Born at Kahuku Medical Center, raised in Laie and a proud graduate of Kahuku High School and Brigham Young University—Hawaii, Wesley Johnson has never faltered in his loyalty to the North Shore community. Even when his burgeoning career in information technology drew him to town during the work week, Johnson’s ties to the country kept him firmly rooted up north.
After a year at the tech training school New Horizons Hawaii, Johnson continued to make the grueling commute from North Shore to town while working at a law firm on Bishop Street and later at YWCA O‘ahu. It wasn’t until he heard of a job opening as an IT concierge at Turtle Bay Resort that he gladly found himself both living and working in the community where he grew up.
Johnson spent the next decade honing his IT expertise in the hospitality sector, working his way up from IT concierge to technician to manager to senior manager and, finally, director of information technology. From there he was approached to take his knowledge and experience to Kahuku Medical Center as its IT director. Eager to challenge himself and learn something new, he jumped at the opportunity to give back to his beloved North Shore community in this new capacity.
“They say IT is like a tidal wave,” Johnson says. “You either need to ride it or it’s going to consume you.” In just the last year, Kahuku Medical Center has ridden that wave in implementing telestroke, a web-based software program that allows medical providers at KMC to connect patients with specialists at Queens Medical Center via webcam. Kahuku Medical Center is one of eight hospitals in Hawai‘i’s telemedicine network and, says Johnson, it’s already saving lives.
“The more we can simplify things, the better.”
Telestroke is just one example of the myriad ways that technology is reducing health costs and improving quality of care for patients in rural hospitals like Kahuku Medical Center. “We’re all the way out here in the country, so response time is a big consideration anytime we’re negotiating a contract or deciding whether a provider or vendor is the right fit for us,” Johnson says. “Telemedicine is definitely the future of healthcare, and I think our success with telestroke has proven that it could work.”
But modernizing an organization’s IT infrastructure has its challenges. “Because the medical record systems are so new and some of these programs have been around for longer, getting them to talk is always the struggle,” Johnson says.
Still, he believes the benefits far outweigh the growing pains for KMC, both in opening the lines of communication between healthcare providers and connecting patient and physician in new and innovative ways.
Kahuku Medical Center is currently in the process of developing a new marketing plan, and data from the hospital’s electronic medical record system is helping KMC identify where its patients are coming from and how many have visited the hospital from those areas.
And while Johnson’s biggest task has been facilitating adoption of the electronic medical record, his work has a wide reach throughout the hospital. “With IT, you touch every single department,” Johnson says. “If we aren’t doing our job, other people aren’t able to do theirs.”
Technology is also transforming other aspects of care delivery at KMC. These range from energy-saving sensors that monitor the hospital’s air conditioning system to equipping paralyzed or disabled patients with Amazon’s Alexa app so they can turn their room’s television monitors on and off and adjust the volume more easily.
“I believe in keeping it simple,” Johnson says. “I always ask myself what I can do to simplify things to make them easier for the people we serve. The more we can simplify things, the better.”
That’s been Johnson’s philosophy the past two years at Kahuku Medical Center, where he’s found a home leading his department of three. “Maybe in a few years I’ll check myself into long-term care over here,” he jokes. “My old office is in the same place as the nursery where I was born. It’s a blessing to be able to do that full circle and give back to the community where I was born and raised.”