Walking the Razor's Edge Providing Quality Patient Centered Services in an Innovative World

Don Lindsey, VP and CIO, Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare
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Don Lindsey, VP and CIO, Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare

As a young kid, I could not wait to get the annual Sears Christmas Catalog. Its arrival brought excitement and hope that Santa would make my wishes come true at Christmas. By the time December rolled around, our catalog would have items circled, tabbed and torn out in hopes of getting at least one gift we so excitedly craved. As Christmas day arrived, we couldn’t wait to see if Santa made our wishes come true. Now, as a Chief Information Officer of a healthcare organization, I still look forward to the latest and greatest in technology, but my staff reels me back into reality.

According to Moore’s Law, technology has been doubling every two years and in many cases earlier. Take the smart phone industry for example. The battle of the best phones has brought new options to us every six to eight months. With each phone release, we are dazzled with big announcements and events that bring the feeling of excitement once again and leave us wanting the next generation of toys. As with each new release of software and hardware, support for the newest versions provides opportunities for my staff. The “Consumerization of IT” leads to challenges as how to incorporate the new with the old (relatively speaking). We all have had the executive, physician and/or colleague purchase the latest and greatest device and make a beeline to our support team in order to setup the device within our current infrastructure. Alas, the never-ending battle to provide quality patient-centered services and keeping pace with the ever-evolving world of technology continues. Thus, we are continuously walking the razors edge of support versus innovation.

  ​Too many times solutions have been rushed into production without being thoroughly tested leading to failure at the point of care.  

Another request we receive is to “rig” a system for remote access. The increase in demand for remote access has been a challenge as many older systems we support are not compatible with the virtualization software provided. This, again, is where “Consumerization of IT” begets opportunity. To end users, it sounds simple. Just connect the device to the network and let us remote into the system. Problem solved, right? Not until the system goes down and becomes inaccessible for 30 minutes.
 

To provide quality, patient centered services, our systems must be stable, reliable and consistent over time. We have found that the best way to provide this is by limiting the number of different devices and solutions within our environment. Not that we don’t like the latest and greatest, but we focus first and foremost on patient care. When we develop new systems, our goal is to provide a reliable solution that provides data at the right place at the right time as well as providing efficiency for the end user and the patient. The time and a proven KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) works more times than not and standardization of systems provides our limited resources to focus on providing quality versus trying to appease everyone. I truly believe that any device used for patient care must be tested, tried and true. Again, this is about patient care and the expectation of our end users is the software and hardware used to deliver care works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Too many times solutions have been rushed into production without being thoroughly tested leading to failure at the point of care. This in turn leads to poor adoption of the solution. 

So, how do we innovate while also providing stable, reliable and consistent systems? By implementing an infrastructure than can adapt to the ever changing technologies. As our lead research and development technician, I constantly challenge my team to architect our infrastructure, which can accessed by any device and provide access to our internal systems. What our team developed was a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) network, which users can log into a secured web gateway to access our systems. This allows for our end users to bring the device of their choosing. From the support side we assist with network connectivity and accessing our gateway. Support simplified along with providing an innovative solution. 

Another innovative solution we have implemented is Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) with single sign on functionality. Prior to having this solution, we received support issues with end users losing work due to the device losing wireless network connectivity, end users being logged out of the system due to established time limitations and end users logging out their co-worker so they can utilize the system. End users would have to re-establish connectivity, log back into the application and re-enter the information they had previously lost. Hence, the loss of productivity due to lengthy login process and inputting information for the second time. With VDI, we have improved productivity and efficiency as each user has a desktop running in the virtual environment and all data is not local to the device. End users can seamlessly login to any device and pick up where they left off in their work process without losing information. Additionally, by adding single sign on functionality we have reduced the time to login into a device. In the first department where we implemented this, we were able to achieve a savings of 1,920 hours in productivity. 

Being able to provide quality patient centered services and innovative solutions is like walking a razor’s edge. At any point you could fall in favor of supporting few solutions to ensure high quality or fall into the side of innovation trying to provide the latest and greatest to appease all. Achieving a balance approach is a challenge for all of us and one that I embrace daily.

Now where did I place my most recent copy of the Sears Christmas Catalog?

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