Patient Focus Goes Hand in Hand with Data and Technology

Physician talking with patient

Stanley Shaw, MD, PhD

The health information and technology landscape is vast and ever-changing. With endless innovations, new regulations, and other accompanying challenges along the way, we look to our leadership to keep us afloat – to help us find an answer to the question: where do we go from here?

Stanley Shaw, MD, PhD, associate dean for Executive Education at Harvard Medical School, has dedicated himself to designing educational programs for companies and industry leaders across every domain of healthcare, in order to empower executives with the insights needed to move ahead.

“In healthcare, more than any other industry, what’s critical is to marry expertise in the technology with an understanding of the unique cultural and real-world context,” said Shaw. “Patient-focused is not just an industry buzzword for us – it’s at the heart of every interaction, each time a patient communicates or sits down with their physician,” Shaw explained. “So we live that – it’s not just a buzzword.” This is, of course, a sentiment that HIMSS shares whole-heartedly with Harvard Medical School.

Without deep understanding of real-world workflows combined with perspectives from both patients, providers, healthcare organizations and beyond, even the best innovations won’t find their way into day to day practice, Shaw explained. “There’s the conventional wisdom that in order to be a true innovation, something has to be novel and useful. So all of the technology pieces, the latest state-of-the-art in information and technology and analytics, those are powerful and novel. What sets the Harvard Medical School program apart – and provides the real-world strategic benefit – is that understanding the healthcare and patient context will help leaders and companies understand what’s truly useful.”

Creating an Unmatched Healthcare Executive Educational Experience

Among a multitude of other industry conferences, forums and events focused on executive education in healthcare information and technology, what’s so different about the Harvard Medical School Executive Education Program for HIMSS?

“This program is intentionally curated to show how health information and technologies and the unique perspectives of patients and providers are all interconnected, and together permeate every aspect of the patient experience and care delivery,” Shaw explained. “In many cases, the real-world experiences run counter to the expectations or the conventional wisdom. It’s critical to move beyond anecdotes and reality check the emerging evidence - that will also be a distinguishing highlight of our program.”

Shaw emphasized that the journey of data making its way through an organization must be coordinated with the patient experience. Both should be synchronized every step of the way, with providers leading the charge. “Patient focus doesn’t just exist in and of itself; it ripples out into all aspects of how technology is used and how health systems function at the business level,” he said.

Featuring faculty from various Harvard-affiliated hospital and schools, plus other diverse leaders across the industry, attendees can hear directly from those creating and deploying digital health innovations – both on the front lines and behind the scenes. The program allows for a more intimate, educationally focused experience for executives, the kind that can sometimes get side swept in the hustle and bustle of a larger conference setting.

Dr. Shaw and HIMSS’s Chief Operating Officer and Strategy Officer, Sebastian Krolop, MD, PhD, MSc, discuss the value of investing in advanced executive education and the characteristics of this unique and innovative program.

Shaw agrees that caregiver burnout is a critical issue, but he places it in the context of the barriers to health IT systems adoption as a whole.

“Every physician, nurse practitioner, or other provider wants to do the best they can for the person in front of them during that interaction, full-stop,” Shaw said. “It’s why people go into medicine in the first place. Barriers to this relate to the complexity of the issues that a provider needs to manage and then the inevitable pressures of time – both in the patient visit and in the post-visit documentation, routing of care, and care coordination.

“And so providers are pulled in so many different directions now. But providers know that going into medicine means they’re signing up for a lifetime of learning. So I actually don’t think constant change per se is the issue, but that they’re already running flat-out just to keep up. So any new wrinkle or 'innovation' must fit in seamlessly with their workflow and has to offer a clear added value right up front.”

Shaw emphasized the value of incorporating physician leaders of organizations into the introduction of workflow changes and adoptions. “In general, they are more likely to understand the motivations and pain points of front-line providers – and we have made a big effort to bring the perspectives of a variety of leaders, with responsibility across all aspects of the health enterprise, to the executives participating in this program.”

Shaw and his colleagues are looking forward to interweaving these themes into the highly curated Data, Insights and Strategies for the Health Enterprise program. For more than 200 years, Harvard Medical School has been the most trusted source of medical education. We are truly excited to deliver this program on Data, Insights & Strategies for the Health Enterprise.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog or by commenters are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of HIMSS or its affiliates.

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Originally published February 4, 2019; updated May 8, 2019