The Wizards Behind Our Screens

May 2016

How Information Technology Teams on Campus Work Together to Support You

Steve Jobs once said, “Technology is nothing. What’s important is that you have a faith in people.”

After speaking with the people who steward our use of technology on campus, it’s clear: We have visionary, committed leaders and teams.

Here are five ways they enable us to achieve excellent patient care—now and in the future. 

1) Building and maintaining the core. The School of Medicine, UCHealth and Children’s Hospital Colorado are all investing significant amounts of time and money to ensure the core networks we depend on are reliable and up-to-date.

This core is what allows us to connect both internally and externally, jumping between university-based resources and hospital systems as we care for our patients. “Think of the core​ network as the central nervous system responsible for the distribution of information​,” said Russell Poole. 

”It’s not anything you see but you depend on it every day.” 

2) Ensuring connectivity. Communication is key. Fortunately, the days of major cellular dead zones on campus should be a distant memory thanks to the work the IT teams did to boost cellular signals on campus. The first step was to enhance the infrastructure by installing a distributed antenna system, a project that was completed in 2013. For the most part, the second step was out of their hands.

“It was a long haul,” explained Steve Hess. “We’d done the work on our end, but we needed the cellular carriers to enhance their equipment in Building 500.” In December 2015, the last of the four major carriers completed their work, bringing this project to completion. Hess cautions that faculty might still experience some “black holes.” 

“It’s hard to get a cell signal around an MRI machine or through lead lined walls,” he said.

The teams have also been upgrading wireless capabilities across campus. “We do our best to keep up with ever increasing influx,” explains Mary Anne Leach (pictured right), who says the wireless network at Children’s Hospital Colorado alone supports 7,000 wireless devices, with approximately 4,000 user-owned devices that float in and out of their network. In addition, Poole’s team is upgrading to next generation 5,000 megahertz access points, an addition that isn’t cheap.

“Each access point costs on average $1,000. We currently have 1,000 access points on campus and this number is growing,” Poole said. 

3) Thinking beyond global to individual optimization. Electronic health records have the potential to improve all aspects of patient care, but frequent upgrades to the technology might mean some features are overlooked. To combat this, Hess and his team have learned that the traditional approach of making a wholesale change followed by a hospital-wide announcement doesn’t always work. “Global optimization doesn’t always cascade down to the individual doctor,” he said. “We ran a pilot where our IT people go in like a SWAT team and shadow the docs at their elbow to show new features, see what they are doing and suggest different ways.” The project was largely a success, and now the team has real data that can show the difference in physician efficiency pre- and post-intervention. 

4) Improving clinical data quality and analytics. “This is key for value-based care,” said Leach. She explains how Children’s Hospital Colorado will soon launch data governance and data stewardship programs, where each user of Epic will be a steward of data, using definitions consistently and correctly in order to improve the ability to extract trusted, actionable data. This data will flow into the Health Compass Data Warehouse, a campus-wide data warehouse that will gather and store patient data from Children’s Hospital Colorado and UCHealth, as well as patient and provider data from University Physicians and research data from the School of Medicine. “Our joint aim is to help providers access data, including genomics data, that will make medicine more personalized and precise,” she said. “When the four entities integrate our electronic health record data, eventually the analytical knowledge generated from these efforts will cycle back and feed into our EHRs at the point of care,” she said. “This is really what it’s all about—obtaining new knowledge and integrating this knowledge into the provider’s workflow to help them make the best clinical decisions.”

5) Enhancing clinician communication and collaboration. Increasing provider ability to collaborate across campuses has been a priority for all IT teams on the Anschutz campus. Poole explains how 1,000 phones in Building 500 are currently being upgraded with VOIP technology. Additionally, UCHealth recently launched a pilot project they hope enhances grand rounds and service line collaboration between the main campus and UCHealth locations in Colorado Springs and Fort Collins. Their teams have designed rooms in each region for teleconferencing. The rooms have onsite personnel assigned to every meeting who make sure the providers in the meeting can see, hear and share using video technology. “It’s a more systematic approach: the right rooms with the right equipment and the right personnel,” said Hess.  

Ultimately, IT leadership on campus is working together to ensure their individual strategies align and strengthen the overall goals associated with a large academic medical institution.

“It takes a huge village to make everything work and work well together,” said Leach. “Our teams are innovating every day—they’re creating the future."

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Children’s Hospital Colorado

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