Summa Health’s digitization journey showcases the link between tech adoption and providing the very best in value-based care.
It is one of the nation’s finest integrated healthcare systems, planted firmly in the top 5% of the country’s best clinical organizations. Lauded by U.S. News and World Report, Thomson Reuters, the American Nurses Credentialing Center, and many other quality monitors, Ohio’s Summa Health is at the forefront of digital transformation.
With a network of hospitals, community health centers, a health plan, a physician-hospital organization, and a multi-specialty physician organization, the ACO is demonstrating a fierce commitment to improving the lives of the populations it serves.
Their journey began with a vision: to be the premier population health organization in Northeast Ohio, providing better care at a lower cost. “For many years Summa Health invested in technology, but the major shift in thought leadership was around the value that we can achieve through leveraging technology,” reported Summa Health’s senior VP and CIO, Tanya Arthur.
“When I originally joined the organization there was no solid governance structure for making decisions around technology. Our journey was really grounded in an agreement that we will drive value from every dollar of information technology investment that we make in the organization and that set the tone for our future.”
Summa focused on technological capabilities that would drive the organizations to a specific outcome, leveraging AI, machine learning, and robotic process automation (RPA) to enhance the ability of clinicians to diagnose more accurately and rapidly, and enabling caregivers to focus on the provision of high quality care.
“From my first interview with Summa Health in establishing very clearly that my focus would be around leveraging relationships and business partnerships to influence the direction of the organization, and that happened leader by leader as well as through a solid decision-making structure where folks could come together around a concept or a direction for the organization and get that buy in,” Arthur said.
“From that point forward, it's about a balance of people, process, and technology all intertwined in a way that gets you to outcomes. Those outcomes are driven by the degree to which you are able to hold people accountable, and how well you have embedded the disciplines of change management. It's highly complex.”
From a technology perspective, Summa’s core strategies for digitization had two key components. “The first is driving interoperability of systems because that helps to enable the flow of data across the enterprise, which is composed of the health plan, the ACO, the community, and ambulatory care across the continuum.
“Second, and not necessarily in that order, is the data itself and bringing that data together in ways that will allow us to drive insight that we otherwise couldn’t. When we think about keeping the population well, keeping individuals well, and slowing the progression of various disease stages—whether that be diabetes or heart failure or other conditions—to just be the coordinator that comes out of the EMR is not enough. You've got to combine that with social, environmental, and financial data,” Arthur stressed.
When it comes to the usefulness of data in any organization, actionability is key; deriving meaningful insights that propel the business to its objectives is the point. To that end, Summa developed a strategy around becoming a center of excellence in business intelligence and advanced analytics.
“That strategy is grounded in three key elements. One is to establish trust and truth in data, which has the element of data governance. In many organizations if you pull a report you've got fragmentation of systems,” she said.
“If I pull a report from a financial view, or from the health plan or from acute care I may see different results, and if I'm a physician in the organization I have to rely on my own knowledge to assess that. We're in the process of implementing capability that will allow us to pull data from wherever it's at in the organization; that could be an access database, a spreadsheet, a major system, but cataloging the key data elements across the organization that will allow us to combine data in ways that will bring those insights. Regardless of where I pull information from I'm going to get the same result.”
The second aspect, establishing self-service analytics, grew out of the belief that the IT department shouldn’t be the only access point for data. “The data needs of any organization far exceed the capacity of what a mighty organization could and should be provided, so we want to put data at the fingertips of those folks that can best utilize that data, whether it be administrative, clinical, or the healthcare consumer themselves. Our architecture solution will allow folks in the organization to set up mini data marts of information that they need so that they can drive those insights.”
The third component of the strategy is advanced analytics and machine learning, using both predictive and prescriptive analytics to improve the quality of care while keeping the cost of that care down. Aimed at reducing all-cause readmissions and avoidable admissions, the prescriptive analytics component will go live in the fourth quarter of this year.
“The last component, and by far not the least, is a wraparound that strategy of talent. You can have all the best technology in the world, but if you don't have the right talent, skills, and capabilities to leverage that information you're going to have some challenges. We developed some specific roles called insight engineers embedded within the clinical and administrative areas,” Arthur added.
A Future of Exemplary Affordable Care
A glance at a typical healthcare organization’s financials will show that operating expenses are largely made up of labor costs. For Summa, RPA helps to reduce and eliminate as many manual administrative processes as possible as a way to reduce the cost of labor while improving the quality of care.
“One of the elements that we plan to implement here is a center where all that they do is identify ways to take out manual labor and automate processes. Again, that frees up labor to really focus on those things that are most important and impactful for delivering higher quality care,” she said.
In concert with a passionate commitment to care, Summa is devoted to the communities in which they operate.
Said Arthur, “The geography of Northeast Ohio has a tremendous opportunity to be a shining star with respect to population health in the United States. There’s an extraordinary level of dedication to its mission and vision and core values within the organization. The cherry on top is that the community itself is equally committed. There’s a level of engagement in this community that I've just not seen in other places and I think the more that we can embrace that, the more successful we will be.”
Summa’s expansive vision of providing exceptional outcome-driven care at reasonable costs underscores the need for the industry as a whole to drive towards those values.”We've seen the power of digital capabilities in other industries, connecting those capabilities to outcomes,” Arthur stressed.
“For Summa, it’s about building healthier communities and providing more affordable healthcare. The power of technology is there to accelerate your journey, to achieve that vision. If every health system in the country takes that focus we will excel in balancing the quality of care compared to cost.”
Summa Health is one of the largest integrated delivery systems in Ohio. Encompassing a network of hospitals, community health centers, a health plan, a physician-hospital organization, a multi-specialty physician organization, research and multiple foundations, Summa is nationally renowned for excellence in patient care and for exceptional approaches to healthcare delivery. Summa also is a founding partner of the BioInnovation Institute in Akron.
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