OSU Wexner Medical Center Discusses the Changing Landscape of Healthcare and the Digital Delivery of Services

Phyllis Teater - Columbus Tech Power Player Honoree

Phyllis Teater


OSU Wexner Medical Center



Bryan Kaiser

Founder and President



To listen to the podcast, click here!


The CIO for the OSU Wexner Medical Center, Phyllis Teater, discusses the changing landscape of healthcare and the digital delivery of services.


BK: We are here today with Phyllis Teater, who is the CIO at OSU Wexner Medical Center, which is an organization based in Columbus, Ohio, and focuses on improving people's lives. My name is Bryan Kaiser. I'm the Founder and President of Vernovis, and also on the executive host committee for comSpark. I will be your guest moderator today and let's, uh, let's get started. Phyllis, thanks for your time. You have been with OSU for about 26 years, nine of that being the CIO. So, in a time where CIOs generally are in a role for a year and a half to two years, what do you attribute your longevity to?


PT: Um, it's been a wonderful time and through that time at OSU I've been able to really get to know, um, and create relationships with all of the people in the medical center as well as the university, and that really, those relationships themselves and, uh, striving to help folks and to make their jobs easier, um, is how I really try to, to approach my job. I think that, uh, always trying to understand the business and not making them understand the technology is the right way to go about leveraging the technology to help the business.


BK: That's good. So nine years as a CIO, how have you seen that role change?


PT: I think it's, it did start out really with delivering technology and the time I've been in healthcare, the CIO role has really had to change to be about understanding where the business is going and to allow my team and our teams to deliver the technology to really be that bridge between the business and technology. And I think that's really changed the way that CIOs approach trying to deliver the right solutions to the business.


BK: So, I'm sure you have some projects going on. What are some of your top projects this year and what's their level of importance?


PT: Our most important project is changing the way that we deliver services to our patients. Healthcare, in the past, has not been a very digital delivery of services. Certain parts of healthcare certainly have to be in person, but some of the newer technologies allow us to deliver services digitally. For instance, we can now have an, have a patient schedule an appointment from the website with a doctor they maybe have never seen before. They can find a doctor that treats their particular issue and then be able to schedule an appointment right there and have an appointment maybe even later that same day to be able to see a physician.

In addition, we do offer video visits through some of our physicians and we're continuing to roll that out where you can do a virtual visit and be able to talk to your physician and have a visit with your cell phone to be able to talk to a physician. So of course we can deliver those quickly. They don't need to come and park and take time off work. They could do it from their own office. Really to enable that convenience, bring that convenience of digital delivery to healthcare, um, as it's already arrived in so many other industries.


BK: Well, that's a really good point. So, so I know a common frustration with patients can be, uh, time waiting in the waiting room and you show up for a 2:00 appointment and the doctor comes out at 2:45, largely because they're backed up. Are you seeing technology improve that? Do you have statistics around that? Are you, is that, is that something that you're seeing some improvement?


PT: We do see the time that, the access time, which is what we call that, that a patient can get an appointment if they, if they have a condition that can be seen virtually is significantly lower than the access time if they need to go in-person. Because it can fit their schedule, you could say, “Well, I have an appointment in an hour, can you take it?” And certainly, often they can, because they're able to be seen virtually. Otherwise they'd have to be, “Well, I have to leave the office, drive, park. No, I'm sorry I can't take that one.” So we're able to fill slots very, very timely by offering them to patients in a virtual way, if they have a condition that can be seen virtually.


BK: That's great. That's, uh, that's a fantastic improvement, so that's good. So how, how do you want to improve your organization over the next three years?


PT: I think one of our biggest goals is to be thinking about how we continue to infuse, uh, data and good knowledge about our practices and predicting the things that we need to do into the, into the delivery of healthcare as well as the delivery of education and research. We do have a three part mission at the Wexner Medical Center, uh, and that includes delivering healthcare to patients, but training the healthcare providers of tomorrow, as well as discovering new breakthrough cures. And so, how do we do all of those and really support them with the amazing amount of data that we have and build that into information that can really help to make better decisions and discover new cures?


