PHOENIX — In a world of electronic health records, telehealth and the so-called Uberization of health care, it’s easy for a hospital to use the newest gadgets and software while still failing to address the true needs of its community.
That was a key message from Sajid Ahmed, chief information & innovation officer, Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital, Los Angeles, in a talk at the CHIME16 Fall CIO Forum.
As the second employee hired to help lead the building of an entirely new organization in MLK Jr. Community Hospital after Martin Luther King Jr. Harbor Hospital closed in 2007, Ahmed was given an opportunity to start from scratch. “Being a technologist, I said, let’s build a hospital for the future, not a hospital of the now,” says Ahmed.
A year after building a state-of-the-art hospital with fully integrated EHR, remote patient monitoring and top-of-the-line patient rooms he began to see that the technology alone was not going to solve the problems its patients faced. “That’s when the lessons started really hitting home, that at the end of the day, it wasn’t all about technology.”
Gaps in care coordination, high readmission rates and overall lack of access were high on the community’s list of problems. So Ahmed and the 300-plus employees at MLK Jr. made a concerted effort to focus on clinical and cultural changes, which they believe are propelling MLK in the right direction. “You want to have everyone at the table. We decided to bring people into the startup culture. You come from other organizations, you wanted to do something new and special, well this is your opportunity to help change,” Ahmed says.
MLK was one of the first, if not the first, institutions in California to have a care manager focusing on admissions, discharges and follow-ups for every patient they serve.
And it’s planned Hospital at Home program launching in January focuses on coordination efforts after the patient has gone home, and is entirely paid for by the hospital. MLK Jr. now focuses its technologies on serving patients and the shift in thinking has been felt in the community.
“The community loves the hospital,” says Ahmed. “All their comments are related to what the providers did for them—what their care managers did for them. Those types of investments have really made our hospital great. What I’ve learned both from the opening of the hospital and the 18 months post- opening, is at the end of the day, the doctors and nurses, they don’t care about technology per se, they care about their ability and efficiency to deliver high quality care.”