WEDI-Con: Marshfield Clinic CEO says patients won't wait for industry to catch up with tech

Patients aren't going to wait for the healthcare industry to catch up with technology, and as IT moves farther ahead than where the industry currently stands, "we have to start thinking very differently about what patients expect," Susan Turney, M.D., CEO of Marshfield Clinic, said during the Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange's conference in Reston, Virginia, this week.

In fact, the many health retail businesses springing up all over the country are having a huge impact on practices, Turney said.

"Patients aren't going to wait for us. ... They're not going to wait to get an appointment, they're not going to wait to travel long distances for care. They're not going to wait for a specific provider to have an open spot to see them," she said.

While sometimes it appears that the industry still has a long way to go with health IT, Turney said, that doesn't mean it hasn't made some great strides.

For example, the Wisconsin-based health system has had virtual care in place for about two decades and currently conducts 4,000 visits a month virtually, a number with which she said she's "amazed." However, she added, "we haven't even begun to optimize that and we've been doing it for 20 years."

The health system is working to get more patients to interact with its online portal, using both population health and business intelligence to fully integrate the tool into the system. It now allows patients to follow test results, text providers with questions and be seen through virtual visits, Turney said.

In addition, population health is also a major focus for Marshfield. The clinic is mining data at the individual level and the population health level, "so that when a physician is looking at a patient record they can look at that individual patient but also look at patient with similar diagnosis or look at their entire panel of patients to identify gaps in care," she said.