From scrubbing up to geeking out: A Q&A with Infor’s nurse executive

August 30, 2017
Elizabeth Meyers began to see the opportunities — and challenges — of introducing digital technology into the healthcare system when she was a surgical nurse in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps more than a decade ago.

“An electronic documentation system was coming in, and nurses were starting to be more worried about the computers than the patients,” she recalled. “It wasn’t working, and it didn’t seem the developers had ever been in an operating room.”

That frustration led Meyers on a different path, “from scrubbing up to geeking out,” as she puts it. She didn’t leave nursing, but the experience made her wonder how data could be pulled back out of these documentation systems to improve patient care. That curiosity led to a master’s degree in technology management and a move from the Army to a series of jobs with increasing responsibility in nursing and information technology.

Now, as Infor’s nurse executive and healthcare analytics strategy director, Meyers is working to improve patient care by melding data science with hospital management.

“I’m most definitely still a nurse,” Meyers says. “I just care for people in a different way. I help Infor deliver solutions that improve the day-to-day lives of those working across the healthcare industry.”

In this Q&A, Meyers discusses why changing healthcare is particularly hard, what’s driving digital transformation now, and what impact these changes could have on patients.

Technology has been part of hospitals for decades. Supply chain software is common in many industries, like automotive, for example. Why makes it so challenging to bring to healthcare?

We must remember that healthcare is about an individual provider caring for an individual patient. And every single one of our patients is different. That’s the difference between healthcare and manufacturing. I love that the Toyota production system says, “There’s one best way to do things at any point in time.” But, in healthcare, the situation changes with each new patient. Each time new information is introduced, there could be a new best practice that applies. So, in healthcare, we take a “learning systems” approach to incorporate what we know about populations and apply that knowledge to an individual patient encounter.

Let’s use an example of a health system with 50 orthopedic surgeons. There’s not enough evidence out there to say, “This is the very best way to do a particular surgery every time,” especially when it comes down to my specific 103-year-old grandma, who maybe had three fractures before, or my 17-year-old son, who is active and athletic. That’s where expertise comes in. That’s why a doctor goes to college for eight years, and specializes in orthopedics during five years of residency. Surgeons are experts because they have hands-on experience and receive timely feedback on their performance.

What are the drivers for change here?

Most hospital systems now have electronic health records. Twenty years ago, we weren’t collecting all of that data, and it was harder for us to determine best practices. When I worked at a small critical access hospital in 2005, the whole surgery system —  for scheduling procedures, ordering supplies, and documenting care the patient received — was a manual process. When it’s manual, that means data mining is really difficult. Now, that data is collected and stored electronically, we can readily see, end to end, every portion of care. When this information across all patients is combined, we have the data necessary to do deeper analytics, and that provides both a broad view of the best practices for everyone and the ability to zero in on the most effective treatment for each individual.

What role is Infor playing in all of this?

It starts with a common platform, so all the information can be shared. Infor is uniquely positioned because most business data already resides in Infor’s systems, and we’re experts in operational data and systems. We can also access clinical data in real time with our software. Electronic health record companies and clinical data warehouses have been struggling with interoperability and to wield that data to improve decision making because healthcare data is so complex. Infor’s take is to store it at the most granular level and then leverage the advanced technologies instead of traditional data warehousing techniques, which quickly become unwieldy to manage. Infor’s business intelligence tools allow data to be democratized, shared with all decision makers. And, data can be seamlessly blended through our networked experience, which supports both data governance and rapid expansion data modeling.

What is the impact on patient care?

Our customers are using Infor software to feed data in real time into clinical decision support systems. They leverage the information received from the pharmacy, from the laboratories, and from electronic health records, while also connecting to the patient monitoring systems. Then they use these data feeds to create an algorithm that makes recommendations. You can use this, for example, to find early indicators of blood stream infections. Instead of checking through ten screens to get a picture of a patient’s status, an automated system flags the problem right away. This is how we support expert healthcare providers, enabling them to make even better decisions, and improving care one patient at a time.
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