Aug 8, 2017

A Seat At The Table

Medtronic forms first-of-its-kind Hospital IT Advisory Board – a chance for tech leaders to partner and plan for the future.

“Information Technology (IT) is critical to the future of healthcare.”

These are the words from someone who understands the intersection of IT and healthcare. And it’s a busy intersection.

“It’s an onslaught of new technology right now,” says Matt Werder, Chief Technology Officer at Hennepin County Medical Center, the largest hospital and trauma center in Minneapolis, MN. 

Werder and his team handle IT operations, infrastructure, networking, and security for the hospital. But in an era of ever-changing technology and the need for readily accessible data, it can quickly become overwhelming.

“Sometimes you feel like you’re solving problems all alone,” admits Werder.

That feeling was one of the reasons technology leaders at Medtronic formed a unique team – the Hospital IT Advisory Board. The board — which consists of IT leaders from across the U.S. healthcare industry — is committed to better understanding trends and challenges, obtaining real-world insights, and discovering new ways to align new medical device capabilities with hospital IT requirements.

“Technology and security have become so complex and challenging across the industry that none of us can do this alone – we need to be partners,” says Michael Hedges, CIO at Medtronic.

Hedges believes the advisory board is “critical to our business.”

“Being in the same room with our IT stakeholders is incredibly important,” says Julia Strandberg, Vice President of Health Informatics and Monitoring at Medtronic. “It’s about the reality of things – figuring out how our solutions live in the real world.”

Whether it’s improving our delivery of care, improving how we communicate to physicians, or how we share and receive data – this is the future of IT in healthcare.

Matt Werder Hennepin County Medical Center

Strandberg, who helped get the advisory board off the ground, says it’s critical to understand the ins and outs of life within the healthcare IT environment. And it’s a priority for Medtronic.

“IT has to be the headlight of our organization,” she says. “It’s about how our system interacts with a real-life hospital network or security protocol. If we want to produce improved outcomes at a lower cost, we have to partner with our clinical stakeholders as well as our IT stakeholders.”

Hennepin County Medical Center, which treated more than 600,000 patients last year alone, stores over 2 million patient records. That’s just one hospital among 5,000 across the U.S.

The challenge, says Werder, is understanding how to effectively use all of that data to improve healthcare.

“Across this group, we face similar challenges,” he says. “We are learning, listening, and sharing best practices.”

Because, as Werder puts it, “Everything is connected to IT.”

“The better question is - what isn’t connected to IT these days,” says Werder. “Whether it’s improving our delivery of care, improving how we communicate to physicians, or how we share and receive data – this is the future of IT in healthcare.”

The board, which held its first meeting in the U.S. in 2016, meets multiple times each year. The model has proven to be so successful that another board is currently being formed in Europe.