February 28: Today on TownHall Reid Stephan, VP and CIO at St. Lukes talks with Michael Pfeffer, Chief Information Officer at Stanford Health Care and Stanford University School of Medicine about sustainability in the healthcare IT space. Why does the video component of virtual meetings need to be considered as part of the conversation? How does a new approach to virtual meetings lead to a human sustainability benefit?
Healthcare needs innovative ways to address staffing shortages from clinical to IT employees. Are you curious about how technology can help support your Healthcare staff? Join us on our March 9 webinar, “Leaders Series: The Changing Nature of Work,” to explore how Health IT can be used to supplement Healthcare professionals.
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Today on This Week Health.
Having some ability to disconnect with technology, whether it's turning off your video when clearly you are not participating, say at that point is I think really good for wellbeing.
We need to think about how do you allow people to disconnect? That break I think is really, really important.
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Welcome to the This Week Health Community Town Hall conversation. I'm Reid Stephan, VP and CIO at St. Luke Health System in Boise, Idaho, and I'm joined today by Dr. Mike Pfeffer, CIO at Stanford Healthcare and Stanford University School of Medicine. Mike, happy New year and thank you for making the time.
Thanks, Reid. Happy New Year as well. It's always a pleasure to get to chat.
So take just a minute and introduce Stanford Healthcare for listeners who likely know the name, but may not be familiar with the full scope of services you provide.
Sure. , Stanford Healthcare is really an amazing organization situated in the Bay Area, and we have Outpatient clinics throughout where with City Palo Alto the South Bay, and are really, really interested in being uniquely Stanford innovative and putting patients at the center of our care.
So, it, it's truly an incredible place and really attracts truly innovative physicians focused on research, education, and patient.
And I always love to ask guests, and I think in your case with your medical background and the c i O role, I'm really interested to hear your story, but just share with our listeners your education background, your career path, like how did you end up in the role you have today?
So I'm an internal medicine physician by training. And actually if we go back even further than that I did chemical engineering as my, major in college because I really like the idea of process improvement. Mm-hmm. and really thinking about how do we make something better and do it in a way that's sustainable, that's scale.
And , that's reproducible. And so, when I moved into medicine, , I really love that connection with patients science and art to kind of bring that all together. But I was frustrated with the way that we were operating in the paper world and that we could be potentially so much more efficient and thoughtful about what we do if we could harness technology.
And that's kind of how I got involved into health. It. I Became part of the project to implement the electronic health record at UCLA Health, which was an amazing experience. Got to really understand technology, how it could really improve patient care and how we think about kind of the future of medicine.
And so that led me to be where I am today in health.
Okay, well that's good for Stanford and good for the healthcare industry. So wonderful. I think it's such a unique blend when you've got the deep medical expertise in the c I O role. I just think it's a really compelling combination of talents and abilities that, that benefits everybody.
Even outside of Stanford you and I were at an event last year and you were sharing something. Continues to kind of occupy some thought space in my mind. You were talking about sustainability. Which is something a lot of organizations are, ] talking about and focused on. What I loved about what you shared though, is sometimes sustainability can feel more aspirational.
Sometimes it feels like sustainability theater rather than something pragmatic and applicable, and you shared. , a narrative that really resonated with me and something that I've taken back. And we've had some progress here at St. Luke's as well. Will you take a few minutes and just kind of share that conversation and maybe what you've done even since we talked about it?
Sure. Absolutely. I can't take much credit for this because sustainability at Stanford University is something that's near and dear to what we believe. And that really was the catalyst to think about how do we kind of learn from the university, Stanford Healthcare, that's done a lot of work in this space.
Really focus on the information technology side of things and make it a part of everything we do. So when we think about where we're going to purchase equipment or what is our data center, gonna look like, where is it gonna be all the way to, you know, how do you think about using software and technologies to, improve the way we use energy with our.
And on the biomedical engineering side, which is part of our technology and digital solutions organization there's tremendous opportunity to think about sustainability in terms of reusable, right? Tubing lines, all of these things. How can we do that better? So. Within the organization, we decided that this would become one of our strategic pillars of thinking about, okay, how do we really understand what we're doing in sustainability and then decide how we're gonna move the needle on this and not try to boil the ocean.
Literally. I guess that's a bad analogy when talking about sustainability. But, make sure that we're focused on a couple things a year that we can measure and then. Show improvement and then decide, okay, what are we gonna do next? And so what we've developed is a sustainability committee within the IT organization that reports up to me and my leadership team, such that we get kind of quarterly updates and discussions on sustainability.
, it's part of our organizational strategic plan in it. And It's really been an exciting way to kind of bring people together in the organization to think about this. I think one of the key things I will say is the partnership that we have with the sustainability office at Stanford Healthcare and in the university at large.
Because being part of something bigger to really, move the needle is, is really critical. We don't wanna reinvent the wheel, we don't wanna try to do things solely by ourself, but it's really. Learning, collaborating, partnering, and then, making it part of the fabric of what we do in it and then making sure we measure it and improve kind of from that, stance.
Yeah. Can we talk just for a little bit, one of the examples that you shared was around the use of video in virtual meetings and just some simple kind of guidelines and patterns there that can make a meaningful difference. Will you share a bit about that?
