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St. Luke's Cornwall Hospital Technology Discussion

Hospital

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Newburgh, NY - St. Luke's Cornwall Hospital's inclusion on the 2014 Most Wired list highlighted how the use of health care technology is becoming increasingly important both in treating patients and protecting their information. SLCH Vice President-Chief Information Officer Cletis Earle recently sat down to discuss these issues.

How long have you been at SLCH and how has the technology here changed during that time?

I've been at the hospital for three years, and since I've been here there has been a significant amount of technology enhancements to the organization. We have, from a security perspective, put in a boatload of different solutions that will ensure that the hospital remains more secure from any potential threats that we have, both inside and outside the organization.

What makes SLCH more advanced than other organizations?

One of the things we wanted to put in first was our data loss protection solution.  This data loss protection solution ensures that we have electronic monitors that stop unwanted, whether by fault or purpose,  PHI (protected health information) or PCI (payment card industry) data that goes outside the four walls of this organization. This technology, again, allows us to monitor all activities and gives advanced warning when something is flagged that is inappropriate to go outside of the hospital. That helps mitigate our risks when it comes to solutions. Many other organizations have not implemented that but you're starting to see an upswing of companies start to put that in place because as new omnibus rules come out there is more of the ability to be more liable if you have information out there, whether you can secure it or not. So, tools like this are becoming more popular, but again, we're by far on the cutting edge of how we're utilizing these tools and ensuring security is in place.

How do you integrate new technology into SLCH?

One of the things we've been doing for over a year now is providing alerts. We're using the data repository that we're getting from our EMR (electronic medical records) to send out alerts to our care coordination teams and our providers.  These alerts are secure messaging to different providers, as well as entities in our organization, to allow them to know when a transaction occurred. That transaction could be whether a patient has been presented into the hospital that has a potential re-admission date, or if there is a sepsis patient, based on some criteria that are defined.  A lot of these types of alerts have been beneficial.  They make our care providers aware of the situation and they are then able to respond to them in a more active environment and be persistent in taking care of the patient rather than waiting for traditional methods of communication, which In essence, can delay care.

What is the process for discovering new technology for SLCH?

Some of the process of what we do is, we actually take an active role, whether it is constantly participating in WebExs or going out to conferences and seeing some of the solutions.  As a matter of fact, in our last conference, we brought back some technology we saw from their innovation center and it has been very well received here at the organization.  What we do is use proof of concepts.  What we're doing now is an innovation room to help foster some of those technologies that we see, whether it is on the patient side or the backend side to see if they are the best fit for our organization. That is our way of vetting out solutions and seeing if they work for our business, as well as our patients care.

How do you integrate new technology into SLCH?

We use 'best practice' methods, as well as 'proof of concepts' to have the solution integrated into our methodology. So again, not everything works but we do some vetting to ensure the systems are in line with our methodology.  We always have to align to our primary EMR vendor so we know what is feasible and what is not. We also make sure that the care providers are on board with us to work closely with our chief nursing officer to see that, from a clinical side, we are right in line with the use of care with some of those products.

What has been the feedback to the new technology that SLCH is utilizing?

We have a lot of good feedback.  Some is not as good, but when it is not good feedback that can be a good thing because that tells us that we need to go back to the drawing board and fix it. We have to be nimble enough to realize when we are not successful with a particular process.  So, again, we work closely and ensure that the solution worked out well with the care providers.

What are some of the key technological issues in healthcare right now?

(Key issues are) care transition and care coordination.  This is a huge deal for the industry and nothing different for our organization as we're developing our process and our methodologies. So, one of the pieces we have to figure out is how to connect all facilities throughout the region to ensure that there is a continuity of care when it comes to the medical record. [We need to] make the medical record transferable and tie in with our regional health information organizations and be able to ensure that our physicians and providers have access to the data. Being able to form one record, or one source of truth that people can go to access that information can reduce cost, reduce unwanted tests, reduce the amount of time it takes to care for a patient, which in essence would ensure higher quality and higher standards for care.

What are some of the more exciting technologies SLCH could see in the near future?

We have a couple of things that are coming down the pipe that we are very excited about. I don't know if there are any StarTrek fans, but if you've ever watched StarTrek, there is a tricorder.  It is a device that the actors used in order to scan the vitals of a patient without any contact.  Well, one of the things we are going to be promoting in our innovation room is actually a similar technology. It is able to use a recently declassified military grade technology, which is considered an ultra-wide band radar solution. So, without any contact or any type of device being placed on the body, the tricorder will be able to read all of your respiratory and heart rate information.   It will be able to look through the body all at a small energy output, which is all FDA approved. We're working with vendors like this to ensure that these solutions are actually usable and any provider would be able to access that information.  So, in essence, when a patient is in the bed, they will be able to be monitored without any contact. This is an innovative and extremely high-tech solution that we hope to have in place in the next coming months, and see some success behind those technologies.  We are looking at putting kiosks in our partner sites, whether they are malls or pharmacies, and being able to have tele- medicine solutions so at those kiosks patients would be able to go up and get their heart rate and blood pressure reading.  It would also have a digital, temperature and height scale.  If they go through the process of utilizing these tools and we realize this patient needs further care, they would also be able to securely connect with a care coordinator on the tele-medicine so the video would be able to be used right at that point of care.  If anything is escalated they could either go to the hospital or a prescription could be sent to the respective area. These are some exciting technologies, as we talked about, that remove care from inside these four walls and into the community.