by Justin Mooneyhan, TN HIMSS Ambassador Committee Chair/Sr. Director IT Project Management — AMSURG

As I reflect on my three days at the first-of-its-kind Data, Insights, and Strategies for the Health Enterprise: a Harvard Medical School Executive Education program for HIMSS, I marvel at the amount of world-class content and speakers that were packed into the program. This was evident with the diversity of the Cohort where individuals from across the US (San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, Nashville, Florida, etc.) and globe (Denmark, Austria, Malaysia, and the United Arab Emirates (one from Dubai and one from Abu Dhabi)) attended the program.

With one of my Healthcare IT heroes, John Halamka, CIO of BIDMC/International Healthcare Professor Harvard Medical School

Now, two weeks after completion of the course, I feel there are still things to digest and areas to explore more deeply, as I look back and comb through the session slide decks, my notes and takeaways. The content focused on various domains in the healthcare technology sector and had an overarching theme to provide an understanding of data, and how the insights derived from data have the power to transform our healthcare industry for the better. It was encouraging and humbling to hear from such incredible speakers, the vast majority of whom were Harvard trained or affiliated physicians. Some were still teaching at the medical school, some split their time between teaching and serving in various leadership positions at top healthcare organizations (Partners Healthcare, Google Cloud, Boston Children’s Hospital, Atrius Health, among others), and there were a couple other Bostonian healthcare executives. All had the ultimate aim of finding novel ways to make care better (through the use of data insights) for their patients, while lowering costs and providing better outcomes for their respective patient populations. Below I give a brief recap of the three program days.

Day 1:

The program, Data, Insights & Strategies for the Health Enterprise started off with a discussion led by Dr. Sree Chaguturu, Chief Population Health Officer for Partners Healthcare, where he gave a macro overview of healthcare and how enterprise data analytics are necessary in various areas for health systems, but specifically population health management. Operating the largest ACO in the country with ~700,000 lives in risk-based contracts, he discussed the importance for rich and insightful data analytics to properly manage and improve the care for their patients, while also working to identify areas for cost reductions, and in turn, not sacrificing the experience and quality of care for the patient.

The second session was led by Dr. David Ying, CMIO of Massachusetts General Physicians Organization, where he focused on the impact of electronic medical records adoption on their providers, as well as other providers across the country. With one study he cited showing roughly 50% of providers state they are “burned out” due to the administrative burden’s placed on them (EMR technology, quality programs, etc.) to run a successful medical practice. He emphasized the seriousness of the problem to our industry and that it must be addressed soon, especially as there is already a shortage of primary care physicians with that gap projected to widen in coming years.

The following session was very insightful as it focused on the future of cloud service offerings in the healthcare ecosystem and was presented by Aashima Gupta, the Director of Global Healthcare Solutions for Google Cloud. An interesting factoid: medical data is doubling every 73 days now! With this data tsunami, digital health is being transformed before our very eyes. Three things leading to this digital health transformation, according to Aashima; healthcare-grade infrastructure, enabling interoperability, and actionable insights. With the exponentiality of data generation, cloud services will play a huge role in allowing this environment and infrastructure to flourish in the near future.

The next session focused on exploring an emerging apps ecosystem for data access and sharing via SMART on FHIR. This session was presented by Dr. Ken Mandl, Director of Computational Health Informatics Program (CHIP) at Boston Children’s Hospital, and was very interesting hearing his perspectives on how the app ecosystem development will change the way we gain access to data in real-time, that should improve care and outcomes for populations. He stated that there could be a point in time, in the near future, where our care providers are only accessing apps that have APIs built and integrated with EMRs that serve up and update medical, demographic, etc. data via the apps, so providers might not have to access the EMR directly at all.

The final session of the day focused on a company, Onduo, with the discussion led by Dr. Ronald Dixon, Head of Clinical Affairs for the company. Onduo is in essence creating a virtual diabetes clinic for patients. They are leveraging data from continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) technology to assist PCPs in monitoring their patient’s health metrics remotely and can intervene in real-time via texting, etc. to ensure the patient adherence to type 2 diabetes health protocols.

Day one wrapped up with a refreshments and networking break, followed by dinner with the Cohort members.

Day 2:

Day two began with an informative discussion around primary care with Dr. Mary Tharayil, Medical Director for eCare, Quality and Safety at Brigham & Women’s Hospital Primary Care Center of Excellence. She gave an interesting presentation on how her organization and providers leverage EPIC’s EMR platform to build best practice primary care management protocols for their patient populations.

