ELECTRONIC MEDICAL RECORDS. Meaningful Use deadlines. Smartphone apps. There’s more information available than ever in healthcare today, and the sheer volume of it can be overwhelming. To not only keep up but to stay ahead, HCA works on many different fronts so that everyone from doctors and nurses to lab techs and billing specialists have what they need at their fingertips to do their jobs well, and provide outstanding healthcare to patients.

Health information technology is a complicated subject, says Dr. Jim Jirjis, Chief Health Information Officer. And when you’re looking at a company with the size and scope of HCA, there are a lot of moving parts that have to be considered when looking at buying or developing new hardware or software.

“HCA’s history with clinical informatics began with sharing financial technology, and then eventually moving into resource management systems,” Dr. Jirjis says. “By the early 2000s, with Meaningful Use and electronic medical records coming, we began to heavily invest in our clinical infrastructure as well, with the addition of Dr. Jon Perlin as the visionary clinical leader in 2006. We then began to put into place informatics systems for the entire enterprise rather than expecting individual hospitals to develop and implement a plan.”

The federal government’s Meaningful Use mandates have been a welcomed accelerant of the push within HCA for digitizing care, which has meant not only creating systems for EMR, but also getting clinicians to use them. Clinical informatics now focuses on integrating EMR into all the other patient data HCA collects, and building a global system with a single user interface that allows the user to tap into data from multiple sources, Dr. Jirjis says.

“The vision is, we want an Amazon-like experience for healthcare,” he explains. “We want a system that fits it all together. That means advanced analytics and real-time decision support. When a doctor goes to see a patient, he or she should be able to have data pointing out for example that if this individual has a certain condition, and he’s going to prescribe a particular antibiotic, there could be a harmful outcome. We are trying to build an infrastructure that brings all the analytics, the big data, to the bedside.”

Improving the patient experience

Dr. Jim Jirjis
Dr. Jim Jirjis, Chief Health Information Officer

The benefits of this multiple-user interface are many. By helping the treatment team predict potential issues, it will work to improve outcomes and the patient experience. By being plugged into patient-portal systems, it can help schedulers and other post-discharge staff better follow patient compliance, thus reducing readmissions. The collected data also can be used for population management, so entire groups of patients can be tracked and treated more effectively. Lastly, the richness of clinical and other enterprise data coupled with investments in advanced analytics should help deliver better clinical, operational, and financial outcomes.

In the end, clinical informatics is about the collection, organization, storage and optimal use of information to promote quality healthcare, Dr. Jirjis says.

“When people talk about ‘big data,’ they’re talking about Meaningful Use, EMR and more, but also how to handle it and make that data work. That’s what’s happening at HCA,” he says.

Right now, Dr. Jirjis, along with Dr. Edmund Jackson, Ph.D., HCA’s new Chief Data Scientist, and their team are working on an interface design that will pull MediTech, Epic and multiple other systems together. It also will pull in data from mobile apps and desktop computers.

“We don’t want to build another EMR system,” Dr. Jirjis says. “We want to take control of data analytics and the front end user interface, and show people how to use information to deliver excellence in health care. We want to have all that information, all the apps that are out there now for doctors and nurses, within an ecosystem controlled by this front-end user interface.”

“We have a robust short-term strategy for making MediTech and other systems more stable, but also working on this longer-term user interface ‘front end’ strategy that will give the clinical users a much better experience and allow care to be more effective and efficient. HCA can and should lead the way.”