Sure. So, again, I think the actual numbers can be a little debatable, but video technology requires a lot more energy than voice.
So if you think about it if there's. a 500 person meeting and you're showing PowerPoints, why does everybody else need to be on video? And you could even coalesce it down to a 20 person meeting, if someone's presenting PowerPoints have everybody turn off their video, who's not presenting, and then when the PowerPoints come down and you're gonna have a discussion, then everybody can turn on their video.
And it's, it's little things like that, how do you utilize. energy you know, Monitoring technologies to turn on and off, monitors or computers when they're not being used and So we're looking at things like that in order to make, small but meaningful changes in the way that we think about sustainability.
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We're gonna talk about a couple things. One is the remote distribution of health IT staff and what we have to do from a management standpoint in that regard. We're also gonna talk. The lack of staff specifically in the clinical areas and technicians and whatnot, and what the role healthcare and technology in particular is gonna play.
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Yeah, I think for me, what I really loved about the angle with virtual meetings is not only does that, I think provide benefit for the sustainability of just energy consumption and good for the planet, but we've also found like sustainability , for the humans involved. Because what we heard was people we had kind of adopted this attitude of.
That's how we measure engagement. So if you're in a meeting, whether there's five people or five hundred your video's on, so we can see that you're listening and watching and participating. and as we've talked to employees and have introduced this kind of concept of let's be sustainable and let's be wise about the use of videos, one of the side benefits is employees saying it's so nice to not feel kind of this pressure to always have my camera on because if I'm in a meeting with a live meeting, I can kind of gauge who's looking at me and I've got time to kind of just naturally.
you know, Scratch my face or, or not worry about like, who's looking at me or if I'm on a meeting, I don't know, like, who's looking. So I feel like I'm always on and there's this physical and emotional and mental fatigue that sets in. So we found that this kind of, it kind of ticked both boxes for us and
It was so simple and I thought, well, why did it take like a meeting to have someone else share this really obvious idea? So my hope is that what you just shared might be a catalyst for others to, not, as you said, and maybe it's the wrong kind of analogy, but the description works. Don't boil the ocean.
Like you don't have to do everything. There's small things you can do that will add up and make a huge difference.
I agree. And. The point about having some ability to disconnect with technology, whether it's turning off your video when clearly you are not participating, say at that point in the meeting or whatever is I think really good for wellbeing.
And one of the things I think in general technology, and we need to think about is how do you allow people to disconnect? That break I think is really, really important. So it's a really good point. And it reduces the amount of stress and anxiety about having to stare back at a camera. Which is not really a natural thing that, , we're really used to doing. Like you said, an in-person meeting, that level of being watched is not there. So I agree with you. I think there's secondary benefits as well.
Yeah. Here's another simple one that we're, we're kind of piloting, but we've had some good results so far. And it didn't stem from. A sustainability specific focus, but that there's some, residual benefit. The focus was people started to say, man, now that I'm more kind of remote and hybrid, my day is just like back to back to back to back.
Like, I don't have breaks between meetings like I normally would when I was in the office. And so we've just kind of adjusted and. instead of going on a 30 minute and 60 minute kind of typical meeting cadence, we do 25 minutes and 45 or 50 minutes just to give people that time to decompress and transition between meetings.
But then we've also realized, well, we're also shortening kind of the energy consumption then of the meeting technology in those meetings. So it all kind of can build and work together for the benefit of the entire ecosystem, which is great.
Yeah, that's a great idea. We've tried that on and off, and sometimes it sticks for a little while and it goes back.
Yeah. And I've found that, starting the meetings later as opposed to ending them early actually works pretty well because when you try to end them early, or it's the 45 minute mark, people are like, oh, we, we've got a couple more minutes to go to the end. Yeah. But if you start later, there's this mental kind of, yes, there's a finish line model that you have to end at the 30 or 60 minute mark.
But yeah, I think those are great ideas and. the CIO for the university here at Stanford does a really great thing when we have our CIO council. There's like a 30 minute kind of. Open session where you can log into Zoom and just chat with your colleagues and it's kind of mm-hmm. built into the way the, meeting works and it's a very intentional, kind of water cooler type of, setup.
Yeah. That I think is really important to think about as we, continue to learn about this hybrid working world.
Yeah. Well thank you for all that you're doing there, Stanford, and to kind of share , with us and our listeners, just some ideas for ways that we can all in our environments and in our, our hospitals or health systems, they're just little things we can do that will benefit sustainability efforts at large.ediction you have in the year:
So I'm gonna use kind of the same thing we've seen, we've just been talking about, , I think healthcare is gonna be focused on sustain.
And the reason is I think it's not just about, how can we reduce energy consumption, but it's about health and we know that if we don't have a sustainable way we do things, a planet that we can live on, health is gonna be the first thing that's gonna be compromised.is going to be a big theme in:
Okay, great. Well, you wouldn't use the word guarantee, but I think that's a pretty safe prediction for this year.
So I can certainly wrap my arms around that. Mike, thank you for your time. Great conversation. Great insights. Appreciate you and enjoy the rest of your year.
Thanks so much, Reid. You too. Always a pleasure to chat.
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