Providence This Week in Health IT
May 7, 2020

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May 7, 2020: For this coronavirus field report we are joined by BJ Moore from Providence, where he is the Executive Vice President and CIO. BJ takes us through the initial phases of the pandemic at Providence and lays out the all-important reaction phase for the company. The early steps taken in this crisis have been so crucial and Providence is a great example of how a proactive approach can pay off. BJ also explains the processes that were already underway before the crisis hit, namely the development of a chatbot and the implementation of Microsoft Teams. In BJ’s opinions these steps have really aided the center and its patients. We discuss priorities and what BJ is focussing on as a CIO before diving into our favorite topic of telehealth and the strides that have been made in the last two months. BJ weighs in on the idea of work-from-home, commenting on the sentiment he has noticed from the staff at Providence around the issue. For all this and more, listen in with us today on This Week in Health IT!

Key Points From This Episode:

  • The reaction phase at Providence and early steps in response to COVID patients. 
  • How moving to Microsoft Teams and the development of a chatbot has served Providence.
  • CIO priorities moving forward; using the momentum offered by the pandemic response.
  • The admission of virtual and telehealth and the permanent effects to healthcare delivery.
  • Thoughts on the work-from-home model after the crisis and returning to the office.
  • New projects for health systems and looking at the best technologies for the future.

Field Report: Providence Health

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Field Report: Providence Health

Episode 243: Transcript – May 7, 2020

This transcription is provided by artificial intelligence. We believe in technology but understand that even the smartest robots can sometimes get speech recognition wrong.

[0:00:04.5] BR: Welcome to This Week in Health IT where we amplify great thinking to propel healthcare forward. My name is Bill Russell, healthcare CIO coach and creator of This Week in Health IT, a set of podcasts, videos and collaboration events dedicated to developing the next generation of health leaders.

If you missed our live show, it is only available on our YouTube channel. What a fantastic conversation we had with Drex DeFord, David Muntz, Sue Schade, around what’s next in health IT. You can view it on our website with our new menu item, appropriately named, Live. Or just jump over to the YouTube channel and while you’re at it, you might as well subscribe to our YouTube channel and click on get notifications to get access to a bunch of content only available on our YouTube channel.

Live will be a new monthly feature only available on YouTube. How many times I say YouTube in that paragraph? Subscribe to YouTube, we’re going to have some great stuff over there. This episode and every episode since we started the COVID-19 series have been sponsored by Sirius Healthcare. They reached out to me to see how we might partner during this time and that is how we’ve been able to support producing daily shows. Special thanks to Sirius for supporting the show’s efforts during the crisis. Now, on to today’s show. 

[0:01:25.4] BR: Here we go, today another field report, this time with BJ Moore from Providence. Good afternoon BJ, welcome to the show.

[0:01:23.0] BJM: Hi Bill, good to meet with you again.

[0:01:25.4] BR: Yeah, I’m looking forward to this conversation. Last time we talked, we talked a lot about cloud, actually. Last time we talked, you were like, 30 days into the – 

[0:01:34.9] BJM: Exactly that.

[0:01:35.7] BR: You’re now a seasoned veteran that you could see with the – 

[0:01:38.9] BJM: Yeah, I grew a beard, I’ve been here for 15 months, a little grey, yeah, it’s been a good ride though. 

[0:01:46.6] BR: Man, well listen, I know you don’t have a lot of time and I appreciate the time that you’re giving us. So let’s just jump right into it. Through the crisis, we’ve been talking about this framework of react, stabilize, reimagine and I’d just like to walk through that with you. You know, give us an idea of the react phase at Providence, you were one of the first health systems with a COVID patient. What did it look like at that time and what were some of the things that you guys did?

[0:02:10.1] BJM: Yeah, we were the first patient. Patient zero came into our health system. We as you know, we’re across seven states here along the western United States that first patient came into Washington, everything we did in the react phase was at a system level. Yeah, we did things with immediate respond to Washington but everything we did was you know, later to benefit California or Texas or Alaska, the way it’s hit them and so, you know, we had a diagnostic capability.

