Through many small bets, Geisinger aims to radically redesign care

Geisinger CIO Karen Murphy says complexity in healthcare can hide providers’ underlying empathy.
By Jonah Comstock
10:57 am

Before we can solve the problems of patient engagement, we have to make sure we’re not the ones creating them. That was one takeaway of Geisinger CIO Karen Murphy’s remarks at the HIMSS Patient Engagement and Experience Summit in Orlando this morning.

“We’re trying to innovate because […] patient engagement and patient experience is truly not ideal,” she said. “We have the system arranged so that a good experience is a rarity because you have to make it through the gauntlet that we have put up.”

Murphy said that in some ways the patient experience at a hospital is actually worse than it was 30 years ago, because the system has added so much complexity.

“You really shouldn’t need an interpreter to figure out how to navigate the healthcare system,” she said. “It’s one thing to need a navigator for a language barrier, but for a barrier that we have set up due to the complexity of the system? The idea shouldn’t be ‘let’s add advocates’. The idea should be let’s fix the system so that patients can really feel the empathy and the caring that the team really has.”

Murphy believes that to create patient engagement, health systems have to be willing to make big fundamental changes — she defines innovation as “a fundamentally different approach to solving a problem that has quantifiable outcomes.” Part of that is taking bets on different kinds of innovative solutions to individual problems.

For instance, the health system recently launched a virtual reality pilot to reduce the need for opioids in post-operative knee surgery patients.

Another bet, and one that has already paid off in the pilot stage, is setting up “fresh food pharmacies”, which are grocery-store like experiences set up by the hospital for patients with diabetes to help them build good eating habits. After a successful pilot of around 200 food insecure patients, the hospital is adding two additional locations to serve 1,000 patients.

And the hospital is launching multiple marketing campaigns to de-stigmatize opioid abuse in an effort to help get more patients to seek treatment and recovery.

But to target the patient experience in a radical way, Murphy believes AI and machine learning will be essential tools — not to replace human interaction, but to make room for it.

“We have to leverage technology to where we can so we have the human interaction where we most need it,” she said. “When you’re telling someone that they have a cancer diagnosis, you want someone there. But we are going to have to leverage the technological resources, so when we don’t require human intervention, that we leverage [artificial intelligence and machine learning] technology.”

Geisinger has established a “true north” vision of what they want their care experience to be. But, Murphy says, the health system still has a long way to go to get there


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