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4 Essential Data and IT Articles To Read During the Time of COVID-19

By Mandy Roth  
   September 17, 2020

Healthcare systems share how they are fueling innovation, plus organizations report key political and regulatory updates, as well as insights into future IT priorities.

Information technology (IT) departments play a key role in helping hospitals and healthcare systems fight COVID-19 by supplying the technology and data powering many innovative initiatives. Here's a look at initiatives underway at organizations in Illinois and Oregon. In addition, we share insights from the Health Information and Management Systems Society's government relations team about relevant political and regulatory issues that may impact IT work, as well as findings from LexisNexis Risk Solutions research that shines a light on CIO priorities moving forward.

1. The Hospital IT Department That Could

As the coronavirus pandemic began to impact Illinois, the department of decision sciences at Memorial Health System in Springfield went into overdrive. Using standard data management and visualization tools, within a matter of weeks the 11-person team of data scientists and engineers developed a dashboard that gave executives an at-a-glance recap of key COVID-19 indicators including case counts, bed tracking, lab turnaround times, personal protective equipment (PPE) "burn rates," and more. In addition, without adding to their workforce, the team devised an internal contact tracing system, local surveillance system to predict COVID-19 surges, and geospatial tools to identify community "hot spots."

The initiative required pulling information from seven electronic health record (EHR) systems; an enterprise resource system (ERP) with human resources, financial and supply chain data; bed management, laboratory, and other IT systems; as well as accessing data from national and local resources through application programming interfaces (API). Yet the effort required no big budget or no fancy tools—just a team of talented people logging lots of hours, says Lance Millburg, MBA, CLSSBB, system director of decision sciences at Memorial Health System. Read more.

2. Oregon Hospitals Share Data in Unprecedented Way in Fight Against COVID-19

Within two weeks of conceiving an idea for hospitals across the state to track and share near real-time bed capacity, Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), working in concert with GE Clinical Command Centers, enabled Oregon to become the first U.S. state to have such an automated reporting system, according to an article published in the June 2020 Critical Care Explorations.

The data-sharing initiative quickly scaled across 60 hospitals by surmounting EMR challenges and avoiding sensitive patient data to deliver an automated snapshot of bed and ventilator availability across the state.

The compelling aspect of this success story is not only how quickly such a complex initiative scaled across multiple hospitals and healthcare systems, says Matthias Johannes Merkel, MD, PhD, senior associate chief medical officer of Capacity Management & Patient Flow at OHSU, but also how competing health systems came together to share data with each other for a greater good. Others have taken note. Following Oregon's example, the state of Florida is preparing to roll out a similar program, according to GE Healthcare. Read more.

3. HIMSS Outlines Political Health IT Priorities and Progress on Regulatory and Congressional Issues

As the nation pummels through a contentious election season, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) government relations team is exploring ways to push forward key issues with Congress and is closely following regulatory issues. Among

  • Vaccine technology and continuing initiatives underway will be the focus of the Republican party.
  • Democrats will prioritize patient engagement and empowerment, using health IT to support updates to the Affordable Care Act, and keeping the U.S. at the forefront of research through precision medicine and the cancer moonshot.  
  • HHS has extended some deadlines related to interoperability rulings.
  • Political issues and the election could stall progress on Congressional issues.

Read more about insights the team shared during a press briefing earlier this month.

4. Healthcare CIOs Outline Their Headaches and Hopes

What are the top priorities for healthcare IT executives? According to a focus group of College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) members, convened by LexisNexis Risk Solutions, managing interoperability, bolstering cybersecurity, and integrating social determinants of health (SDOH) are their chief concerns.

While the annual report, A Clear Vision, But A Long and Winding Road, was conducted before the pandemic, it offers insights into the IT priorities through in-depth interviews with 20 CHIME members was conducted by the healthcare division of Atlanta-based LexisNexis Risk Solutions and was conducted before the coronavirus pandemic. Read more.


Mandy Roth is the innovations editor at HealthLeaders.

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