TechIntoNashville: HCA Healthcare Discusses Technology, Saving Lives, and Working with Google

HCA Healthcare Discusses Technology, Saving Lives, and Working with Google

HCA Healthcare is a Fortune 100, investor-owned healthcare system that was founded by physicians more than 50 years ago. The company is one of the nation’s leading providers of healthcare services, comprising 187 hospitals and approximately 2,000 sites of care. This includes surgery centers, freestanding ERs, urgent care centers, and physician clinics in 20 states and the United Kingdom. 

“I would venture to say that, for almost every major city in the Sun Belt, we are either the number one or number two provider of healthcare,” says HCA Healthcare CIO Marty Paslick. Marty states that HCA Healthcare is motivated by its mission of care and improvement for the lives of its patients. He states that this mission is reflected in all of the decisions made by the company. 

Marty has been with HCA Healthcare for 37 years. A software developer by trade, he started out doing clinical software development for laboratory work. Later, he did similar work for radiology and pharmacy software. From there, he continued to climb the company ladder, until he became CIO in 2012. In this position, Marty oversees the company’s 6300 technologists. About 65 percent of these technologists are located in Music City, and the others are positioned in local division-based teams.

Technology to Help Save Lives 

It’s easy for someone in Marty’s position to attract incoming tech talent eyeing the employment landscape in Nashville. The entire region of Middle Tennessee knows the company as a great employer. 

In 2021, HCA Healthcare was rated a “Top Company by LinkedIn” for being one of the best places to work in the country. This rating looked at several factors, including work atmosphere, an employee’s ability to grow within the company, and how well the company has supported its colleagues in the past.

Those working for HCA Healthcare also get to find engaging work by using technology to help save lives. Being a major player in the healthtech space, HCA Healthcare has a vast network of partnerships with technology providers across the country. 

In HCA Healthcare’s technology framework, analytics are crucial. Improving the technology around capturing analytics of patients’ health has been an objective of the company for quite some time. This was the spark behind an HCA Healthcare story that made the news in May 2021, when HCA announced that it was entering into a partnership with Google Cloud. According to the company press release, the multiyear partnership is “focused on analytics-driven process improvement and digital transformation.”

Marty explains, “Our intention is to try to help our caregivers have actionable insights. There’s obviously a data component to that, but it’s much more… What we’re trying to do is move real time data in front of our caregivers in a timely, comprehensive, and knowledgeable way to help them with their workflow.”

But how does this play out in the real world?

Making Use of Real-Time Data 

Dr. Mike Schlosser is the SVP of Care Transformation and Innovation for HCA Healthcare. This group is a new and forward-thinking part of the company, whose focus is on how technology can transform care for HCA Healthcare patients.  

Dr. Schlosser explains, “We’ve always had a lot of data that we have used to drive our clinical and operations within HCA. What the partnership with Google really is about is being able to… help our caregivers and our operators on a day-to-day basis [in order to] maximize the impact we can have on our patients.”

The partnership with Google helps HCA Healthcare with its mission of maintaining high quality, highly efficient care by enabling HCA’s tech workers to utilize the power of the data it collects. This is done by means of many different tools that expedite the movement of information to caregivers. These tools also help these caregivers learn more through the data collected from patient diagnostics and other means.  

Dr. Schlosser says that his team’s role is to be the consumer of this information. “So how do we design the workflow and technology so that it supports the caregivers? And what it is [that] they need to do so that it’s adding value to them? So that they’re seeking out those signals and that information as part of their care of the patients, as opposed to just being kind of reports or scorecards telling them ‘Are they doing well?’ or ‘Are they not doing well?’”

Dr. Schlosser says that while the company has had a lot of success with the traditional report approach, HCA wants to enhance its quality of patient care. It plans on doing this by giving greater attention to the individual caregivers, and empowering them with faster access to more data.

Algorithm-Driven Diagnoses

HCA Healthcare’s tech partnerships and efforts at innovation came at the request of CEO Sam Hazen. Marty states that Sam wanted to help HCA Healthcare differentiate itself from other healthcare companies. 

“[Sam] came to a conclusion that, ‘Look, one of the areas that we need to make a stronger investment in is the technology space,’” Marty recalls. “And so it really began with his push.”

An example of enhanced patient care is the company’s new approach to labor and delivery. Facilitated by the Google partnership, HCA Healthcare can provide hospital staff with data streams related to fetal distress. These readings can help caregivers determine which babies may need attention, and what issues to expect. 

“So right now, we have lots of different data,” Dr. Schlosser says. “We’ve got data in  medical records… We’ve got real time data coming out of vital sign machines, [and we’ve got] laboratory values. We’ve got physical exam assessments… All of those tell you something about how that process is going, and whether it’s heading for trouble or it’s going well. But right now, integrating all that data and all of those signals together is something that basically the nurse and the doctor have to figure out how to do in their head.” 

Dr. Schlosser adds that on top of bringing all of that data into a shared space, the technologies developed by HCA Healthcare’s technology and clinical teams use “nudges.” These nudges will spur a medical team to take a particular course of action in the next step of care based on certain indicators. Dr. Schlosser explains that these nudges can anticipate problems and recommend preventative solutions as needed.

This nudge approach has been in HCA Healthcare’s use for years. It’s SPOT technology (“Sepsis Prediction and Optimization of Therapy”) has been used to save over 8,000 lives as of 2019. Sepsis is a leading cause of death in hospitals, and it proves to be very hard to detect. SPOT’s work in hospitals won the 2019 Eisenberg Patient Safety and Quality Award.

Taking Advantage of the Latest Cloud Technology

Director of Enterprise Technology Louis Davis addresses the importance of HCA using cloud technology saying, “When you look at when the cloud started, all the startups ran to that because it enabled them to do things so much faster at that time. At that time, I don’t think that we could have adopted that because they [cloud technology companies] didn’t have the level of security we were looking for. But now that cloud providers have matured… it lets us have the speed of innovation that the startups have had for five, six years now.”

According to Louis, larger companies being able to use cloud technology “is a total game changer.” This means that the challenges of HCA are less technical, and more to the point of maximizing utility. 

This is exciting for HCA’s tech teams, which Louis says are actively looking for people who know how to work with data. 

“So this health care data is very complicated—and just being able to know what this data is and how we can get it into the format—that’s a huge space in data,” Louis says. HCA is also looking for “rockstar developers,” including back-end developers.

Louis says, “We’re creating bespoke applications on the front end. So you need UI developers who aren’t just going to code out of UI because it works. It needs to be gorgeous… We want to delight the physicians and nurses that are using this. Otherwise, they’re just going to disconnect from that technology.”    
For further information about HCA Healthcare, be sure to visit its website and social media.

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