Inspira sees health tech as vital, and will pay to show it

In a perfect world, clipboards wouldn’t exist.

At least, that’s how Inspira Health Network CEO John DiAngelo envisions the future of the health system.

It’s not a bad goal. After all, parts of the health care industry continue to rely on fax machines to communicate between health care facilities. Seriously.

“I have a very big frustration with filling out clipboards,” DiAngelo said. “This was my goal, that I wouldn’t have to fill out another clipboard.”

Which is why Inspira is focusing on health care technology in different ways.

First, there is the innovation center that launched late last year with a $1 million fund from the organization.

It’s something other hospitals in the state are also rolling out in some form, as health systems seek to diversify operations amid downward pressure on traditional revenue structures.

Then, there is the countdown to Feb. 18 — when all 155 locations in the health system will transition from 18 different software applications to a single system using Cerner, one of the largest electronic health record systems in the country.

The price tag? $50 million.

That includes a customization of the system, which relied on time spent with executives, clinical staff, environmental staff, administrators and others who will interact with the system daily.

The design team borrowed members from all departments and ensured all the necessary data points were included, and that employees were going to be able to easily adapt to the new system.

And, as a failsafe, there will be a team of more than 400, including tech staff from Cerner, to help on launch day and for a few days after to ensure a smooth rollout of the new system.

Inspira is confident it will, at minimum, break even on the new system in 10 years, according to Tom Pacek, vice president and chief information officer.

Part of the return on investment is in the design and training that has gone into the new system, but also from savings of services that will go away, such as transcription.

“We spent in excess of $1 million annually for transcription services,” Pacek said.

But, with the new system, physicians will be using voice recognition to input information into the system themselves. So, that cost goes away.

The end result is a highly connected information system — including patients, who can have info pulled up at any of the Inspira facilities — and a highly connected health system overall.

DiAngelo said the changes are making the health system more efficient.

“When we compare the aging systems we had before and what we are paying on an annual basis for Cerner, we pay less than we would be paying all various software payments going forward,” he said. “From our standpoint, this is an investment we’re making for the future.”

But, beyond the day-to-day technology, there are other efficiencies waiting to be found and new, innovative ways to care for patients.

One result of the innovation center launch is the Inspira Health+ program, which integrates wearable technology into patient care.

Right now, the focus is on the use of wearables for chronic disease and wellness management, according to Dave Johnson, vice president of innovation.

There are currently two tech kiosks at the Vineland hospital and a Glassboro urgent care center. Similar to the help stores that tech giants have (think Apple, Microsoft and Samsung), Inspira has its own “tech bar” to help patients with their wearables, Johnson said.

“We have health coaches that will refer patients that may have a chronic illness that will be good candidates to have wearable technology to monitor biometrics at home,” Johnson said.

The tech professional will set up the wearable based on the health tasks assigned by the coaches, and help patients get comfortable with the technology as well as ensure they are able to use it.

Then, depending on what the health issue is, Inspira can monitor a patient’s blood pressure, weight, blood oxygen level and blood glucose levels.

In addition, if fitness — sometimes in connection to chronic disease management — is clinically prescribed through the physician referred exercise program, or PREP, the wearable can also monitor exercise and activity and Inspira can log it under the patient’s health file, Johnson said.

This helps Inspira immediately connect with patients if anything goes wrong, creating more accountability on the part of the health system.

The tech bar also helps with the Inspira applications that include wayfinding internally at health facilities, as well as help patients understand and access their medical records, Johnson said.

“Inspira has always been innovative,” he said. “(The innovation center) formalized something that has existed.”

That includes adding a new space planned for the Rowan University campus in Mullica Hill.

There, a research and development space will be opened so any approved innovative ideas that either get seed money or proof of concept money from the $1 million fund can be developed. The money can also be used to backfill the position of whomever takes the time away to develop their idea, Johnson said.

The benefits for Inspira are twofold.

“From the outside, it helps us remain competitive,” Johnson said. “It gives us the opportunity and option to look at partners that are not traditionally health care partners. It opens up the opportunity to work with companies that may not have thought they have a health care application, but they do.”

And internally, it is redesigning the workplace environment of the health care system, he said.

“It gives people an outlet, or channel, to formally submit or discuss innovations.”