Identifying and Addressing the Evolving Needs of Patients
New Role of Technology
It’s an inspiring time to be working at the intersection of technology and health care. At St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, we understand that technology is fundamental to accomplishing our mission. Most of our strategic plan includes a component of technology. Those components are shaped by discussions with our leadership on topics such as increasing the number of patients served by the institution, improving the patient and family experience, cultivating the success of our research programs, and expanding our global outreach programs.
We believe our patients deserve the best treatment in a caring, comfortable and supportive environment. To accomplish this, our technology teams identify ways to improve the total patient experience from initial contact and patient scheduling to travel, housing, dining and communications. This fundamental drive to maximize the patient experience is essential to our culture.
St. Jude is interested in understanding all aspects of pediatric diseases and illnesses which includes a strong focus on genomic sequencing. With such sequencing comes a demand for storage and additional computational cycles. This explosion of information continues to dominate the industry conversation. We have taken a step further with the development of innovative algorithms that optimize our specific sequencing needs.
“We believe our patients deserve the best treatment in a caring, comfortable and supportive environment”
Technology Challenge that Keeps you Awake at Night
Outside of the challenge of constantly improving information security, the nagging question, “Are we using technology as efficiently and as effectively as we need to in order to benefit the customer and our patients?” keeps me awake at night. Our industry is often guilty of adding new software packages into an existing workflow with little to no thought about the repercussions. Over time, what you end up with is a plethora of software packages aimed at ‘helping’ when in fact they do very little, increasing complexity and decreasing productivity.
I would challenge any vendor to begin focusing on how technology should improve and streamline their customers’ entire process and flow; this holistic view often requires that they think outside of their software offerings and find ways to seamlessly integrate with existing tools within an organization.
Technological Trends Having Significant Impact on Your Enterprise
All of these trends in technology will have a positive impact on how health care is delivered in the future. From a research perspective, the race toward a better understanding of catastrophic pediatric diseases is leveraging technological advances in how we store, compute and visualize information. For example, the explosion of big-data tools is aiding the research community in understanding correlations between specific mutations and potential therapies. In addition, cloud computing environments are providing a cost-effective solution to not only store this information long term but re-compute as our understanding of these diseases changes.
From the patient care perspective, the growing number of connected devices added to the Internet of Things (IoT) will impact patient care. Within the hospital setting, this technology includes connected pumps, blood pressure cuffs, and beds that all aim at the elimination or need for manual intervention. Other IoT technologies allow hospital staff to track a patient’s precise location, which provides personal attention and improves the patient experience throughout the care journey.
While each of these trends is exciting in its own way, it is important to think about creating a sustainable implementation in a health care setting. By this, I mean working with business partners to validate the need and develop a plan that ensures the technology is implemented securely and according to medical staff guidelines. Without this valuable partnership, it really is just interesting technology.
Advice to Vendors Providing Technology Solutions to Health Care
My advice is simple: Stay attuned to the specific and evolving needs of the customer. You must first understand the mission and challenges of the organization before discussing ways your product could fit into the strategic direction. If a vendor understands and believes in our mission of eliminating catastrophic pediatric diseases, then that vendor will appreciate our sense of urgency and unique challenges. After all, you cannot develop software to support our goals unless you stay connected and ask the relevant questions.
Creating a Competitive Edge
My advice is to never be satisfied. One thing that I have learned working in the health care field is to never be satisfied with the technology in place today. Our understanding of diseases and potential therapies is changing just as rapidly as technology. It is inspiring to watch our physicians, nurses and other caregivers deal with these changes solely focused on the patient. If you apply this ever-changing landscape to technology, it is easy to see how things have evolved from a year, five years or even 25 years ago. I’m often amazed when I look back at the technology that was in place 25 years ago and laugh at how implausible it would be to use that same technology today. So why would the same technology that we put in place last year stand the test of time? It is our responsibility to constantly evaluate and re-evaluate the technology in place today to see if it will fit the changing needs of the patient tomorrow.