Interview: Methodist Health CIO on self-tracking

By Brian Dolan
07:24 am
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AirStrip TechnologiesAt the HIMSS event in Atlanta last week, MobiHealthNews sat down with Eddie Cuellar, CIO, Methodist Health System in North Texas to discuss his views on wireless health services, home monitoring, patient data integration and plans for application deployment at Methodist.

"We use AirStrip's Critical Care viewer at Methodist and it allows us to put real-time monitoring data on our physicians' devices," Cuellar said. "In the past we have been able to offer physicians text data on their devices -- text data like the latest lab numbers don't require a whole lot of display -- so PDAs and phones work well for notes that say a radiology report came back normal, for example. Clearly, we have to be able to move to graphical representation because there are huge advantages there. A lab result report is only as good as the last time the lab was taken while real-time remote monitoring from any place and at any time is just a phenomenal value add."

AirStrip is "the future"

"Take a look at AirStrip: That is clearly the future," Cuellar said. "Imagine enabling an ambulance driver to share critical information with the care facility or helping people use these remote monitoring tool sets at home -- those types of opportunities will begin to come into play during these next 12 months."

Biometrics captured at home "very important"

"Many players in this industry are focused on taking that home monitoring data and finding a way to integrate it into the physician's electronic health record (EHR)," Cuellar said. "Yes, physicians will still have the lab results and notes from the last time a patient visited, but they will also have the past three months worth of contemporaneous data about what has been going on in the meantime. Simple biometrics like weight, blood pressure, pulse, and body temperature can absolutely help a physician make a diagnosis if that data has been tracked consistently over a period of time. These will become very important to primary care physicians over time."

Integrating biometric data into EHRs is "fairly easy"

"Integrating biometric data into EHRs is fairly easy, to be honest," Cuellar said. "From a technology perspective, capturing those data elements is not rocket science. This contemporaneous data captured at home is much more valuable than the biometrics recorded when patients visit a physician's office, because you are nervous and scared and blood pressure goes up. One thing you hear from physicians sometimes is that you can't trust the patient to collect this data, but if you can't trust them to collect data then how can you trust them at all when they walk in your door. Even if a patient is not very good at monitoring their data, at least some data will come out of it that could lead to a pattern of some kind."

The smartphone is "the data collector"

"The smartphone is the data collector and it uploads the biometric data to the personal health record (PHR) controlled by the user," Cuellar said. "If we have interoperability, then the PHR will share that data with the physician's EMR. This new data won't change the physician's workflow too much since they are already looking at previous lab results data, they can take 30 seconds and review trend data that comes out of the patient collected biometrics. It's worth the time."

Methodist will align with some PHRs

Methodist is still implementing its infrastructure, but we are working with GE Healthcare to ensure our physicians, patients and their families can use mobile devices within our facility regardless of their device or carrier relationship. We are currently working on data interfaces between our various hospitals and physicians, then we are going to work to figure out which PHR we should align ourselves with, which leads to transferring PHR data to EMRs. We can't interface with all PHR providers so we are looking at the big players. These initiatives won't be completed in the short term, but in the next year or two these capabilities will be real.

Last fall, Cuellar announced his facility's plans to work with GE and Sprint on its wireless infrastructure could lead to reduced costs, a smaller IT team and ultimately more room in the budget to hire care workers.

“We are reducing costs by reducing wireless infrastructure,” Cuellar said at the time. “Telemetry has been in its own wireless system. As we transition to newer telemetry devices, we are now putting those on the same wireless infrastructure, so we are laying the groundwork for a higher-end infrastructure,” Cuellar said. “For every FTE [full-time equivalent] job I can cut, that’s another nurse we can hire."

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