Why 2024 is Northwell’s ‘year of action’

By Naomi Diaz by Becker’s Hospital Review

New Hyde Park, N.Y.-based Northwell Health’s CIO, Sophy Lu, said 2024 will be the “year of action” for the health system. 

“We need to run full speed ahead this year,” Ms. Lu told Becker’s. “We need to make sure that with everything that we do, we are thinking about what it is that we’re trying to deliver from a transformation perspective, from a joy perspective, back to our constituents, and making sure that it all stitches together in a single experience and a single end-to-end workflow.”

Ms. Lu spent the last year getting settled into her role as CIO, planning budgets, resources and talent, setting the groundwork to create a solid foundation that can allow Northwell to operationalize its major initiatives.

Those ongoing initiatives include an extensive Epic EHR implementation, tech modernization and the migration to the cloud. 

Northwell is currently on a journey to move its data and operations to the cloud. This process, according to Ms. Lu, has allowed the health system to take a closer look at all the applications and technology tools it uses and streamline its inventory, get rid of outdated systems and focus on the ones that work best. 

Simultaneously, as Northwell upgrades to its new Epic EHR, it’s making sure its overall architecture and technology foundation stays up to date. 

“It’s a bit challenging, but it’s an exciting opportunity,” Ms. Lu said. “Not everyone gets a chance like this, in a health system of our size. We see it as a fresh start, a chance to create something new. We’re calling it a ‘clean slate,’ and we’re inspired by our vision of health and harmony. We want to imagine new possibilities and learn from what others in healthcare have experienced. By doing this, we hope to bring better care and services to our community.”

Keeping the ‘human touch’ with AI at Northwell

Addressing the use of artificial intelligence, Ms. Lu said that Northwell is actively engaged in AI initiatives, ranging from intelligent automation to generative AI. 

“The growth and the trajectory of AI, not only in healthcare, but in our lives as a whole, is here to stay,” she said. “It’s the future, and we’re doing a lot of amazing work with AI in areas such as maternal mortality, early detection in diagnosis, and HR processes just to name a few. So, there’s definitely no shortage of hunger demand.”

But Northwell isn’t rushing AI implementation. The organization is focusing on establishing a robust governance framework and policies and ethical considerations to responsibly integrate AI into healthcare operations, ensuring the technology is implemented in the right places at the right time, according to Ms. Lu. 

“We want to make sure we’re using AI responsibly,” she said. “Because we are in the business of healthcare, we don’t want to lose the human touch when it comes to care delivery.”

Amid the technological advancements, Ms. Lu emphasized the significance of data quality, stating that the effectiveness of AI and automation is contingent on the quality of input data. 

“If you train AI with garbage data then you’ll receive garbage out,” she said. “So it’s very important that we understand the sources of data being put in.”

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