New Mission For CMIOs

The Advisory Board recently released a report on the changing roles and responsibilities of Chief Medical Information Officers – and it predicted that these folks will play a vital role in the rollout and maturation of telehealth systems.

For the past five years, CMIOs have primarily dealt with the herculean task of implementing and fine-tuning EHRs. As more organizations enter Meaningful Use Stage 3, CMIOs can now turn their attention to things like telehealth, population health management and analytics (all of which are intertwined).

The report concludes that CMIOs are ideal candidates for overseeing the design and implementation of innovative projects like telehealth networks. Most CMIOs are seasoned practitioners, not computer nerds. They have the clinical, operational and strategic experience to ensure that telehealth systems will be easy for physicians to use – and will complement what’s being done in population health management and predictive analytics.

In the Advisory Board study, none of the CMIOs interviewed were computer scientists – and almost all of them had backgrounds in physician leadership. They shared a passion for process design and improvement, which means that we’ll see steady yet significant enhancements in the telehealth networks they oversee.

There are three things that every organization should do to help their CMIOs succeed:

  • Offload some of their current EHR work (especially optimization) to other members of their team so they have more time to focus on telehealth.
  • Send them to clinical informatics conferences – Most CMIOs are self-taught and relish opportunities for ongoing education.
  • Give them a greater voice in strategic planning for telehealth, population health management and predictive analytics.

Fortunately, tomorrow’s telehealth networks will be shaped in large part by CMIOs who have years of clinical and operational experience, not by techies who don’t understand that world.

CMIO Telehealth

CMIO Telehealth

Honestly, Doc

At the dawn of the computer age, there were all sorts of Orwellian predictions that humans would one day be frightened and oppressed by these awful machines. But now that computers are part of the everyday fabric of life, studies show that many people prefer digital interactions over human encounters.

Case in point: being completely honest with your doctor. Who among us hasn’t told a few fibs to our friendly physician? Things like “I’m going to the gym four times a week” and “I haven’t been to Krispy Kreme in over a year.”

In some studies, nearly one third of patients say they haven’t been totally honest with their physicians – and most doctors feel the percentage of truth-benders is much higher than that. This obviously makes it far more difficult to make accurate diagnoses.

It should come as no surprise, then, that a recent study in Computers in Human Behavior found that patients are more honest with “virtual humans” than with their real-life physicians. They’re much more willing to disclose personal information because there’s no embarrassment or fear of disclosure.

These findings echo a study in JAMA Surgery that found that two-thirds of patients in post-operative surgical rounds prefer to see their own doctor via “telerounding” technology rather than get an in-person visit from a physician they don’t know.

The old science fiction predictions about menacing computers and robots wanting to probe your mind (and other parts) have proven to be ludicrous. Remote presence technology is helping to capture and share patient information that’s often more honest and accurate than face-to-face encounters.


Telepsychiatry Cuts ED Wait Times

HealthONE in Denver cuts ED wait times while improving behavioral health care through remote presence.

A recent study published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine revealed that behavioral health patients wait on average an astounding 11.5 hours before being treated or released.

These half-day waits are mainly due to the fact that many hospitals don’t even operate psychiatric wards anymore. And because reimbursement for behavioral health is among the lowest in medicine, many hospitals see these units as risky investments.

But the HealthONE hospital chain in Denver is bucking the trend by opening a new 40-bed psychiatric ward – one of the first in Colorado in quite some time. The new unit has implemented remote presence technology with a dual aim: to improve service to behavioral health patients while helping to shorten ED wait times. A remote psychiatrist can use the InTouch Telemedicine System and a device like the RP-Lite or RP-VITA to talk with the patient and make a timely diagnosis.

Dr. George Bussey, HealthONE’s chief medical officer, recently shared his organization’s strategic vision in an interview with National Public Radio. “ER wait times are often a function of how many people are in your waiting room and how many available beds you have,” said Bussey. “And if you have, for example, a 30-bed ED with five [behavioral health] patients who aren’t being moved out of beds, you’ve effectively turned yourself into a 25-bed emergency department, at which point you begin to get the backup.”

By directing behavioral health patients to a more appropriate care setting, HealthONE’s EDs can operate more profitably – and the shorter wait times give the organization a competitive edge over other area hospitals. Telepsychiatry also creates goodwill in the community. Patients love wait times that can be measured in minutes, not the time it takes to watch all three Lord of the Rings movies.

Making behavioral health patients wait 12 hours for treatment is downright medieval. Remote presence is helping them get the prompt, expert care they deserve – and helping EDs reduce wait times and improve the bottom line. You don’t have to be Carl Jung to understand why telepsychiatry is rapidly gaining momentum.