The next session focused more on the use of data analytics and unmet needs for ambulatory practice management. This session was presented by Dr. Jane Fogg, Specialty Director of Internal Medicine and Population Health at Atrius Health. It was a very informative discussion on how important and integral data analytics are to their organization, as Atrius has 80% risk-based contracts in primary care for their patient population of 2.3 million. They do accept full risk too, though she espoused that to be successful in accepting so much risk, it can only be accomplished through the use and deployment of proper data infrastructure and analytics tools, so that they have the visibility and insights to manage their patient’s care effectively and efficiently.

The following session focused on the future of healthcare in the digital health management sector and was presented by Dr. Elaine Goodman, CMO of Wellframe. Their digital health management methodology focused on four key areas; “generate insights that enable early interventions, support the whole person in a comprehensive solution, extend the reach of staff to engage more members more effectively, and deliver measurable value and drive continuous improvement.”

The next session was extremely interesting as it focused on artificial intelligence (AI) and data for a learning health system. Dr. Andy Beam of Harvard’s Biomedical Informatics department led the discussion and gave a very insightful history of AI and machine learning. He covered an overview of “deep learning,” which is a specific kind of machine learning that essentially refers to large neural networks that can be programmed and built by developers. He discussed some recent (circa 2012) deep learning breakthroughs by Geoff Hinton, et al., and discussed a couple of case studies involving AlphaGo and diabetic retinopathy care. This topic of AI and machine learning has utility in the healthcare space, though he did provide a word of caution in several areas as these technologies advance in the coming years.

The final session of the day was a treat for all, as it was led by healthcare technology giant, Dr. John Halamka. He discussed some of the work he is doing abroad in Asia, Europe and the Middle East, as well as in the United States (he stated he travels over 400,000 miles per year!). He also gave an overview of where healthcare IT is moving in the future and key areas/sectors to keep an eye on over the coming years. His top five areas to look out for were; cloud services, mobile/internet of things, machine learning/artificial intelligence, telemedicine/telecare, and “digital twin” (essentially your digital/data avatar).

Day 3:

The final day of the program began with a fantastic discussion on data analytics and health IT as the center stage of an organization. This discussion was led by Peter Healy, President of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Manu Tandon, SVP and CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. They focused this discussion on explaining how critically important technology and data are to the successful operation of their high-class medical center. They discussed how they leverage their home-grown EMR system and some of the advantages they have had with using this system versus a third-party vendor solution. It was nice touch for the program to get perspectives from some top hospital administration leaders.

The next session of the day was led by Dr. Lee Schwamm, Director at the Center of Telehealth at Massachusetts General Hospital, and focused on telehealth from the IT perspective. Dr. Schwamm is one of the leading telehealth pioneers in the US, specifically in telestroke, and has built an impressive program at MGH that sets the standard for the application of telehealth in improving care for patients. He was joined by Dr. David Levine, Director of the Hospital at Home Program at Brigham & Women’s Hospital and how they leverage telehealth tools and remote patient monitoring solutions for their in-home patient care programs. Dr. Levine believes, among many others, that in-home care is the future of healthcare, and that we have to start looking at these novel programs and solutions to meet the patient where they can receive the best care and recover from an episode, at an optimal level.

The following session focused on novel applications around the convergence of data for quality, safety and practice improvement. This session was led by Dr. Igna Lennes, SVP of Performance Improvement and Service Excellence of Massachusetts General Physicians Organization. She discussed some interesting work and partnerships her organization is involved in around cancer care and leveraging data to improve processes and care pathways. She also showed some interesting dashboards and metrics that she and her team use for process and practice improvement.

Lastly, the final session of the program was an interesting one, and one that moved me. This session was facilitated by Program Director, Dr. Stan Shaw of Harvard Medical School Executive Education, and Linnea Olson, cancer-survivor. They discussed her personal health journey of a misdiagnosis of lung cancer and how that changed her life and created a forum for her to become a patient advocate.  

Overall, I had an amazing experience attending this educational program! I learned a lot and have some key takeaways that I plan on diving into more to continue my learning.  Healthcare technology and the use of data analytics have the power to transform our healthcare industry for the better. This program emphasized this notion and encouraged us to strive to be thought leaders in moving our healthcare system into the future, through the use of data and technology. I highly recommend this amazing program and learning opportunity to all! #PutData2Work