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Going beyond technology: Roni Amiel at Blythedale Children’s Hospital

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When searching for broad perspectives, we have learned to seek individuals who exist in multiple arenas. Roni Amiel fits this role well as the Chief Information Officer at Blythedale Children’s Hospital in Valhalla, New York and as a student seeking a Master’s degree with a concentration in nanotechnology at Rutger’s University.

In addition to his Bridge panel contribution, Amiel agreed to speak with me about what he sees as the roles technologists, clinicians, vendors, government and patients play in the evolution of healthcare IT. Below is the record of our conversation.

(Editor’s note: To hear audio excerpts of this interview, click on the media player buttons that run throughout this article.)

Free: You have a rich background in technology. Will you please provide a brief outline of your experience?

Roni Amiel, Chief Information Officer, Blythedale Children's Hospital
Roni Amiel, Chief Information Officer, Blythedale Children’s Hospital

Ameil: The way I would normally describe my background is to say that I am a plumber. I am also an electrician. At least, that is the internal joke where I work because I tend to wear a few different hats.

More to the point of your question, I have been a technologist for over 20 years. In terms of healthcare, I have worked in a variety of areas such as research and development, biopharmaceuticals and even including an medical examination office. I think I have collected a well-rounded set of experiences over the years applying technology to healthcare.

Also in the past 15 years, I have acted as a point of person for information security. I spent that time evaluating technology in a very different ways, beyond the zeros and ones that a technologist would normally review. Also, I tend to focus on initiatives and organizations that I can relate to their mission and vision.

For example, the organization that I work for now Blythedale Children’s Hospital, it’s a fantastic organization, a great group of people, enormous amount of willingness to apply technology and it shows. We have very very mature information technology infrastructure and services that are able to leverage information for decision making and in an actionable manner and I think it is one of the many things we have done here and we have been very successful because one of the things we have done beyond that has been taking what we have done in the past four years and essentially starting a technology arm separate from the hospital that helps organizations with similar challenges that we have seen and we continuously see.

Free: How would you describe the current state of healthcare IT? What areas of the field do you believe ought to receive special attention by CIOs?

 Ameil: I think healthcare continues to evolve, I think we know a lot more than we knew probably seven to eight years ago. In a sense that we know what we didn’t know seven to eight years ago. Eight years ago, we didn’t know those key elements that were needed to run the buisness appropriately with regards to IT. To drive technology in an organization in a very practical manner, I think healthcare has a ways to go.

We are in a very early stage of maturity when it comes to information technology. I understand that we are currently using a tremendous amount of information technology, but that does not necessarily describe maturity. That describes a lot of spending. I am not judging that practice as being good or bad, but it should be be noted that the amount of technology used normally does not describe the use’s level of maturity. What we are seeing is that some of the challenges we face in healthcare IT go beyond the technology we use. Technology is really just one piece of it.

I believe, today more than ever before, there is a tremendous need for collaboratation. We need to collaborate between hospitals. We need to collaborate between executives. We need to collaborate between silos. This is important to point out because a lack of collaboration has been a very stubborn issue in healthcare. Up until several years ago, IT in many organizations, and still in many today, is considered to be a utility organization. “I need computer. I need data. I need storage. I need the internet. Let me go to IT.” That limited notion of IT is shifting a bit. I am glad to be working in the midst of the change.