Partners HealthCare unveils 5-year digital health initiative

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Boston-based Partners HealthCare is centralizing its efforts to improve the patient experience, streamline hospital operations and boost digital health innovation through research and development.

The integrated healthcare system, which includes Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital, announced on Thursday the launch of a five-year digital health initiative designed to build upon its investments in data, technology and analytics.

“This investment comes on the heels of a $1.2 billion investment we had made in our Epic electronic health record,” says Alistair Erskine, MD, chief digital health officer at Partners HealthCare. “Having implemented a chassis for the care delivery side, we thought it was important to make sure that we took on the next S-curve in terms of what we’re going to do with digital health.”

Erskine contends that Partners HealthCare’s Epic EHR, which went live in 2015, is the foundation for its digital health initiative. The effort is intended to combine the organization’s smaller existing digital health efforts “that were not making it to scale,” he explains.

“The digital health program will connect data and analytics professionals from across Partners hospitals and implement an enterprise data ecosystem, creating a unified approach to data management and use,” according to Thursday’s announcement.

In particular, new data and analytics tools will be leveraged to streamline hospital operations in terms of bed capacity management, human resources, active asset management, supply chain as well as revenue cycle.

Partners HealthCare serves more than 1.5 million patients and receives nearly $2 billion in research funding annually. By leveraging data and healthcare IT, the organization also aims to improve the digital patient experience and engagement.

“We need to make healthcare easier for our patients,” says Gregg Meyer, MD, chief clinical officer at Partners HealthCare. “Our patients want healthcare to operate like every other sector of our economy, and this initiative will help us to engage patients and ensure that they are getting the attention they need, when they need it.”

The digital health initiative will initially focus on the following self-service programs:

  • Online scheduling of appointments.
  • 24/7 video- and text-enabled anywhere virtual care.
  • Online access to medical records, including OpenNotes.
  • Cost estimates for procedures and diagnostic imaging.
  • Seamless aggregation of medical records for Partners and non-Partners healthcare sites.
  • Wait times for all Partners emergency departments and urgent care centers.
  • Customized patient communication options, including text, email, call or direct mail.

Last month, Partners HealthCare announced the creation of an Artificial Intelligence and Digital Translation Fund with an initial investment of $30 million over the next five years. The fund will be used to support ventures that develop new technologies based on inventions originating from Partners researchers and investigators, as well as vendors who will work with the organization to develop digital solutions.

When it comes to research and development, Partners HealthCare’s digital health initiative is meant to “incubate innovative programs under development with the goal of expanding programs that show provider adoption and patient impact” while increasing the “reach and frequency of interactions with patients using novel technologies to deliver cutting-edge programs with proven outcomes to manage chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.”

The five-year digital health initiative coincides with a new five-year strategic plan and rebranding campaign announced late last month by Partners HealthCare. The new name for the healthcare system, which will start implementation of the plan next year, will be Mass General Brigham.

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