Remote testing, tents to add capacity, capacity to allow workers to work from home, you know, maybe 10 or 15% of our workforce normally works from home, we had to surge that capacity to allow all of our caregivers to work from home. VPN, network infrastructure, new laptops, you know, testing processes like payroll that had never been run from home for the first time. The react phase was quite broad across the board from clinical tools, network and infrastructure and then working from home processes. Super happy how the health system responded and you know, knock on wood, felt like our response was good. 

[0:03:27.7] BR: You guys, leading into this, you guys were doing big moves in the cloud, has a service models, those kind of things and I read some stuff early on you did a chatbots with Microsoft, you did – how did that work benefit Providence during the crisis.

[0:03:45.5] BJM: Yeah, first of all, it was work that we’re lucky enough to start before the crisis, so we had three strategic pillars around simplify, modernize and innovate so a lot of these things were well underway. When we came into the crisis, we’re able to pivot quickly. We mentioned the chat bot, that was super helpful, a lot of people got a website and triage their own symptoms and then it would make a recommendation, stay at home and monitor your symptoms to tele visit, go to an emergency department. Really took a huge load off of our caregivers and our emergency departments. A small piece of technology that really helped.

Probably the single biggest piece of technology we did in advance was moving to Teams. Microsoft Teams, their cloud product there. When I started 15 months ago, we had Link and Skype and WebeX and Teams. IF that would have been the situation, we came at COVID, it would have been disastrous. But most of our caregivers over 100,000 caregivers, were already on Teams so doing that remote work, being able to collaborate, really paid off. Yeah, those cloud of investments were doing before and we felt the benefit of t hose cloud investments as we – that with the COVID crisis.

[0:05:01.2] BR: Yeah, I’ve already gotten the coming out of this because I really want to – I’m ready to come out of it.

[0:05:07.3] BJM: You’re optimistic Bill, I like it. We are coming out of this, we’re starting to shift to the next phase.

[0:05:12.8] BR: You know, what becomes top of mind for this CIO from a priority standpoint. Have we thrown our plans for 2020 out and we’re going to rewrite them at this point?

[0:05:21.9] BJM: Yeah, I guess a couple of things. Yeah, there is a number of programs that we stopped turning the COVID crisis, wanted the teams to be able to really focus on some things. Some of those things were kind of opportunistic, you know, to turn most things often. We won’t turn those back on. Some of those programs that have a life of their own and this crisis is a lot of – to stop those, that’s good.

You know, we had some strategic priorities that we are already working on like moving to the cloud, you know, standardizing on Epic, moving to Oracle cloud, we’ll continue those investments. They’re probably the new thing that’s coming out of COVID is what are the assets we built during this crisis and how do we ride that wave, telehealth being a good example, in a two week period, we had grown our telehealth business by a thousand times.

We added 7,000 providers in a single week. How do we take that muscle, that capability that we didn’t have before COVID and really water that, foster that, continue to grow it? Yeah, we’ll stick with our long term strategic initiatives and then we’re starting to add in these new initiatives, telehealth being a simple example to really carry the momentum that we have on COVID.

[0:06:39.6] BR: Yeah, it is going to be interesting though the telehealth example and actually everybody has that hockey stick just across the country because you had to see patients and there were other patients besides COVID patients. Do you feel like the atmosphere has changed dramatically? So I have talked to some people who said if you talked to physicians three months ago about doing telehealth, you would get – you would have some that were adopters and they were absolutely all in. 

But then you had a whole bunch that were like, “Don’t even talk to me about it. There is payment, there is no —” Do you find those conversations to be changing or do you think that maybe not the conversation itself but do you think they’re going to change? Do you think the — people’s willingness to do some of these things if the payment models with that being the assumption doing payment models could be taken care of appropriately that we are going to see virtual and telehealth get admitted into the entire care experience? 

[0:07:45.7] BJM: Yeah and I would add there was a caregiver resistance but there’s frankly patient resistance, right? I have always gone in to see the doctor, “I have always been face to face and I continue to do that.” So my optimism says yes. I think we are going to carry that optimism. I think the analogy I’ve been using, I feel like in the six weeks that we’ve gone through this crisis we’ve done a year’s worth of progress and a year’s worth of work. 

