Cleveland Clinic's David Levin: Getting value out of health IT will be 'messy'

Can healthcare IT deliver value? According to David Levin, chief medical information officer of Cleveland Clinic Health System, it can--but getting there is "going to be messy."

"A good place to begin is by remembering that health IT is a means and not an end in itself," Levin writes in Healthcare Informatics. "Sure many of us in the field love the technology, love to tinker and to dream about the next cool piece of hardware or software... But our strategic lens should be on HIT as an enabler of the delivery of high value healthcare."

Levin focuses on a regular set of questions to keep he and his clinical team "on the value track." The first: What is the problem we're trying to solve?

Asking this question, he says, keeps efforts focused on solutions and not premature decisions to use certain technology projects or worry about resources.

Another question, according to Levin: Does this initiative or request align with the strategy of the organization at enterprise, regional and local levels?

"Can the individual or group show how this new effort would advance the organization? Does it fit in with existing efforts or is a duplication or distraction?," Levin asks. "It shouldn't be that hard to show connections. If the case is convoluted or the timeline to get to the payback is long, then it's unlikely this is something that should be a high priority."

At FierceMobileHealthcare's executive breakfast panel focusing on mHealth and patient engagement in Washington, D.C., in December, Levin said that while he's devoted most of his career in bringing technology to healthcare, it's mainly been a failure and there's much more to do. Technology shouldn't put more space between the provider and the patient, but all too often, he said, it does.

The question Levin said he's been asked repeatedly: "Why is it going be different this time?" His response: It's a perfect storm now, and it's become about value-based, patient-centric care. Results, he stressed, are really going to matter.

To learn more:
- read Levin's post in Healthcare Informatics