An IT consultant’s top three takeaways from the 2019 CHIME CIO Fall Forum

November 13, 2019
By Rob Barras

C-Suite information technology leaders are expected to be the go-to experts at their organizations about any number of complex issues. But where do these smart people go when they have questions of their own? This year’s Fall CIO Forum held by the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) proved once again why the annual event is truly the “safe space” for CIOs and CMIOs to discuss what they don’t know — and need to understand fast.

As a CHIME foundation member, CTG has attended the forum for years. We typically hold a focus group to more deeply understand the most currently pressing issues for senior healthcare IT leaders, as we did again this year. During those discussions, and in the many other conversations we had over the course of the forum, several recurring themes rose to the top.

Data quality must become an operational imperative
Over and over we heard from CIOs and CMIOs: “Everything we want to do with population health and analytics starts and ends with data quality. But data inputs come from everywhere, so controlling the quality of inputs is difficult at best.”

They also contended that while data quality should be owned by operational stakeholders, holding staff accountable for the quality of their data input (including making that a key performance indicator) could have a substantive impact on overall quality.

We believe that IT can and should “govern data governance,” including oversight of data sources and metrics, and playing a leading role in the creation of a solid framework for enterprise analytics.

A digital patient engagement strategy requires multiple players
Just about every CIO we spoke with agreed: patient engagement has to happen at more ambulatory access points in 2020. This isn’t just for the organization’s bottom line. Gaps or delays in outreach put patient health at risk, and contribute to much of the avoidable waste in healthcare.

Most in our focus group said they are in various stages of deploying engagement strategies and infrastructure. All of their respective organizations are well aware that patient engagement is practically a mandate, and as such, they’re talking with and evaluating patient engagement vendors.

We have a recommendation for organizations that are in similar discussions: your CIO should lead the digital patient engagement strategy. But marketing and revenue departments are essential partners.

Marketing knows more than anyone else the importance of the user experience when it comes to getting patients to become repeat users of various engagement apps and portals. And because so much of patient engagement takes place at access points that involve payment transactions, it’s critical to include the revenue cycle management teams in engagement strategies.

A relevant example: engaging patients to schedule appointments and pay their copays and deductibles online.

Telehealth is still top of mind … but need to win over physicians
If anyone is aware of the provider shortage, it’s the providers themselves who are managing staggering caseloads. And they are the first to acknowledge that telemedicine seems a promising answer to opening up healthcare to the many populations that struggle to access it.

But as we heard from different senior healthcare IT leaders at CHIME, providers want to see a telehealth model with clearly defined workflows that align well with how they care for patients. As CIOs know all too well, this is easier said than done. Translating physician workflow to a virtual model would be difficult even if workflows didn’t vary by individual providers — which they do.

However, there are standard workflows that can be transferred to a virtual model, while, of course, some workflows aren’t needed at all for telehealth. We’ve seen a number of provider organizations successfully add telehealth to their services, and it’s making a difference for patients.

These were among the most interesting topics we heard discussed in the focus group and throughout the event. There were many others, but the unifying takeaway is this: the CHIME Fall Forum is where some of the best thinking takes place around how to make technology work for patients and providers.

About the author: Rob Barras is a veteran healthcare technology leader at IT solutions consultancy CTG (NASDAQ: CTG).