IT expert Pat Furr took his first role in the healthcare industry at an interesting time, one that future students of history might view as a transition between what the industry was and what it would become. He became the director of IT at Texas Children’s Hospital in January 2020, as a new virus called COVID-19 spread to the US. By March 2020, it was declared a pandemic and would go on to be ranked as the fifth deadliest in history.
The crisis spurred creative solutions to both new and age-old problems, driving innovation in ways some deem as unprecedented today. As a result, Furr gets a chance to leverage those things to keep patients safe and improve their quality of life. It’s an opportunity he is honored to continue taking on.
“Working in the healthcare industry is instantly rewarding, because you see the patients and families that we’re helping them through their medical,” says Furr, who currently serves as the assistant vice president of information services (IS) infrastructure and healthcare technologies. “It touches the heart to see how new technology is making a huge difference in their lives.”
One of those difference-makers has been the expansion of a virtual visit platform established during the pandemic to accommodate an estimated 225,000 virtual physician-patient appointments performed each year.
Patrick Furr on Texas Children’s Mobile App
“We’re building out the Texas Children’s mobile app to include links, navigation, educational resources, and rehab information. If a patient has a particular condition, a provider will be able to point out in the app where they can read more about that topic or a procedure they might need. Also, we’re putting marketing information in the app, sharing details about community or fundraising events. I recently read that patient engagement directly correlates to retention and increased revenue, thus we are taking steps to improve that patient experience whether they are in one of our hospitals or at home. This mobile app effort is to make sure we provide that technology and the information at our patient’s fingertips, such that we are able to provide a better patient experience and care over the long term.”
Implementing something like that was a journey, Furr says, noting the hospital initially struggled with low adoption rates among physicians. The original platform could not keep up with the hospital’s integration needs and new capabilities, and became too expensive. That prompted Furr and his colleagues to go with another vendor that has a better user experience, is more cost effective, has better integration capabilities and language interpretation services, and drives higher adoption among doctors and patients alike: the electronic medical records system.
“Today, as things are getting back to normal, our physicians take a more balanced approach between virtual and in-person visits, because people still want the convenience of not having to drive to the medical center for an appointment,” he says. “So, even though we were forced into a position to leverage that technology to keep doing business during the pandemic, I think it ended up being a positive to come out of the global crisis.”
He is just as excited about the expansion of the hospital’s Simulation Center, a multidisciplinary center that provides hands-on training to pediatric and obstetric professionals. The center has long been used to expose professionals to high-risk scenarios in a life-like environment in order to prepare them for the field. But with the expansion, the center will be home to an area dedicated to new technology innovation in response to “an explosive amount of new healthcare technology” spawned by the pandemic, Furr says.
“A lot of new technology has been coming from start-up companies at a very fast pace. So, when they come in and pitch their new tech, we can bring it into the innovation center—a safe playground to test innovative products quickly, and then determine if it would be a good fit for Texas Children’s.
“This technology has the possibility of making huge advancements in healthcare,” he adds. “We could diagnose medical conditions faster, prevent them altogether, and improve the way we do procedures on patients.”
As technology consistency evolves, innovation is a must—especially when it comes to caring for children and their families. Furr and his team provide the best possible patient experience for everyone who enters Texas Children’s Hospital, notes Len Noble, vice president of sales at Netsync Network Solutions.
Pat Furr on His Career Path
“In high school, I wanted to be a programmer, but I felt like if I was tied behind a computer all the time, I wouldn’t be happy. So, I went the other route and went to the hardware side, which allowed me to get out, see people, move around, and visit locations. I started off doing computer and mainframe repair then, worked my way up to network operations and then building and designing data centers, before ultimately leading teams across all of IS infrastructure and healthcare technologies.”
“Pat’s vision has always been to use technology and innovation to put a smile on the face of the children and to provide the most clear and concise information for their parents,” Noble says. “Pat discovered Netsync’s Alto Patient experience solution can do just that. Pat’s love for technology and his concern for the well-being of others drives him and his team toward continuous innovation and provide the best service possible.”
Prior to Texas Children’s, Furr garnered years of experience as an IT and business expert in various organizations, including Reliant Energy, GenOn Energy, and NRG Energy. In addition to being successful on large-scale projects like building data centers and building out a hybrid cloud strategy, he’s proud of the skills he used to navigate the coordination those efforts required. That’s why he’s the leader he is today—one who empowers his team and encourages to strengthen relationships in and out of information services.
“I’m a big promoter of empowerment,” he says. “I give my team the data and the tools they need to do their job. As they go along their journey and get stuck, I don’t rush in to take it from them or force them to do it my way. I coach then on techniques they can try to use to get over the hump like leaders did for me.”
Mark III Systems is proud to partner with Texas Children’s Hospital and academic medical centers, healthcare systems, and life science organizations across North America on building out and copiloting their Centers of Excellence. These CoEs range from Core Information Systems to Research Computing platforms (HPC & AI/ML) to Simulation/Digital Twin platforms to Innovation. With three decades in supporting the healthcare ecosystem and a unique cross-functional team that works together everyday of systems engineers, DevOps/MLOps engineers, innovation devs, data scientists, 3D artists, and client leaders, Mark III can support and help accelerate your journey, no matter where you are.
Based in Houston, Texas, Netsync uses a blended approach that is both consultative and collaborative when working with clients. We assess Texas Children’s Hospital’s needs, architect innovative technology solutions to meet those needs, and offer 24/7/365 access to our team of seasoned, professional engineering experts. This approach has distinguished Netsync as a progressive partner with our healthcare clients that introduces the newest, best-of-breed products and solutions to our valued customer. While being global, Netsync has local presence in major cities. Netsync is a Cisco Gold, Master Collaboration, Master Networking, Master Service Provider and Master Security Partner and holds certifications and specializations from many of the industry’s leading technology manufacturers.