Edward Lee, MD, speaks at Becker’s CIO panel on what keeps him up at night

Edward Lee, MD

At the 7th Annual Becker’s Health IT + Digital Health + RCM event in Chicago, The Permanente Federation’s Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer Edward Lee, MD, said cybersecurity, health equity, and physician burnout are among the multiple challenges keeping him up at night.

Dr. Lee’s approach to addressing such challenges is informed by Kaiser Permanente’s value-based model, which focuses on improving health care quality for patients and preventing problems before they start.

For example, to make sure cyberattacks inflict minimal damage, “prevention is the best medicine,” said Dr. Lee, who also serves as associate executive director for The Permanente Medical Group.

“Unfortunately, at some point there will be a cyber event, so it’s important to make sure you can detect that malware in your network as quickly as possible,” Dr. Lee said. It’s equally important to contain and eradicate the threat and ensure the network continues to function. Without such resiliency, the clinical team and physicians don’t have access to critical information “to provide the right care, the best care, the quality care that we want to provide for our patients,” he said.

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Health equity is also “obviously very important,” Dr. Lee said. Fortunately, previous long-term investments in telehealth and remote patient monitoring technologies served value-based organizations well during the early days of the pandemic, when 80% of care delivery occurred via telemedicine. As a result, “what we’ve seen through the pandemic is an ability to reach patients more easily and in a more equitable way with telehealth.”

For example, Kaiser Permanente performed 100,000 video visits in Northern California in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic. “In 2020,” Dr. Lee said, “we performed 3.9 million video visits, which allowed us to connect to our patients in underserved communities and close care gaps with patients who were less likely to receive care.”

Physician burnout is another major concern, he said, “and we know it is on the rise. Fifty percent of physicians in a recent survey have shown that they were experiencing burnout, and we know burnout can decrease quality of care, increase medical errors, [and] decrease patient satisfaction, as well as increase [physician] turnover.”

To reduce physician burnout, the goal is to take proactive measures to make information technology systems “as frictionless as possible,” Dr. Lee said. “Decreasing the clicks, eliminating the unnecessary pop ups, increasing the training for our physician and staff so they can be facile with using our technology. But even better, develop the technology so that it requires minimal training, or no training, and allows the systems to allow the clinical teams to do their jobs in the best way possible.”

Note: View the entire panel at Becker’s Health IT + Digital Health + RCM Virtual Event (registration required).

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