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Thoughtful adoption of new health care technology benefits everyone

By Justin Gnau, MHSA, RHIA, CIO, St. Luke’s Health – Texas Division

In the health care field, our knowledge and capabilities constantly evolve, and with that continual progress comes the temptation to pounce on new technology that boasts an ability to help us better serve our patients or streamline our important work. It is imperative, however, that we responsibly invest in new technology in order to improve care without disrupting the frontline workers who take care of patients. We do not want to be distracted by the shiny new device and invest time and resources in its implementation, only to discover that it does not actually do what we need it to do.

Texas-based St. Luke’s Health recently adopted new artificial intelligence (AI) technology that integrates with a CT Scanner to review images rapidly. The AI software quickly identifies whether a patient has had or is about to have a stroke, and immediately alerts the stroke team by sending a message to their phones. This helps the doctors intervene faster than if the images were held up in a queue, as previously the radiologists read the scans in order as they received them.

So far, the new AI technology has worked exceptionally well to help doctors at St. Luke’s achieve improved time to intervention and decreased complications for the patients. This is a prime example of effective investment in new technology: it helps health care workers do their jobs, and most importantly, it helps save patients’ lives.

For hospitals considering a new piece of technology, it is crucial to begin by closely examining the problem you are trying to solve. Will this new technology improve patient care? Does the problem involve a workflow that needs to be made more efficient? Is there a way to creatively solve the problem in-house? By improving or tweaking an existing tool or technology, it is possible that there is a solution already at hand.

If it is determined that the problem cannot be solved with existing technology or refinement, then the next step is to move forward with requests for proposals (RFP). Within the RFP, it is also essential to define key performance indicators to accurately measure the success of the technology against the problem it is meant to solve. After reviewing the proposals submitted in response to your RFP, select a partner that best aligns with the mission of the organization. Remember, though, to remain impartial with vendors—do not become too friendly, and do not favor or promote one vendor over another. Be diligent with the research and make the best selection possible.

Speak with counterparts in other health systems to learn about their experience with the technology and implementation. While it can be beneficial to be an early adopter, hospitals can be sure they are making the smart choice if they wait for outside reviews.

Texas-based St. Luke’s Health recently adopted new artificial intelligence (AI) technology that integrates with a CT Scanner to review images rapidly.

Engage security teams immediately, so that the process isn’t postponed or canceled because of an unforeseen security risk with the vendor or technology. Ensure that the technology under consideration is something easily integrated with current systems, which will prevent wasted time trying to address complicated assimilation issues after the fact.

Perhaps most importantly, when a decision is made to invest in latest technology, do not overlook the testing phase. Testing is critical to the success of the implementation, as it ensures the new technology not only functions the way it should, but that it seamlessly integrates into current systems and is helpful for the employees who will use it in their daily work.

Identify staff members who are excited about the technology and who will champion it. Train those staff members as superusers early in the process. They will help integrate the new system and provide real-time support to their colleagues, rather than those colleagues waiting on IT or the help desk once the technology has been activated.

Finally, remember early in the process to make a budget and stick to it, as expenses can balloon steeply and quickly. Understand what the Return On Investment (ROI) is and when it will arrive, and communicate this information with stakeholders. A key component of introducing new technology is managing expectations. 

In terms of the new AI device reading St. Luke’s CT scans, the hospital knew that the ROI was saving and improving more patients’ lives. The hospital improved its ability to provide patients with quality care, resulting in higher standards of care across the board. Additionally, the new software helps members of the stroke team do their jobs, instead of disrupting them.

This process is something everyone in the field should follow right now, as they explore long-term solutions for health system employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. Following these parameters, hospitals should explore and fast-track any technology that strengthens their digital tools, whether it is technology to reduce touchpoints in hospital facilities, improve patient engagement virtually, or to better enable employeesto work remotely.

The purpose of new technology in health care is to aid health care workers in their role of saving and improving the lives of the patients they serve. It is essential to make sure that resources are invested wisely to fulfill that vital mission. If we are intentional and level-headed about the new technology we purchase, everyone in the organization benefits.

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