Rasu Shrestha at Datapalooza

“Maybe stories are just data with a soul.” ― Brené Brown

What do health systems and data have in common? They have both traditionally been mired in silos, and these silos have dramatically constrained meaningful transformation. But I believe that the future ahead will look nothing like our past we’re leaving behind. A culture that breaks down silos empowers clinicians and researchers to bring their ideas from the bench to the bedside and into our patients’ and consumers’ lives. It’s been exciting to see others acknowledge the need for this new culture as a part of this blog series - data geeks, policy wonks, digital health innovators, we need all these voices and more to bring that new culture to fruition.

At Atrium Health, we work to break down silos and build bridges as a learning health system (LHS). The Institute of Medicine defines an LHS as "one in which science and informatics, patient-clinician partnerships, incentives, and culture are aligned to promote and enable continuous and real-time improvement in both the effectiveness and efficiency of care.” Creating a true LHS requires top-to-bottom commitment to culture change, together with vision, leadership, and investment in data driven, evidence-based health system transformation and the resulting payoff can be remarkable. The teams, processes and technology support systems we have in place create a “living lab”, empowering clinicians and researchers to bring their passions to life – creating better outcomes for all involved. I’m looking forward to experiencing a similar meeting of the minds at the co-located Health Datapalooza and National Health Policy Conference next month.

From Ideas to Impact

At Atrium Health, many of our teams and processes serve as organizational bridges to bring clinical research and entrepreneurial ideas into real-world care delivery. One team at the center of this work is our Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation (CORE). This multidisciplinary team of expert researchers and clinicians has built relationships across our system to operationalize practice-informed research. Our newly established Emerging Care Model division is another team bringing entrepreneurial ideas to life. This small team of administrative and clinical leaders is empowered to design, develop, launch and iterate new models of care that will assist our transformation for the future, bridging the divide between innovation and strategy on one side, and clinical and operations on the other. For maximum effectiveness, the team is aligned with a learning health analytics support team that can drive smarter care, agility and constant learning. We also have support in place for individual clinicians, researchers and teammates with ideas ripe for commercialization. We’ve established a process and support to assist these entrepreneurs to transform their ideas into real solutions that can be put into the hands of patients and providers.

Community Matters

Connections for clinicians and researchers to create impact also spread far beyond our bricks and mortar. Through community-clinical partnerships and services aimed at managing and improving health at the community level, our Community Health team builds networks between providers, community resources, and patients and their families to address social determinants of health. Our work to provide affordable housing and address food insecurity are among the many health and life improvements we’ve enabled through clinical, research, and community connection. In just a few weeks, our CEO, Gene Woods, will speak more about our work in this arena at Health Datapalooza.

Social determinants of health are also a critical theme among our health policy colleagues, with an entire track devoted to the subject on the National Health Policy Conference agenda. 

The Path Forward

Investing in the culture and infrastructure to support researchers and entrepreneurial clinicians paves the way for transformation. One example of how this has come to life in our organization was the launch of Electronically Accessible Pathways (EAPathwaysTM). This physician-built, digital infrastructure was developed by one of our leading cancer clinicians and researchers, Dr. Ed Kim, to give every cancer patient access to world-class care. The software provides real-time updates of new drug approvals, guideline changes, and clinical trial enrollment status. It is embedded directly into our electronic health records, giving each patient access to the collective experience of our cancer specialists. To date, it has over 30K engagements on the platform. And we’re only getting started.

I’m moderating a panel at next month’s Health Datapalooza on Data Driving Transformation and I can’t wait to dig into this more with panelists at Xealth, Seqster and Atlantic Health System about innovations happening within their organizations as well. 

When Love Meets Science

Our launch of MLBio, a startup focused on finding a cure for a rare disease, represents another example of how we combined cutting-edge research findings, clinical expertise, and internal and external funding to form a company that can alter the future. When love meets science, amazing things happen. MLBio is a biopharmaceutical start-up company focused on bringing forth a safe and effective drug therapy for patients with Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy type 2i (LGMD2i), a rare genetic disease affecting skeletal, respiratory and cardiac muscle functions. When Jane B. Lockwood was diagnosed with LGMD2i as a child, her parents Luther and Jane McColl Lockwood immediately began a search for the very best medical teams in the nation, which they found right at Atrium Health.

It all started in the McColl-Lockwood Laboratory for Muscular Dystrophy Research at Atrium Health, led by Dr. Qi Long Lu, who developed a new therapy that could reduce the symptoms of LGMD2i by an astounding 50% -- dramatically changing the quality of life for those with the disease. MLBio is dedicated to accelerating this research into an approved treatment and to making it available around the world to the patients who need it. With preclinical investigational new drug (IND) studies complete and the FDA now engaged, the launch of MLBio puts us on a track to find a cure with a global impact.  

The mission for caring requires for us to think across traditionally siloed domains, and connect disparate data sources to generate insights that then become the lifeblood of transformative, learning health systems. Bridging clinical insights and research excellence to meaningful action and scalable impact – that’s how we truly improve health, elevate hope, and advance healing – for all. I look forward to continuing these important conversations next month. I hope you’ll join us!

Rasu Shrestha
Committee Member

Rasu Shrestha, M.D., M.B.A.

Chief Strategy Officer and Executive Vice President - Atrium Health

Chief Strategy Officer and Executive Vice President at Atrium Health. Read Bio

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