BK: Great. So what makes you happy professionally?


PT: Happiness in a profession is not usually available every day. The days that I feel that the most are days where I can really solve a particular problem. Somebody would come to me and say, “I'm really having trouble understanding how to deliver this particular service to the patient,” and when we or our teams are able to say, “Hey, we can do this in a much better way, make you more efficient as a clinician, as well as to be able to deliver better service to that patient” by providing something in a tech, in the technology world, that's the best day.


BK: That's, that's good and happiness…you're right. It's hard to find happiness every day and happiness comes from happenings, right? So, there's something deeper there. So let's, let's shift gears to security. That was a big space right now, it’s kind of the wild west.


PT: It is.


BK: People trying to figure it out. What would you recommend to a company that has no security or governance plan? Where would you even start?


PT: I think often the first place to start with security is to look at and assess what, where are my highest risks? That is the way it is with cybersecurity these days, is that you could spend $100,000,000, you could spend $100 and all of those postures are valid, as long as you're willing to understand what are my highest risk things and those are the things that you're tackling first. There are a number of mechanisms to assess risk. We use one in-house as well as have outside people help us with that, but to really, that very first step is to do that risk assessment because if you find out, you know, what the things that you need to focus on are, then you know how to put a governance in place for those things, you know what tools to buy, you know what people to hire that have the right skills. But unless you know the actual items that you think provide the highest risk, you don't know where to start.


BK: Yeah, that risk tolerance is huge, because we tell people a lot that you're going to pay for it one way or the other. So, if you spend the $100, your risk is very high and you might find yourself on the front page and spending money, you know, recuperating that. Or you spend $100,000 to really put up some fortresses and um, you know, you, your risk is much lower. So, uh, there's, there's two sides to that. So, we have an app for so many tasks now in today's world, what are the challenges in designing an application?


PT: I think the biggest challenge, at least that we see and that I find in my own personal life is integration is we, you have an app, you can acquire an app, I guess, to do every single thing I think there is that you can think about to do. It's one of the things I do is, like, go to the app store, see if I can figure out if there's an app for that. But the apps are all sort of operating independently and it's often very hard to have that service feel seamless to the user. It's especially difficult for us with patients, because there are so many apps. There's your Fitbit app, there's your app where you record, what you're eating, there's the app where you are tracking your weight, and all of these different apps do all of these different functions. Some do the same functions, but some other ones too, and just how do you manage those in a way that feels seamless to the end user? And we work hard to try to have that happen for our patients. And really it's, it's a lot of work and takes a lot of time and due diligence, but we think that that's really important to have that seamless experience for the user.


BK: That's good. So you do feel like that's kind of the next evolution of apps is trying to figure out how they talk to each other and integrate?


PT: Yes. And how they have, for instance, we have the ability to feed Fitbit data into our computer system, our electronic medical record, and if the patient chooses to do that. So, you know, there are things that can be done. All of them take a lot of technical resources to make it look so simple to the patients.


BK: Sure. Yeah. Just plug it in and go, right?


PT: That's what it should look like to them. We have to do all the heavy lifting.


BK: That’s right. But there's a lot going on behind the scenes. Good. So my last question, how are, how are you using technology for positive change or disruption in your organization?


PT: Well, I would really go back to the digital customer experience example and, um, and how do we digitize the experience that our patient has? For us, though, it is a two-way street to be sure that we are helping our clinicians and our caregivers to be efficient in their work. We could, at the far end of things, have a doctor available 24/7 to be talked to immediately for every single patient. But you can imagine the stress on the physician lives and the amount of doctors we would have to have. Um, and so we really do have to be careful that we're addressing both sides of that spectrum.


BK: That's a good point. Phyllis, thank you for your time.


PT: You’re welcome.


BK: It's been wonderful, uh, spending some time with you. I'm Bryan Kaiser, and this is Phyllis Teater. To learn more about us, please visit comspark.tech, and we'll see you next time.


To learn more about sponsorship opportunities for 2019, contact Michelle Ziegler at michelle.ziegler@venuemag.net