On this Friday's episode, Partick Anderson, CIO of City of Hope, joined to discuss the growth of his health system and the impact of the pandemic on 2021.
City of Hope is a cancer center established in 1913 and is a founding member of the National Cancer Institute (NCI). According to the U.S. News & World Report, they are among the best centers for over the last decade.
According to Anderson, the center serves as part patient care and part research institute. They offer advanced therapies in cancer and chronic diseases and use "tremendous science” to create life-saving treatments. Examples include precision medicine therapies with immunotherapy T-cell and STEM cell science specifically for the individual patient.
"We have good manufacturing plants that manufacture the molecules that we put back into the patients to have their own immune system fight off the cancer and other chronic diseases," Anderson explained.
But with the pandemic, the way City of Hope operated changed. According to Anderson, the center had to pause many IT projects to focus on working from home, optimizing and screening employees and visitors, adding ICU beds, creating new workflows, and installing new builds.
In 2021, Anderson has been able to move from delivering solutions into building business value. He now has 26 steering committees across the organization because IT has become critical to the strategy and execution of organization initiatives.
When the need for telehealth spiked, City of Hope embraced virtual care. Anderson explained their system had already been moving towards virtual care beforehand, but the pandemic accelerated their process.
"At that point, we were doing only about ten visits a day; predominantly international medicine, leveraging other platforms. But once the pandemic hit, we did an immediate rush on Amwell. We stood it up manually with no integration with our Epic EMR for scheduling and so forth," he said.
Once the scheduling integration was built, it allowed the center to better leverage the platform and majorly increase the visits per day. The level of virtual visits has stayed consistent since then, and Anderson does not expect them to change in the future.
Ambulatory visits, on the other hand, have decreased over the months due to the pandemic; however, numbers are slowly increasing again, Anderson explained.
"We're still keeping the pace with virtual care, and we're expecting the visits to return this summer back to normal level," he said.
Though City of Hope is a specialized center, they have treated COVID-19 patients since spring 2020, which despite its challenges, is well informed by their health system’s experiences.
"We're experts in working with patients with compromised immune systems anyways, so it was pretty natural for us to take care of COVID patients," he said.
Even with complications presented by Covid-19, there were also silver linings to be found. According to Anderson, the rapid embracing of digital health with virtual care, the addition of the Amwell platform, and the reprioritization of patient experience roadmaps have been beneficial. It has allowed for increased education, automation of their patient portal to eastern scheduling, and an optimized check-in procedure.
"I think now with the pandemic, we've really turned the ship again on providing value. . . Now the business brings us in faster and earlier for most strategic initiatives. And that's really been the most inspiring result of the pandemic for City of Hope for IT," he said.
While telehealth has been heavily utilized, additional campuses are needed. Recently, a center was added in Orange County, Calif. This will alleviate the large number of patients commuting over an hour to the nearest location.
"People were having to travel pretty far across Los Angeles from Orange County to get that advanced care, to get our life-saving therapies. So, we decided to invest significantly into Orange County," Anderson explained.
The newest installment, located in Newport Beach, Calif., has already reached capacity, and a new campus in Irvine, Calif., is expected to open next year.
But elevating the patient experience will require more than accessible locations, Anderson explained. For Anderson, the technological priority must emphasise patient monitoring.
With many hesitant to leave their homes, especially to hospitals and clinics, there will be an incentive to keep people at home. This will be achieved through remote patient monitoring, Anderson believes.
Remote care can also go beyond the home. City of Hope is currently building a hotel on its Los Angeles campus to aid discharged patients that need to stay close to their physicians and adjust to self-monitoring.
"I think we're going to really focus hard on remote patient monitoring and increase those use cases and drive that patient experience," he said.
In addition to campus expansion and remote patient monitoring, City of Hope is working to make a trip to the doctor a smooth experience. Instead of stressing about parking, their partnership with the Frogparking app means patients are assigned a parking spot closest to their destination before their arrival.
Along with these initiatives for growth, the center’s other projects focus on three areas: enterprise resource planning (ERP), clinical enterprise, and research enterprise. They plan to create multi-year roadmaps and funding to upgrade these platforms to optimize value.
Some projects have been abandoned for the time being, especially in the clinical enterprise, he explained. Projects had to be slowed down because they were unsure what 2021 funding would be. However, there are still initiatives moving forward like precision medicine, an oncology platform, the Orange County campus, and construction.
"We're going to hold and wait [on discretionary projects]. We're reducing our spend wherever we can. Waiting for the return of better volumes, better patient volumes to drive the revenue needed for us to pick up the pace again on our priorities," he said.
It is an exciting time to be in advanced cancer research because of this need for automation like chatbots, artificial intelligence, and prescriptive analytics. And with moving towards these goals, Anderson explained he has a great team focusing on inter-operating. His leadership is fully aligned with others in the organization, which has made a noticeable difference.
"We run the IT department here with a leadership team, and we run it through the playbook, the dashboards. And every time we find areas of weakness, we just drive KPIs towards that. We monitor it for a year, and then once it's stabilized and claimed, then we drop it, and we look for other opportunities to improve," he said.
To learn more about this episode of This Week in Health IT, watch the full interview at www.thisweekhealth.com.
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Katie Talpos - Staff Writer