Skip to main content
Exploring what’s next in tech – Insights, information, and ideas for today’s IT and business leaders

Transforming healthcare at Texas Children's Hospital

The largest pediatric hospital in the U.S. is using the power of the cloud to innovate and improve patient care.

Every day I come to work at a place where miracles happen. My role is to provide the doctors, nurses, and staff with the technology to help make those miracles happen.

Where I work is Texas Children's Hospital, the largest pediatric healthcare organization in the U.S. With nearly 1,000 beds, Texas Children's is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to create a healthier future for children and women throughout the global community by leading in patient care, education, and research.

It's a place where innovation to improve patient care and outcomes drive virtually every agenda. Among our many achievements, we were the first to implant a pacemaker into a child, successfully separate conjoined twin sisters at 10 months, and perform the first bone marrow transplant from one identical twin child to another.

In the technology field, we are perhaps best known for developing Epic Rover, the now widely used mobile software application that uses barcode technology to prevent medication errors and improve the quality and safety of medical administration.

Texas Children's cloud journey

Our cloud journey began in 2016, which, by healthcare standards, makes us early adopters.

At first, our goal was relatively straightforward: use public cloud to augment our on-premises capabilities and enhance many of the services and technologies we offer to our health providers and staff today, such as predictive analytics, artificial intelligence, and big data.

But as we've progressed, a broader agenda has emerged: build the flexibility and agility to deliver the services we offer to our healthcare professionals in a far more rapid fashion than our traditional capabilities can provide and help our organization in its systemwide efforts to become more agile overall.

Please read: Top 6 healthcare IT lessons from the pandemic

This proved critical when the pandemic hit and we were basically asked overnight to shift from in-person patient visits to a telehealth model.

Here's how we got to that point, what we learned, and what we're still learning, including some best practices we've implemented as our cloud journey continues.

Balancing privacy and risk

The balance between privacy and risk is a tension that exists in any healthcare system. We worked hard on this challenge for much of the early years of our cloud journey. Our infrastructure and application teams wanted us to push for more cloud capabilities at a faster pace, while our security and compliance teams—in working to keep us aligned with all the relevant government regulations and requirements—were perceived as slowing us down. But what we learned in this process proved invaluable.

We realized that we had to start unifying these separate teams and create a single implementation team. Once we did that, we found we could move forward more easily and efficiently. Under this model, we were better able to help define an overall approach to security that worked at the speed of cloud, reduced our risk of being out of compliance, and strengthened our overall security capability.

This is more of a culture and organizational shift than a pure security or risk management challenge. The organizational changes we made helped facilitate a cross-pollination of ideas and implement best practices across our entire IT operations.

Better learning through governance

It's important to note that any organization embarking upon a cloud journey will need to learn, like we have, from its own challenges. There are organizational structures that need to change and new skill sets to learn to build the new capabilities needed to successfully operate with a cloud-first mindset.

We had a few false starts in the early stages of our transformation. Through the pain we experienced, we learned this was not working right. We realized that cloud requires a very different approach, and we finally found success when—with the help of our partners at Hewlett Packard Enterprise—we implemented a cloud governance office that was charged with managing and sustaining all activities around our cloud transformation.

Please read: Advancing medicine with AI at the edge

Once we switched to that new model, we saw progress. It allowed the entire organization to take advantage of the technology available in a way that was not possible before. The governance office gave us a forum to understand, plan, and act, so we could identify areas for improvement, learn from them, and advance.

Take my privacy and risk example. We can't compromise patient privacy, so in our old model, security would be a drag on our agility. Now, we implement new services rapidly, and we're doing so with the best cybersecurity controls and compliance built around them. When we accomplished this, we felt we had achieved the Holy Grail.

Architecting for data science

Collaboration is at the heart of advancement in the field of medicine. This means that we need to provide the capabilities for our researchers—and researchers from partners like Baylor—to run advanced analytical models against different clinical scenarios.

Our goal is to provide a self-service research platform that will allow researchers to have access to the tools and resources they need wherever and whenever they need them.

We are focused on augmenting our existing data center capabilities, and as a result, we now have a very strong presence in AI and predictive analytics in the cloud.

We are still in the process of separating our on-prem estate from our public cloud, from an architecture, design, and implementation perspective. We're doing that because we feel that our on-premises investments, when viewed through the twin prisms of technology and capabilities, are very different from our cloud investments. Simply put, public cloud is better for some things and on-prem is better for others. So, we are applying that understanding to figure out the right mix of platforms needed to best support their respective workloads.

Innovation through rapid ideation and testing

Public cloud has helped us build a discipline for experimentation because the risk is low. Even if we're unsuccessful, we can move on knowing that we can scale back our investment. Our hybrid strategy has helped us right-size these investments up front. If something reaches critical mass, we then have the option to operate it on premises with a cloud model.

We are also in the process of expanding and investing heavily in custom application development. The agility that our cloud operating model and development tools provide enable us to quickly spin up new applications to support and improve our business processes.

Please read: The rapid transformation of healthcare

For example, when the decision was made that Texas Children's would distribute large allocations of the COVID-19 vaccine, we stood up a solution within four business days from notification. We could do this because we had the right governance in place, with the right capabilities, the right technical team. and the right processes. The technology itself is important, for sure, but it's the combination of the people, processes, and technology that ultimately enables us to do this.

Why we transform

Our journey is ongoing, but we're realizing many of the benefits we envisioned when we set out on our transformation. Take the speed with which we can create and deploy apps. That's improved markedly and far more cost efficiently. Agility is another benefit. We can now scale up or down rapidly as needed, the importance of which the pandemic highlighted. Finally, with our data growing exponentially, I'm expecting enormous advances in terms of improving healthcare, many of which are not yet understood. All of it is very exciting.

When I get up in the morning and go to work at Texas Children's, I know that inside those doors there are children who are going to benefit from the technology that we work so hard to make available. There is no feeling quite like knowing that what my team and I do is so important to our providers and staff who are there to help those children in every possible way.

This article/content was written by the individual writer identified and does not necessarily reflect the view of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.