healthcaretechoutlook

The 'Four' Pillars of IT And How To Apply It To Healthcare

By David Chou, CIO, University of Mississippi Medical Center

David Chou, CIO, University of Mississippi Medical Center

As we embark on a journey of change in technology, there is a new focus and a new approach of managing the enterprise IT. The title of “Chief Information Officer” came into existence in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s with the main responsibity of keeping the “lights” on. I even recall when the technology department was called data processing with the role of crunching numbers and keeping the mainframes alive. CIOs of the 1990’s would function more as the IT manager of today. The focus for the next generation CIO involves being strategic, influential, innovative while also making sure the “lights” are on.

The focus for the next generation of CIOs will have the core focus of Mobile, Big Data, Cloud, and Social which is what I call the four pillars of IT. Gartner calls these four pillars the nexus of forces and it is the core focus of every technology vendors in the market. Let’s look into the four pillars and apply it to the healthcare setting.

Mobile: We are embarking into an era where the consumers rely on the mobile devices as a portable computer. Every other industry provides a mechanism for consumer interaction through their mobile devices. When was the last time you had to go to a bank to deposit a check? When was the last time you went in to a travel agent’s office to make a flight reservation? Every industry is putting an emphasis on providing a customer experience using the mobile devices and healthcare is trying to catch up. The new generation of consumers prefers to see a doctor virtually and if possible on their mobile devices. Physicians and clinicians will need access to vital patient information on demand and preferably through a mobile device. We are moving towards an era of “Mobile Only” where people will start a task on one mobile device and possible finish the task on a different mobile device so every CIO must start thinking about providing the platform to allow that experience.  

Big Data: Big Data has been the latest buzzword and healthcare is one of the best places to use Big Data to solve problems. Let’s step back and think about the traditional method of running a hospital. It used to be a numbers game where the hospital’s goal is to keep their beds full with as many patients as possible. The high patient census translates into revenue. With the new regulatory requirements and reimbursement models I believe the future strategy of hospital managements is to keep patients away from coming to the hospital and provide mechanism for preventative medicine to keep the cost of healthcare low. This is where Big Data can come in play. We can use various data sources to predict the clinical outcome or better yet predict a behavior of a patient and help provide the patient with information to live a healthier lifestyle. The collaboration and information sharing between hospitals, insurance companies, pharmaceuticals, and other areas allows the healthcare vertical in providing relevant information to reduce overall healthcare cost and increasing the quality of healthcare for the citizens.

“We are moving towards an era of “Mobile Only” where people will start a task on one mobile device and possible finish the task on a different mobile device”

Social: Social is one area that healthcare can utilize tremendously. My view on social is that it is a great tool internally within the organization and external with the rest of the world. Social media is an excellent tool to use for communication; it allows me to use it internally to communicate with all of the staff within my department and within the organization. If used correctly it can be a morale booster for an organization by increasing employee engagement. My view is that a healthcare organization can truly separate themselves if they use the combination of Social and Big Data. A perfect example is that we are working towards managing population health and keeping people out of the hospital. One factor that will be useful is to monitor the social activities of potential patients and intervene to assist the consumers in making an informed healthy decision. Let’s consider the use case of a 43 year old female former patient who is overweight with a history of hypertension that was treated at the hospital. If the hospital monitors the social space and identifies this former patient who just posted on facebook that she is going to eat at burger king, a subtle message can be sent to the patient classifying either the healthier choices on the menu or even recommend another restaurant close by along with a few other facilities that she can use for exercise. Social is truly on aspect of the arena that has not been adopted by healthcare and we need to start treating the patients as a customer and provide the necessary service that are out there from other verticals.

Cloud: Cloud is a great area for CIO. Our role has changed where we must align with business strategy and we must move away from managing commodities. Infrastructure is one area that CIOs must let go and start transitioning to the cloud. It is a huge culture shift since the traditional IT employees like to be hands on. I personally feel safe with my infrastructure in the cloud because I know that the cloud providers will provide better service at a lower cost than what I can put together internally. The usage of the cloud is to transfer the commodity technology to a vendor and also shift the risks as well why the CIO and the IT department focus on solving business problems utilizing technology. The roles of the CIO will continue to evolve but with the fundamental principles of the four pillars it will establish the core components moving forward.