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Thurston Smith – Swope Health Services

Healthcare CIO uses data to increase access for all

While the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted people’s physical health, it’s also taken a toll in other ways.

“People with a history of mental illness were among the first people we reached out to because we can’t let them fall through the cracks,” says Thurston Smith, the CIO with Swope Health Services. “Just because COVID is happening, and we can’t provide services like we used to, doesn’t mean people have to suffer.”

Swope Health Services is based in Kansas City, Missouri, and has locations in Kansas City, Kansas, as well. It provides physical and behavioral healthcare, and it’s relying more on virtual care during the pandemic. With Smith’s help, it’s also using data to identify and vulnerable patients.

Thurston Smith | Chief Information Officer | Swope Health Services

Thurston Smith | Chief Information Officer | Swope Health Services

For example, Smith says he can look at patients who live far away, and if they have a condition that doesn’t require being physically seen by a doctor, he can offer them telehealth. He’s also considering factors such as mobility issues, access to transportation and immunocompromised conditions.

“These analytics help change what’s going to happen in our world,” he says. “We’re using this information to improve access to health care, build new efficiencies, and enhance our patient services through technology.”

Analyzing needs

That includes the launch of a few new programs, Smith says, including Missouri’s first Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly.

Swope decided to start PACE, which is a model used by organizations throughout the country, after analyzing the need within Jackson County. He found a high number of people ages 55 and older who met PACE requirements, which include being certified to need nursing home care. The program will provide physical and behavioral health care services as well as social programming.

Thurston Smith | Chief Information Officer | Swope Health Services

The PACE KC Adult Wellness Center will be built next to Swope Health Central, the organization’s main location, and is expected to open in early 2023. While Smith joined Swope after the plans for PACE KC were already underway, he and the newly formed data analytics team have calculated the potential number of enrollees, which is helping Swope determine the scope and size of the program, as well as staffing needs. As PACE KC comes to life, Smith will continue analyzing data to enhance services and measure success.

“It took data to set up and it’ll take data to sustain it,” he says.

Increasing access

The same is true for a new program Swope is offering through a partnership with Operation Breakthrough, an organization serving children living in poverty in Kansas City, Missouri.

The organization provides educational and social services, and now with Swope involved, children will also receive dental care. The program was in development before Smith started at Swope, but as with the PACE program, he’s been gathering and analyzing data to determine the scope of services. He’ll also be measuring the success of the program so it can be improved.

Thurston Smith | Chief Information Officer | Swope Health Services

Swope is also opening a new Downtown Community Education Center in partnership with Kansas City Kansas Community College in early 2024.  The new center, which will also include services and programs from other community organizations, will provide health and dental care as well as social services.

“I want to use technology to help people live longer, healthier lives,” Smith says. “Seeing the lives of other people and their families enhanced through technology sustains me.”

Data-informed innovation

Since joining Swope Health Services in March 2021, Smith has been making technology more visible and integrated throughout the organization.

“Technology informs health decisions and makes both equipment and care better,” he says. “The more information we have, the better we can take care of patients and ourselves.”

In addition to implementing telehealth and working on Swope’s new programs, Smith has also been improving the organization’s electronic medical records and strengthening data security. In 2022, he’s planning to roll out remote patient monitoring systems and devices and is currently gathering data on how to do so. He says it’s one of the biggest goals within Swope and will further help patients who lack access to transportation or who otherwise can’t come in.

Thurston Smith | Chief Information Officer | Swope Health Services

Smith has been interested in technology from an early age, he says, and is glad to have made a career where he can use it to help people. He’s worked in healthcare before, including at Rodgers Health and Truman Medical Centers, both in Kansas City, Missouri. He also has his Doctorate of Health Administration from Capella University.

“I knew from when I was young that technology would always be evolving and would be at the leading edge,” Smith says. “I wanted a career where I could constantly be learning and be surrounded by innovation, which I’ve found here at Swope.”

View this feature in the Winter II 2022 Edition here.

Published on: January 12, 2022

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