Healthcare: Improving Care Through Technology
Healthcare is a major growth industry for the Greater Baltimore Region, not only in terms of number of jobs that directly and indirectly support the industry but also as a significant quality of life asset for those who work, live and visit the Region.
The industry, however, has many facets, all of which drive economic growth and vitality. The Region boasts two academic medical research institutions, Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and their affiliated hospital systems, Johns Hopkins Health System and the University of Maryland Medical System. In addition to direct patient care, these systems serve as a magnet for funding for research, top talent for faculty and students, and spin-off activity in the life science, biotech and IT arenas.
Johns Hopkins is the #3 hospital in USA, the #1 university hospital, and #2 Medical School (USNWR, 2018)
Johns Hopkins University is #1 in R&D expenditure, 27% of which is utilized in the Medical School (NSF, 2016)
University of Maryland BioPark was named “Outstanding Research Park of the Year” by the Association of University Research Parks, in recognition of the impact resulting from more than $400M of capital investment (AURP, 2017)
In addition to these two institutions the Region is home to several other major hospital systems including Lifebridge, Mercy Medical Center, Medstar, and Kaiser Permanente. Each has established widely recognized specialties and generate significant direct and indirect economic benefits. And the largest health insurance company in the Mid-Atlantic, CareFirst, has several thousand employees in corporate offices throughout the Region and in its Maryland headquarters in Baltimore City.
Without a doubt, there is much to celebrate about our healthcare industry and its value to Greater Baltimore. However, this edition of Region on Point will discuss how technology is rapidly changing the way healthcare is managed and delivered and what that means for delivering the workforce needed to sustain and grow all of the facets of the healthcare industry.
For many years health information technology focused on the design, development, use and maintenance of information systems to facilitate the digitalization of health records, or Electronic Health Records (EHR). Data collection, storage and analysis continues to be a focus as automated healthcare information systems are created to improve medical care, lower costs through efficiencies, reduce errors and increase positive outcomes.
ex: Electronic Health Records
One of the most innovative products in healthcare technology is cloudbased data management systems which allow for the storage of large amounts of information at low cost without the need for additional hardware or servers. With an increased reliance on EHR systems, Cloud storage protects against the loss of sensitive data with strong backup and recovery services.
The Cloud is also an invaluable tool for medical research and sharing medical information. The ability to share big data easily has helped lead to the development of life-saving drugs. For example, in the case of rare diseases when research to find similar cases and effective treatments was painstakingly slow, the Cloud can facilitate the use of Big Data and AI to analyze medical records to find commonalities in rare disease cases. This data can then be used by pharma to create customized treatment. Big Data and AI is also used to review thousands of data points for each patient to diagnose a condition and find treatment options nearly instantly, when it used to take days if not weeks.
Data collection, storage and analysis has direct application to delivery of care. Here are but a few examples:
- A person wearing an insulin monitoring device receiving historical information that indicates they aren’t properly managing their diabetes can adjust the dosage to the required level.
- Predictive analytics is using real-time data and AI to streamline use of operating rooms, traditionally a bottleneck at busy hospitals.
- Blockchain, the ability to record and store information conveniently, economically and securely, is increasingly paired with data collection and storage in order to reduce cost and increase efficiencies.
- 3D printing and modeling is being applied to surgeries. Models of a patient’s organs created through 3D printing are then used to practice the surgery or try out innovative procedures.
Healthcare organizations are increasingly focused on creating or finding the innovations in products and /or processes for more efficient and effective care, at a lower cost but with positive outcomes. We will highlight some of this work in the “Industry Spotlight” section below.
The digitalization of healthcare has elevated the importance of IT managers and chief information officers in healthcare organizations. Increasingly, however, the practicing physicians and nurses are finding that they must have at least a working knowledge of health IT, particularly as it relates to access to and manipulation of data in order to deliver care. Although the clinicians’ priority is on patient care, being conversant in IT as part of the care regime is becoming the norm rather than the exception. As EHR becomes the norm and the advent of the Cloud expands the universe of how to treat any particular patient, working technology may become a core job skill if it hasn’t already.
So what does this mean for the ability to continue to fuel the growth of healthcare throughout the Greater Baltimore Region? We need to ensure that our workforce ecosystem is producing individuals with the skill sets necessary to fill the jobs required by each facet of the industry, from entry level through to the highly skilled. Our Region’s excellent two- and four-year colleges and universities are addressing this need through specialized curricula and degree programs. The work of the Governor's Workforce Development Board and the local WDBs are bringing employers to the table with training organizations to make sure that there is alignment and that individuals in training programs, including degree programs, are learning the skills that lead jobs in healthcare organizations.
Greater Baltimore is home to several centers of innovation in healthcare.Innovation in the healthcare industry is driven by the need to improve care and patient outcomes while striving toward efficient business models. Several key innovations in the industry are coming from telehealth, immunotherapy, artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), biosensors, and trackers. Examples of several centers of innovation include:
LifeBridge’s Sinai Hospital-based Innovation Department serves as an entry point and resource for ideas coming from within the health care system, as well as a partner for organizations and community members.
Designing and delivering online education, experiential learning and performance support tools for roles across the MedStar Health system, MedStar’s Baltimore SiTEL location is across the street from Harbor Hospital.
CHECK OUT THIS RELATED EVENT ON JUNE 5TH: LifeBridge Health and CareFirst have joined forces for a Shark Tank-style challenge inviting digital health startups to present innovative ideas that have the potential to change the face of healthcare. The startup companies will compete for awards totaling $50,000. Learn more and register for the June 5 event:
The EAGB highlights several of the Region’s institutions addressing workforce requirements of the industry with a focus on Health IT.
Howard Community College
Howard Community College offers health information technology courses through their Division of Continuing Education and Workforce Development. They partner with University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business on Health IT Fundamentals, a course funded through the Maryland EARN Grant.
The Health Information Technology post-baccalaureate certificate (PBC) at Towson University is designed to offer students an interdisciplinary curriculum that provides knowledge and skills in both health care and information technology. This program offers students specialized instruction to foster intellectual inquiry, critical thinking, creativity, and adaptability to craft solutions that will address public and societal needs.
University of Maryland Baltimore County
UMBC's Master's in Health Information Technology program is designed to prepare professionals in computer science, information systems, health care, and other fields to fill a range of opportunities within the health care profession.