Boulder Community Health (BCH) has earned national recognition for utilizing information technology to improve patient care and safety during the coronavirus pandemic.

In early October, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) announced that BCH earned “Most Wired” designations for both Foothills Hospital and its physician clinics.

A total of 30,135 organizations were represented in the 2020 Digital Health Most Wired program, which scores hospitals and clinics in eight major areas. The surveys assessed the adoption, integration and impact of technologies in healthcare organizations at all stages of development, from early development to industry leading.

“The Most Wired program elevates the medical care and the health of communities around the world by encouraging the optimal use of information technology,” said Michael Jefferies, BCH Vice President and Chief Information Officer.

BCH’s extensive investments in information technology infrastructure, data analytics, telemedicine and talented staff paid dividends when COVID-19 arrived in Boulder County.

“Digital technology has been a driver of innovation in health care for many years now, but never to the degree that we saw in 2020 with the pandemic,” said CHIME President and CEO Russell P. Branzell.

Enhancing the Telemedicine Platform

In response to social distancing and stay-in-place orders at the start of the global pandemic, BCH needed to rapidly adapt its patient care operations to limit patient and staff exposure to the coronavirus.

The BCH IT team had already implemented a telemedicine platform prior to the pandemic. Within days of the first Colorado case of COVD-19, BCH patients were able to continue being treated by their personal physicians through three distinct types of virtual visits – telephone, video and secure email. This setup and technology allowed patients to connect with their doctors from the safety and comfort of their own homes. These virtual appointments also added tremendous convenience for patients with pre-existing conditions, mobility issues and transportation concerns.

“Our ability to rapidly deploy and scale a wide range of telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic ensured that our community was able to maintain critical relationships with their primary care providers and specialists,” noted Dr. Robert Vissers, BCH President and Chief Executive Officer.

Using IT to Monitor PPE Supplies

BCH also used its extensive IT system to constantly monitor its stockpiles of vital personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks and gowns.

“The ability to rapidly identify in real time how many patients were in the hospital, what equipment was being used and the consumption rate of PPE against our supply was critical to our ability to stay ahead of the COVID crisis in our community,” recalled Dr. Paul Hinchey, Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer for BCH.

Battling Antibiotic Resistance with Data

Additionally, the Most Wired awards reflect BCH’s success in areas beyond pandemic response, including its efforts to battle antibiotic resistance. This growing public health concern occurs when germs, like bacteria and fungi, develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them. In most cases, antibiotic-resistant infections require longer hospital stays and additional follow-up doctor visits.

The BCH IT team partnered with hospital pharmacists, infectious disease specialists and hospital medicine physicians to study the use of the antibiotic ertapenem at BCH. They culled and analyzed data from the BCH electronic health record and distributed reports that helped physicians improve their use of ertapenem, which is used to prevent and treat a wide variety of bacterial infections.

“BCH is working hard to reduce unnecessary usage of broad-spectrum antibiotics so that they remain effective when absolutely necessary,” said Dr. Ben Keidan, Chief Medical Officer for BCH. “We used data to lower our use of ertapenem, doing our part in the fight to prevent microbial resistance.”