of the things in genetics and evidence-based research,” Brown said. “There's a very strong genetics program here that’s nationally recognized."

At Silver Cross Hospital, New Lenox, Illinois (#2 Medium Hospital), CIO Kevin Lane said the organization has been working in earnest on population health and value-based care, especially via a partnership with Advocate Physician Partners, a nearby care management collaboration. "We are also in a pilot with CMS for Medicare Bundled patients to help reduce readmissions," he said.

Building on its existing clinically-integrated network and ACO, Charleston, S.C.-based Roper St. Francis Healthcare (#5 Large Hospital) is also moving to value-based care, according to CIO Keith Neuman.

“As far as IT supporting that, we're still growing," Neumann said. "We're still at the crawling stage. I often say 'big data' is a word I don't like to hear, and I don't. But we're getting into the data side of things, so we can make the right decisions for value-based contracts and taking care of the patient ahead of time." 

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Like many other hospitals around the nation, Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford (#3 Super hospital) considers value-based care a worthy goal.

“We need to be providing the highest quality for the lowest cost," said Ed Kopetsky, CIO at the Palo Alto, California'-based Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford. 

Without question, in fact, Lucile Packard is among the foremost of this year's Best Hospital IT Department Winners with regard to precision medicine.

"We're right here in the middle of it," said Kopetsky. “We're advancing genomics, analytics and predictive medicine. We also have some of the world's leaders in cell therapy and gene therapy, and those disciplines are now coming together. Using DNA we've even done some interventions in the womb – we're very early in it, but that's what's coming."

Kopetsky predicted that, at Lucile Packard and elsewhere, precision medicine advances will lead up to personalized interventions.

“Every individual has a unique set of circumstances and DNA. If you don't know that, you could be prescribing meds wrong,” Kopetsky added. “So precision medicine is going to considerably help us get the costs down."

In the meantime, robust and innovative IT systems will be essential to hospitals and health systems – of all sizes and technological maturity – as they attempt to make their way in this brave new world, said Chris Hickie, information technology director at Osakaloosa, Iowa-based Mahaska Health Partnership (#2 Small hospital).

"I really think population health software systems and data warehousing is going to be a key technology for all healthcare organizations," said Hickie. "We're generating mounds and mounds of data that will allow us to see and analyze it and interpret it in ways that will not only benefit our primary care providers, how we're able to provide value-based care, but really lead to better decisions in how we treat our patients here in a small community."

Jessica Davis and Diana Manos contributed reporting to this article.  

Healthcare IT News Best Hospital IT Departments 2016: 
⇒ Meet the winners
⇒ CIOs talk emerging tech's with biggest potential
⇒ Post-EHR era: Bunk buzzword or almost here?
⇒  CIOs share secrets of managing a happy health IT team
⇒Interactive map: Best Hospital IT Departments 
⇒ Gallery: The people behind winning IT shops

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