• Article
  • June 12, 2017

What This CIO Says About How Mobility is Changing the Future of Health Care

This health care leader says extending into the community digitally is a priority.

About Pamela Arora

  • Senior Vice President, Information Services and Chief Information Officer (CIO) of Children’s Health in Dallas
  • Oversees the systems and technology, Health Information Management and BioMedical technology endeavors
  • Named the 2016 John E. Gall, Jr. CIO of the Year by the boards of directors of the Health Information and Management Systems Society and the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives

With more than 30 years of experience in information technology, Pamela Arora has seen technology's role in health care expand dramatically. Children's Hospitals Today caught up with Arora to get her perspective and advice for children's hospitals.

What are the top priorities you're working on now?
At Children's Health, we are reaching out to the community more. We would rather reach children where they live, learn and play, versus having them come to us. That shifts the profile of what you're trying to solve, as well as the data that you need to solve it.

One of our priorities has been to evolve the care delivery models in our provider health care community. We're keenly focused on population health programs. From our view, it creates more effective, efficient, sustainable care delivery models across the continuum. These types of efforts get to our strategy of meeting patients in the community.

Children's Health has also been focused on an initiative called CyberAid, which helps secure smaller physician practices. It allows us to make sure the data that flows across the continuum of care is safe, which, given some of the recent occurrences of malware and ransomware, is important to help the population health programs work.

That focus on extending into the community must present some challenges.
Absolutely. In addition to cyber security, we face challenges around telemedicine. We have an extensive telemedicine program, and it hits at various dimensions of care delivery. In many cases, the patient is able to remain in his or her home (or hometown hospital) and be surrounded by the family support system.

For us as an IT organization, that means having devices that people can take into the home setting, because we've expanded our home care models. As we have more of a mobile workforce as well as patient families who access data with mobile devices, it's important that we make all of that secure.

Another challenge involves reimbursement changes. Organizations have to work more efficiently while improving the quality of care delivery. To do this, you need a good handle on your data analytics so you know where you can identify improvements in process or procedure.

What would be your advice to CIOs looking to meet the needs of their organizations in the face of budget constraints?
It's truly a team effort. You can't go it alone. You need support and buy-in from the highest levels to get an organization to focus or make a sizeable investment in an area.

When it comes to validating technology investments, Children's has good governance as far as multidisciplinary groups weighing in on initiatives. When it requires the highest levels of the organization, meaning the direct reports to the CEO, that's when you start to decide what projects to say "no" to. That is the most difficult part—good strategy isn't just about what you're going to do, it's about what you're not going to do.

A CIO's best friend is a well-run enterprise PMO (Project Management Office.) That thirst for technology in health care is continuous, and a good PMO can help your organization execute on the initiatives more effectively. If you're saying yes to quite a few different initiatives, think of the PMO as air traffic control—sometimes those planes can collide in flight unless you look at the overall landscape and you also appreciate what kind of investments are being made.

What do you see as areas of focus in the future?
When you think about the horizon, we're going to continue to see expansion into the community through new care delivery models. I mentioned telemedicine—new technology will help patients' families be more involved with care.

There's the move toward consumerism, as opposed to the patients coming to us. We are going to continue to be reaching out, and that's going to continue to drive the mobility. And with the mobile devices also comes the tools for patients to manage their conditions, so we're excited about that.

Send questions or comments to magazine@childrenshospitals.org.