5 Questions: UPMC Physicians on Health IT

Clinicians are on the front lines, using healthcare technology in their daily workflows. To get a sense of how technology is integrating into patient care, we recently sat down with three physicians from UPMC, a large academic healthcare institution based in Pittsburgh, Pa., consisting of 21 hospitals and a network of more than 3,500 employed physicians. The physicians opened up about the efficiency gained from mobile devices and the patient care benefits they’re seeing. They also shared insights from a pilot project currently underway using Windows* 8 tablets, and their hopes for the future as technology continues to change the game for providers and patients.

Joining us for this discussion were Dr. Rasu Shrestha, Vice President of Medical Information Technology across UPMC, Dr. Oscar Marroquin, a cardiologist who oversees clinical analytics and new models of care initiatives for UPMC, and Dr. Shivdev Rao, an academic cardiologist with 14 years of training, who works at the UPMC Technology Development Center as a physician adviser in residence.Rashu_Shrestha hr.jpg

There are many new patients coming into the U.S. healthcare system; how will this impact healthcare technology?

Marroquin: As more patients come into the healthcare system, physicians and providers in general are going to have to find ways to be more efficient at how we deliver care. We need to be efficient in the time that we spend with each patient and in the time between patients doing clerical work. Also, we need to be actively participating in the development of applications that take advantage of mobility, algorithms and analytics that lead us to delivering care in a faster, more efficient way.

With all of the new wearable technology coming to market, providing users with real-time data, how are you turning big data into meaningful information?

Shrestha: One of the challenges that we have in healthcare today is that we’re data rich and information poor. At the same time, we have this growing tsunami of data sets that are hitting us left, right and center. At UPMC within our information systems we have today 5.4 petabytes of data and that number is growing at a rate that doubles every 18 months. The challenge for institutions like UPMC is how to tame the data. If there are specific sensors tracking to specific types of metrics that are important from a health management perspective, are there specific times when you know it’s actually necessary to alert the clinician?  It’s not just about looking at data, but it’s recognizing patterns and being able to really condense this in a useful, intelligent, actionable manner for the clinicians and for the patients.

Tell us about mobility in healthcare. How does it affect you as a physician?

Rao: Healthcare is all about communication. Patients communicate their problems to me, and then I integrate those problems and try to contextualize them and communicate diagnoses and therapies. It’s really a dialectical situation. Mobility empowers that communication.

Marroquin: Mobility has had a positive impact on patient care: One, it allows us at the point of care to have all the information at our finger tips, and that lets us make the right decision at the right time to understand what’s going on and take action. Two, it’s useful in that I can share the information that I’m reviewing and have a tool that allows me to explain to patients why we are doing the tests or the treatments that we’re recommending.

At the more than 20 hospitals in the UPMC network, is a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) or end-to-end solution more desirable?

Shrestha: Consumerism in healthcare is a growing trend, and we’re all inundated with mobile devices. At UPMC, we’ve been working on a number of different scenarios with regards to BYOD, supporting a variety of different devices that our clinicians and others would want to bring into the work environment to get their work done. We’ve always had to deal with the challenges of security and access. We make sure that sensitive information in any records does not reside on a mobile device without some level of security. We’ve been very careful to evaluate all of the different devices as well as all of the different operating systems. We’ve learned quite a bit even in terms of the experiences that we’ve had with BYOD.

UPMC is undertaking a pilot project, Convergence, with Intel and Microsoft using Surface tablets with Windows* 8. What are some of the benefits of having all your clinical apps available to you on a tablet and how is it enhancing your ability to collaborate?

Shrestha: The interaction that we have with our patients is of paramount importance. What we’ve seen in the Convergence pilot is that the Surface tablet allows for information to be readily available to me as a clinician, so I can spend a lot more time with patients and I’m able to really interact with them and talk about things that I maybe wouldn’t have had the time to talk about. I’m able to pick up specific nuances of things that otherwise I would have missed as a result of being too busy with my eyes locked on the screen trying to piece information together. What’s also interesting about the tablet form factor is that at any given point in time, we’re able to just flip it around and actually show patients specific trends. We’re able to talk to them and educate them about the specifics, so it truly does make an impact in the interaction that we have with our patients.

Ben Wilson is director of mobile for healthcare at Intel Corporation. See his other blogs here.