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Dr. Colin A. Banas Discusses Trends, Dashboarding and Patient Outcomes

8 Oct 2014

Healthcare is rapidly changing and, while it’s still the EMTs, nurses and physicians who save lives, IT is affecting patient outcomes in ways unimaginable just a few years ago.

When it comes to patient outcomes, Dr. Colin A. Banas, M.D., the Chief Medical Information Officer (CMIO) for the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Medical Center, is reluctant to credit technology. “I’m always careful to say it wasn’t the technology,” he says. “We have the mantra here, ‘It’s people, process, then technology.’” In addition to his role at VCU, Dr. Banas is one of just 15 new Health IT fellows selected by the Office of the Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) this year. In 2013, he testified about using health information technology to improve care in front of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee.

“You’ll hear buzzwords like ‘big data’ and ‘analytics’,” says Banas, “but I think what we’re all really after — and what we’re finally getting towards — is ways of managing populations of patients.” Today, the VCU Medical Center, an 865-bed facility with more than 500 outpatient providers, is completely digital, a trend that began with EMRs back in 2004. Banas believes the future of healthcare IT is going to be in technologies such as dashboards.

“I think dashboarding is an innovative form of decision support that helps a provider or a caregiver see the big picture for a population of patients. With our early warning system, for example, you can click a button and it will show you the sickest patients at that moment in time based on a physiological algorithm,” says Banas. VCU’s rapid response team is then able to intervene before those patients decline. “We’ve had some statistically significant improvements in the number of code blues that are occurring in our hospital ever since we put this technology into place about a year and a half ago,” he says.

Banas cites VCU’s safety dashboard as another example of how technology can help prevent injuries and illnesses. “We have a dashboard that our nurses pull up at the unit level that shows key indicators of a patient population using interactive icons,” he says. The dashboard provides healthcare workers a snapshot of a patient’s information including fall risk, skin breakdown risk and medication reconciliation. “After we put the safety dashboard in place, we saw a 50 percent reduction in serious falls with injury.”

Despite that, and an impressive 30 percent reduction in code blues in the first year after implementing its early warning system, Banas believes the technology is just one factor in VCU’s success. “You can sort of back into it and say, ‘Wow, we got patients to the unit quicker or we got to patients ahead of time and they didn’t need to code because of this technology that we put in place’,” he says. “But, in reality, there’s also awareness from nursing that this has become a priority and the implementation of a rapid response team. It wasn’t just the technology. I’ll never claim total credit for stuff like that.”

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