I think we maintain that. I think patients getting used to telehealth consults, our caregivers used to giving those. I think that momentum will stick there, assuming that the payer model supports that. I absolutely think that comes out of it and you know these remote work things as well. Ironically, we were talking about Teams. We have deployed it to a 100,000 people. Our adoption was low and however are we going to increase adoption and we had this big training plans. 

While with COVID people train themselves, now people are heavy users and I think people will stick with the heavy user. So what I am trying to say is I think there is some muscle that’s been built through this crisis and I think it is permanent muscle that will be maintained in the health systems and the way we deliver our healthcare here in the US.

[0:09:01.9] BR: Were you surprised at the level of productivity that we have been able to attain in a work from home environment and do you really anticipate that to continue? I think it is going to be hard to ask people to come back into the office.

[0:09:14.2] BJM: I think it’s a bit of both. I’ve been pleasantly surprised, I had somebody asked why I noticed a difference between people that are young in career and later in career and adoption of this technology, it is interesting after a day everybody, the technology has become seamless whether you’re 40th year in your career or you’re in your 4th day in your career. So now I think those habits will be resilient. 

I am hearing the opposite. I am an introvert myself like working from home seems like a dream but I am actually hearing the opposite, which is I am productive from home. I love these productivity tools but I can’t wait to get back in the office. I can’t wait to interact with my peers and fellow caregivers. So I think it is going to be mixed. I think the use of these tools will stick. I think being productive from home or a coffee shop or wherever you are will stick. But I think humans need to interact and have that face to face and have that personal time. I think people are going to want to come back in the office and they’re looking forward to that. 

[0:10:20.2] BR: Yeah, so last question. Well you know as we because I think we’re up against our time here. Coming out of this, there’s going to be just a ton of projects, right? So we had our multi-year plan and you had your multi-year plan and then there is going to be a whole host of new projects that come up about as a result of this. How are you going to prioritize those and how are you going to knit those together? 

[0:10:45.5] BJM: Yeah, I think it needs to be a balance of those long term plans. I mentioned Epic consolidation getting on to single EHR, getting on an Oracle cloud. Those are 18, 24 month investments. We will continue to do those and that won’t change. But when we evaluate new projects, it is going to be what supports these new emerging health delivery. What are technologies are going to enable us if they are or when there is a second wave of COVID that are going to allow us to respond to that?

What are things that are going to help us generate revenue in this post COVID world? What are things going to be able to allow us to cut costs? And things that have really short paybacks, right? Six months is really what we are looking at. Anything more than six months we just can’t entertain at this point in time. And so the good news is there is a ton of revenue opportunities. There is a ton of new opportunities from a business perspective. 

So I have a lot of new projects coming our way. It is what can we handle as a health system from a change perspective, from an IT perspective and obviously from a funding perspective but I feel optimistic. I think we will come out of this stronger even though it is things feel pretty low right now I think we’ll come out of it stronger for sure. 

[0:12:05.2] BR: Well, BJ, I want to thank you for your time. I do want to have you on again here in the not so distant future because I want to go back into this. I love the conversation we had a year ago then we said we are going to visit again and talk about how that process went. Because there is an awful lot to it of moving to the cloud, how’s it going and those kinds of things and maybe we’ll do that as a live episode I think that would be great.

[0:12:28.1] BJM: Absolutely, I am looking forward to that. Thanks for the opportunity to share the message Bill, I appreciate it. 

[0:12:32.3] BR: Thank you, take care. 

[0:12:33.8] BR: That is all for this week. Special thanks to our sponsors, VMware, StarBridge Advisors, Galen Healthcare, Health Lyrics, Sirius Healthcare and Pro Talent Advisors for choosing to invest in developing the next generation of health leaders. If you want to support the fastest growing podcast in the health IT space, the best way to do that is to share with a peer. Send them an email, let them know that you value and you’re getting value out of the show and also, don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel while you’re at it. 

Please check back often as we continue to drop shows until we get through this pandemic together. Thanks for listening. That is all for now.

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