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How healthcare CIOs can sell IT to hospital boards

Brian Eastwood | Oct. 22, 2013
Miami Children's Hospital has invested heavily in technology -- from patient-facing mobile apps to a telehealth center with a global reach. CIO Edward Martinez says getting the hospital board to see the benefits of such technology means putting IT strategy in the context of business strategy.

Telehealth Improves Patient Care - And Lets Hospital Boost Business
In addition, getting the board to embrace digitization helped Miami Children's push forward with business intelligence and telehealth initiatives. The latter, in particular, has helped the hospital expand its business.

Despite its large population, many parts of Florida remain rural. The parents of a child with a head injury could find themselves 400 miles from the nearest neurosurgeon. In a manner of speaking, that distance can be the difference between paralysis and a normal life, Martinez says.

Telehealth has thus emerged as a "key strategy" for Miami Children's, which uses its telehealth center for subspecialist and emergency care videoconferencing, remote reading of diagnostic tests and additional consulting services to outside healthcare providers. Families of Miami Children's patients, meanwhile, can speak to physicians from afar - getting a video consult, via iPad, to help determine if, say, a child has suffered a seizure while on vacation.

"It's taking the level of care to a whole new perspective," Martinez says.

'Revolutionary' Advances in Telehealth Poised to Change Healthcare
And Martinez says this level of care will see "revolutionary" advances in the next two to three years. For example, telehealth is already present in retail settings, with CVS, Walgreens, Target and Walmart among national retailers and pharmacies offering clinical services such as blood pressure screenings and vaccinations. But what if that so-called "minute clinic" can connect that patient to a doctor, he says, turning what can be a three-hour wait for an appointment or a $1,000 emergency room visit into a 10-minute visit paid for with a credit card?

Telehealth is also on the verge of changing the way patients interact with the physicians they see regularly, Martinez says. Miami Children's is piloting technology that aims to let patients receive virtual care on par with the experience they would have in a physician's office, he says. FDA-approved, Bluetooth-enabled medical device will play an important role in this medical home model as well.

Meanwhile, specialized ICU carts that improve physician-to-physician interactions over the wire are beginning to pique Martinez's interest. With such technology in place, a physician can use a stethoscope to hear the heartbeat of someone halfway around the world. "You have to see it to believe it," Martinez says.

 

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