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Meeting the needs of clinicians while modernizing information technology

During the panel discussion titled Modernize IT in Healthcare, held at the ServiceNow Knowledge 19 Conference in Las Vegas, Aaron Zuber, Senior Manager of Solution Consulting at ServiceNow, sat down with Brad Newton, Vice President of Information Technology Administration at WellStar Health System; Bhavesh Patel, Director of the IS Program Management Office at WakeMed Health & Hospitals; Joseph Heinzman, Senior Product Owner- ServiceNow at Banner Health; and Ash Razavi, Manager at Scripps Heath, to get their input on how to best meet clinicians’ needs while modernizing healthcare technology.

Heinzman: I started my career in healthcare as a nurse. So, I have experienced the pain and the stress that clinicians experience when first using new technologies. EMRs, for example, actually pull clinicians away from the bedside. The challenge is finding a way to provide these systems to the clinicians where they are, which should be with the patients. After we implemented our EMR, we were challenged with getting clinicals up to speed — but also with trying to keep them engaged at the bedside. Many of our clinicians are not necessarily tech savvy, so making it easy for them to access the system to care for patients becomes crucial.

Zuber: As healthcare organizations progress on their digital journeys, it’s becoming increasingly important for information services departments to meet the needs of clinicians. How can healthcare organizations meet this challenge?

Of course, clinicians become frustrated if the system’s down, if it’s slow, or if they can’t find what they want. So, we have a strong clinical informatics team that works with clinicians when we implement technology. We split our service desk up so that we have IS staff members who are dedicated to helping users with EMR-type problems. For example, they can help clinicians when clinicians don’t know how to document something.

Newton: Everybody who shows up for work in the clinical environment shows up to take care of patients. Because of this focus, they’ve got a very high tolerance for technology solutions that are not working.

They call and complain all the time, but what surprises me even more is when they don’t, when you hear about those six machines that have been down for three weeks — but there are no service tickets because the clinicians were too busy working with patients and didn’t take the time to contact IS. So, to serve clinicians, those of us who work in IS have to understand what their experience is and what can make things as easy as possible for them.

“Any dollar that we spend on technology is viewed as a dollar that wasn’t spent on patient care — unless you can clearly make that connection. So, it’s very, very important to be able to draw the link between the investment in technology to patient care.”

Brad Newton, Vice President of Information Technology Administration | Wellstar Health System

Patel: The “Gemba” is a Japanese term that means “being where the work actually is.” That has been a big focus for our team as we support our clinicians. We are focused on being at the bedside supporting the clinical equipment. The clinicians don’t want to talk to somebody on the phone; they want somebody next to them. The clinicians want to work shoulder-to-shoulder with analysts so they can get their questions answered

in real time — and IS departments need to acknowledge this.

Razavi: We’ve integrated our electronic health record with ServiceNow to provide service to clinicians without forcing them to contact the service desk by phone or email. Leveraging the integration capabilities of ServiceNow, we created a product called eAssist. This integration tool allows users to leverage the Help Desk icon built into the EHR to capture a screenshot, provide some user data, and automatically open an incident in ServiceNow. Updates to the incident in ServiceNow by support staff also populate the EHR’s In Basket to keep clinicians informed of progress up to and including resolution of their issue. This makes it much more efficient for clinicians as they don’t have to get on the phone and talk to the service desk.

Zuber: Improving care is one of the main goals associated with modernizing IT. How can healthcare further advance digital transformation initiatives in a manner that empowers organizations to achieve this goal?

Newton: We’re not a technology business on the surface. So, any dollar that we spend on technology is viewed as a dollar that wasn’t spent on patient care — unless you can clearly make that connection. So, it’s very, very important to be able to draw the link between the investment in technology to patient care. Part of the challenge rests in making sure that our users understand how the technology supports them in their work. We conducted an exercise at WellStar to understand the personas of our different users. What we found is that in a lot of the technology that we rolled out, people didn’t know we rolled it out, or they didn’t know how to use it well. So, our digital journey needs to involve a lot more training than I would have ever expected. Teaching people how to use the technology, marketing it to them, becoming an advocate for the solutions that we’re bringing to the table is becoming a big part of what we do.

Heinzman: To move forward, we are focusing on using technology to get patients more engaged in their own care. So right now, we have a very big push on getting patients to use our patient portal. That’s the next level of the bar that we are looking to reach in our digital journey.

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