Next up: The Internet of Relevant Things

Sutter Health's Stuart James talks at HIMSS15
By Frank Irving
08:35 PM
virtual images coming out of tablet

Integrated health networks don't get much bigger than Sutter Health. Spanning 26 facilities in five regions, Sutter provides care for more than 100 communities in northern California.

On the information technology side, Sutter operates the largest single instance of the Epic electronic health record in the world, with 55,000 users and over 10 million records in the system. And all that comes together through an ongoing initiative called One Sutter.

Stuart James, chief operations officer for Sutter Health Information Services, explains that his team is actually in the healthcare — not technology — business.

"The T in IT is really the enabler, but information is the value," said James at Cisco's Community for Connected Health Summit on Monday at HIMSS15. "It's about making the information available to support patient care."

That's a daunting challenge, considering the surge in new care models as well as new health-related technologies used by consumers on mobile, social and virtual platforms.

Sutter confronts this environment by refining the so-called Internet of Everything, where ubiquitous devices are capable of delivering masses of data to caregivers.

"Of all that information out there, how do we go through it, and get it in front of our providers to help them deliver better care?" said James. "That's the next step, the Internet of Relevant Things. We want to deliver information in the right context — at the time of need and in the most usable format. We don't want to connect just for the sake of connecting. It's got to be relevant."

One area where that's happening is Sutter's patient portal, My Health Online, which receives more that 1 million logins per year and delivers more than 4 million secure patient messages, according to Albert Chan, MD, a family physician and medical director for the portal.

Chan was also the first doctor at Sutter to share clinical notes with patients online. "In the era of transparency, the notes should be a tool for communication with patients," enabling them to "actually read what the doctor is thinking and follow the care plan," he said.

Research shows that over 80 percent of patients who had access to their notes had better medication adherence, Chan said.

Chan envisions additional future developments such as an app that would guide patients to activities to benefit their health, schedule appointments on-demand and even help with navigation to the right physician's office.

"My hope for the Internet of Everything is this: The data is already among us, but we don't harvest it. If we could understand the data in the context of people's lives in real time, we could improve their health," Chan said. "We should make it easier for people to do the right thing."