Trends and Lessons from Government Health IT

Health affects everyone, and almost everyone deals with mobile technology. Putting the two together, the growth of health IT seems inevitable. June’s DorobekINSIDER Live brought together Roger Baker, former Chief Information Officer of the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), and Catherine Andrews, Director of Content at GovLoop, to discuss current trends in health IT, how it is shaping government, and GovLoop’s recent health IT guide.

As moderator Chris Dorobek began the session, he emphasized the vastness of this field, noting that it covers “everything from the device that you might be wearing on your arm to monitor your health… to mobile devices in hospitals that are transforming how doctors manage and use information.”

But what makes health IT so important? In answering this question, Baker said, “Let’s start with how health IT saves lives.” He used the example of the Bar Code Medication Administration (BCMA), which was first implement by the VA around fifteen years ago. The program uses a barcode system to ensure that the right patient is getting the right medication. Baker said, “When BCMA was implemented, it cut down on medication errors in the hospital dramatically, and you could count the number of lives it saved each year in the hundreds and thousands.”

He also added that BCMA was just one example, and that several health IT programs help save lives on a regular basis, such as electronic health records, which allow doctors to convey information more easily, health tools like MRIs, and big data analytics that can identify individual and population trends. These examples of health IT work together to create a safer environment for patients, which also results in a more cost-effective environment. Baked admitted that from a mobile and big data perspective, health IT has a long way to go, but the outcomes will have a significant impact.

Baker provided some lessons learned from his time as CIO. One challenge is getting people onboard with new technologies, and he recommended making sure they understand that these changes will make their work more efficient or make things better for the patient. It’s important to have the support of credible internal believers who can help you create change within an organization.

Similarly, Baker advocated for listening to the doctors. Create your IT strategies around what the doctors tell you will work, because it is easy to get caught up in the IT side of things and imagine that health IT is primarily a tech innovation. For Baker at the VA, the only thing that mattered was “veterans walking out of the hospital healthy.” On the other hand, the inverse is important as well. Don’t let doctors guide the IT process. Health IT requires the expertise of several players and a community outlook. Partners need to contribute their own skills.

This emphasis on partnership and community is apparent in current government health IT trends. GovLoop’s recent guide, Cybersecurity, Analytics, & More: The 8 Government Health IT Trends You Need to Know covers prevalent trends that are changing the government health landscape. As Dorobek and Andrews noted, these trends are all connected, building off each other to create a unified network of health IT.

The eight trends in the guide are cybersecurity, internet of things, interoperability, data analytics, cloud, population health management, telehealth, and precision medicine. The guide includes information on each trend, including case studies and takeaways, along with interviews with leaders in the field. Andrews said one of the biggest takeaways she found from research and writing the guide was realizing that the trends and challenges in health IT are the trends in government IT more broadly.

Dorobek and Andrews discussed the importance of cybersecurity, the growth of connected devices, and how interface and usability affects data use, adoption, and analytics among other issues and trends. For more information on changes that are happening in health IT, how government agencies are adapting, and the relationship between health IT and cybersecurity, listen to the full webinar here and download GovLoop’s guide.

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