One morning in August 2012, I entered my office in the hospital and turned on my PC. As a university hospital chief information officer (CIO) responsible for all mental health hospitals in the region of Southern Denmark, I was tasked with not only keeping the lights green on our digital infrastructure, but also managing our digital transformation and innovation efforts. This balance between the existing and the new was an everlasting challenge, and one I often dwelled on in the morning quiet of my office.
My email program announced 50 unread emails since the previous evening, and one came from a leading physician in one of our big clinical departments. He wanted to meet and discuss how IT could help him aggregate data from the EHR (electronic health record) and other clinical applications into the national quality database for schizophrenia. I knew right away, even though it seemed like a good and relevant thing to do, that our current application infrastructure would not support such a request. Our digital landscape was not the enabler of new clinical business models — no, IT was more of an inhibitor. I got on the phone and talked to the physician and explained to him that even though I recognized data as a valuable asset, I would not be able meet his requirements. Not my proudest moment, but I guess you get used to it over time.
Unfortunately, this anecdote is not unique. All over the world, healthcare providers are data rich but poor on insights, mainly due to siloed applications, legacy data models, shadow IT and lack of budget to gain value from the vast amount of data they already have.
At DXC Technology we recognize that digitalization is not about technology for the sake of technology, but about leveraging it to offer all stakeholders (the patients, most importantly) a seamless care experience across the healthcare journey — from prevention to treatment to disease management. This experience must be underpinned by new approaches to data and information transformation. In fact, no matter where providers start their IT transformation journey, healthcare executives will be confronted with the strategic value of information and its underlying component: data. Patient data integration across providers, processes (clinical, administrative, public health and clinical research) and IT systems is the cornerstone of digitalization, as shown in my anecdote.
In my current role as part of the DXC healthcare advisory team, I am often approached by hospital CIOs who are struggling with budget constraints and an increasing demand from hospital executives, physicians and patients. The lack of financial strength will not permit the CIOs to engage in a €100 mill tender for a new EHR, radiology information system (RIS) or laboratory system, so how can they leverage the investments they have already made and still remain agile and business oriented? Often my answer is: Utilize your data in a smarter way by acquiring a less expensive digital integration and data orchestration platform. Software as a service and cloud enablement will address budget constraints and — at the same time — deliver the necessary agility for the business.
Hospital CIOs should pursue a data and information transformation strategy if they can relate to the following statements:
- I am often unable to deliver on new requirements from my primary stakeholders (executives, patients and clinical professionals).
- I have a vast amount of data but can access it directly only in the applications where it was born.
- I do not have the budget to invest in new core clinical applications; I need to leverage the investments I have already made.
- I would like to use data and information in new ways, such as enabling population health management or clinical decision support, or for research.
With an “intelligent” data integration and orchestration platform, integration is not only regarded as data aggregation, but also as the ability to integrate different stakeholders across the care continuum, as well as existing vendors in an application architecture ecosystem. By allowing access to cross-sector datasets in a vendor-neutral way to help clients derive maximum value from the investments they have made from EHRs, hospital information systems, internet of things (IoT) systems, etc., the platform enables healthcare providers to build a connected ecosystem, recognizing that healthcare goes beyond the four walls of a hospital. This is the way forward and will be a defining component to meet the new business and digital requirements of tomorrow.
Jonas Knudsen is part of the DXC global health advisory group. He advises on planning and implementing effective digital health transformation initiatives to drive integrated and personalized care innovation. He was previously CIO of the New University Hospital Odense – Denmark (1200 beds) and head of IT strategy and planning in a EUR 1B hospital construction project. Previously associate professor of IT management at the University of Southern Denmark. Jonas holds a certification as an enterprise architect in TOGAF.