As the annual HIMSS Conference has come and gone for one more year, Meghan Fintland of NetApp’s Corporate Communications sat down with Scott Lenz, Strategic Alliances Manager, Healthcare Division, for another “People of NetApp Healthcare” interview. Scott talks about what brought him to the healthcare technology industry and eventually NetApp; as well as how EHR technology is impacting both healthcare providers and patients alike.
Meghan: What inspired you to get into the healthcare industry?
Scott: Unlike many of my colleagues who grew up with family members in the healthcare industry, I really just fell into it out of college. My first job was an entry level sales rep position with NCR Corp. There were a few verticals to choose from at the company, but since my girlfriend at the time – now wife – was studying to become a nurse, I thought I’d give the healthcare group a shot.
After choosing to join the healthcare team, I went through an extensive training program, which placed me in a hospital for a full week where I observed workflow between departments. After seeing how technology was helping patients by making hospitals and healthcare providers more efficient and effective in a real-world setting, I caught the bug and fell in love with the industry and have been at it ever since.
Meghan: Can you tell us about your career prior to joining NetApp and what brought you here?
Scott: Six years ago, I was leading strategic alliances for Streamline Health. During this time we were seeing an explosion in the adoption rate of electronic health records (EHRs). My CIO at the time – a very serious and stern former Marine – started talking about the storage challenges hospitals, our partners and our own infrastructure faced from this type of growth.
It was when we were overhauling our storage infrastructure to manage the growing amount of patient data we were hosting that our CIO and his team selected NetApp, and I became familiar with the value NetApp brings to solving these challenges.
Fast forward a year or so, I was approached to join NetApp and help build out the healthcare vertical team. Given my experience with NetApp and seeing first-hand how they were addressing the storage challenge impacting so many healthcare organizations, I knew it would be a great opportunity. By joining NetApp, I was able to help more healthcare organizations around the world improve patient care through innovative technology systems.
Meghan: Since joining NetApp, EHR adoption rates have continued to sky-rocket and solutions become more effective. How have EHRs improved patient care?
Scott: Since joining NetApp, the value of EHRs has certainly become more evident to physicians and healthcare organizations as a means of improving patient care and reducing risk at the initial point of care including emergency situations. In that time, physicians have become more comfortable with the technology and understand that spending a couple additional minutes at the point of care capturing details electronically, means more effective and efficient treatment across the continuum of care.
However, I feel that the greatest impact EHRs have had in the last 5-6 years is how they are enabling patients to take a more active and involved role in their own treatment. I’m saying this not as someone who’s spent 30 plus years in the healthcare technology space, but as a patient facing a serious health scare since joining NetApp.
As a patient, when you’re waiting in the physician’s office or in a hospital hallway awaiting another series of tests, the value of EHRs becomes very apparent. In my case, as I went through deeper and deeper testing, there was this wealth of data available to help my family and I better understand and visualize my progress – helping to alleviate some of the stress and fears that comes from facing a life threatening illness.
Meghan: How does greater access to information and real-time feedback benefit patients and physicians?
Scott: Access to information and the ability to communicate with your physicians in real-time is enabling patients to take a more active role in their treatment. This in turn is helping physicians identify the best treatment options, and adjust and optimize treatment on the fly – based on patient feedback. Similar to how a financial analyst can adjust their investment strategy based on financial data and trends, doctors are utilizing patient data and feedback to adjust treatment in real-time.
Additionally – EHRs and the latest healthcare technology are breaking down physical barriers for treatment. EHRs can connect patients and physicians with specialists across the globe instantaneously, meaning your care and treatment isn’t limited to the four walls of your local hospital.
Overall, EHRs and improved access to information are helping to redefine what gold-standards of care mean for patients, healthcare providers and the wider medical industry.
Meghan: What can vendors do to help physicians deliver the best care?
Scott: All of us vendors, who aspire to provide technology in the arena, need to be cautious and cognizant of how our solutions are used and how they fit into the greater healthcare IT machine. Healthcare technology is only going to become more complex, so it’s up to us to ensure the quality is there and that everything works seamlessly together.
At the end of the day, storage plays a major factor in the patients, physicians and researchers ability to access data efficiently. So it is up to us to deliver offerings that meet the high performance, quality and security needs, so the physicians can concentrate on the things that really matter.
Meghan: How will EHRs and healthcare technology change in the next 5 to 10 years?
Scott: Now that the majority of hospital and office based physicians have adopted EHRs, the data we’re collecting is very powerful. From a research and treatment perspective, the next big breakthrough in healthcare will come from big data and analytics.
Even now, we’re starting to see the next generation of treatment options developing. Some of NetApp’s customers are breaking new ground combining EHRs and additional data to uncover new and more effective options including genomics and personalized medicine, based on the patient’s specific DNA.
For vendors, physicians, and patients, this is a truly remarkable time in healthcare.