Health Technologies

Q&A: How a Strong Strategic Mission Helps Healthcare Organizations Innovate

HEALTHTECH: How can healthcare organizations keep innovation at the forefront amid tight budgets and workforce constraints?

LOWE: It’s a challenging balancing act. As leaders, we need to make sure that we’re not swayed by shiny objects or point solutions that may be interesting. We must, instead, seek a comprehensive return on investment. To find that alignment, it’s important to center your strategic mission.

At AltaMed, health equity is at our core. We are a community health center where we provide care to everyone. We believe that your healthcare should not be defined by your ZIP code. Our quality metrics are on par with some of the best systems in Southern California as reflected in our patient satisfaction scores. Our patients feel valued. When they come to one of our locations, they know that they will receive quality care that is also culturally competent, which is a very important aspect of AltaMed.

We’ve moved into a value-based care perspective. We have a number of programs, including PACE, or the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, that target our senior population and those with multiple chronic conditions. In addition to their physical care, we also address non-medical issues, such as their social and emotional well-being. We provide care with a holistic approach, keeping in mind the many social determinants of health that may impact our patients’ lives. We address those concerns as well. AltaMed has been actively trying to close health equity gaps not only from a clinical perspective but also from a community perspective.

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HEALTHTECH: How has the role of the healthcare CIO evolved in recent years? Where do you think the role will go in the future?

LOWE: I like to define the letter “I” in CIO in many different ways. Of course, it can stand for “information,” but there’s also innovation, informatics, influence and impact. In order to be a high-performing CIO, you need to be well versed in all five of those areas.

Historically, the CIO role may have been more back-office – taking care of the data center and related technology areas – but it’s changing. CIOs should be part of healthcare’s transformation and to really understand their organization’s strategic goals and objectives. We should be an integral member of the leadership team to help align and forecast where we need to move the organization, when to make investments and when to optimize in order to continually support our organization’s diverse needs.

HEALTHTECH: What are the top three healthcare IT lessons that your organization has learned over the past few years? What was some conventional wisdom that you had to challenge?

LOWE: When I started at AltaMed as CIO in 2018, I knew we needed to do more of a digital transformation. One key lesson that we’ve learned is that we need to continuously optimize our current applications; we can’t just sit back. We need to make sure that people are using them properly, and that we are making it easier and more frictionless for the patient and the provider.

Second, we need to know how the IT plan is supporting and enabling the business, and how we can enable changes for that digital health journey.

Third, we need to be mindful and excellent stewards of the resources that we have. We need to have those tough discussions about investments. Do we need to make this investment? How do we need to do it? Where do we need to do it? We also must be clear on our ROIs, whether it’s care delivery improvements, financial improvements or increasing provider satisfaction. It can be anything, but as an organization, we should understand what path we’re following and what outcomes we would like to achieve.

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HEALTHTECH: What are some of your healthcare IT priorities for this year?

LOWE: In terms of value-based care, we are tripling down from a data and data analytics perspective. How are we making it easier for care teams to understand the patient and the patient population? How can we send providers the proper alerts so that they know how to address patient needs? We’re really focusing on those questions to support our providers in the work they do.

Next, we want to make sure that we’re providing the best care to all our patients, including the older adults in our communities, utilizing both physical and virtual touchpoints. What are the technologies that can best support that? These are the issues that we’re also looking into.  

As CIO, I’m also looking at patient engagement. From the patient service center to the first patient visit, are we using the right tools to communicate and engage with our patients? There may be other opportunities for improvement that we may want to consider to support the continuum of care for every patient.

Finally, cybersecurity remains a priority. We must keep going on our maturation process to ensure that we are doing the right things for our providers and our patients, while ensuring the safety of our patient data.



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