CHIME Fall Forum Interview Series

CHIME Interview Series: David Parker, CIO/VP of IT, Magnolia Regional Health Center

David Parker, CIO

David Parker, CIO/VP of IT, HIM, & Ambulatory Informatics Magnolia Regional Health Center

Magnolia Regional Health Center, where David Parker is CIO/VP of Information Technology, is taking physician engagement to the next level. An annual physician retreat helps the health center gather information on what the providers need to perform the best care possible. In this interview, Parker shares how their providers drove the decision for a new EHR; how the MEDITECH platform has changed over the years; and the benefits of total provider engagement in a transition process. He also discusses the issues that arise with legacy systems and how archival is top of mind for the organization.

CHIME Fall CIO Forum provides valuable education programming, tailored specifically to meet the needs of CIOs and other healthcare IT executives. Justin Campbell, of Galen Healthcare Solutions, had the opportunity to attend this year’s forum and interview CIOs from all over the country. Here is the next interview in the series:

Key Insights

In our community, we enjoy our autonomy and do not want to get into the hip pocket of another big healthcare organization.

We followed the Ready program that MEDITECH offered to us and that significantly helped us achieve a successful implementation.

When we were running the MEDITECH Magic system, we had Magic on the acute side and GE Centricity on the ambulatory side. We had lab and radiology report interfaces, but aside from that, there was very little other integration between those systems.

Although physicians typically don’t want change and appreciating the monumental project that comes with replacing systems, they recognized this is the way for us to progress forward. 

That was the intent of the retreat – the findings from those breakout sessions. We took that and and determined how to start addressing this for the physicians. That’s what drove our selection process.

We know we can save our hospital money if we can pick an archival solution and sunset these legacy systems.

Campbell: Please tell me a little about Magnolia Regional Health Center?

Parker: Magnolia Regional Health Center is in the northeastern corner of Mississippi, about an hour and a half east of Memphis. We serve seven counties, with a population base of about 200,000 people. We’re licensed for 200 beds but operate 171 beds. We have roughly 200 physicians within our organization.

We have a graduate medical education program here, so we’re able to raise our own physicians, which has been very valuable for the past decade that the program has been in place. We’ve had one or more members from every graduating class either choose to continue their residency here or complete their residency program and then choose to set up shop with us; it’s been quite a blessing for our community. We are a city and county owned hospital, meaning we’re not associated with any other health organizations; we’re a standalone system. Our closest competitor is roughly an hour away. We’re fortunate we don’t have heavy competition in our neighborhood, although that’s starting to change. We’re starting to see a little more encroachment in our community from other healthcare systems. We’re all being pressured from different angles and trying to find ways to grow our systems; we must adjust and adapt.

Campbell: Great, thank you. What EMR system does MRHC currently leverage? With usability and productivity deficiencies currently driving replacement activity in the EMR market, do you have any plans to migrate platforms?

Parker: We’ve been a customer of MEDITECH since the early 90’s. Last year, we implemented MEDITECH’s 6.1 – their latest platform – on the acute side and this year, we’re implementing MEDITECH’s web ambulatory product; we’re a MEDITECH customer across the board. We have almost every single module that MEDITECH offers as it’s a good fit for a hospital of our size.

During the vendor selection process, several of our physicians wanted us to look at Epic as they had trained at much larger hospitals and knew the Epic platform and liked it. However, it was just not in the cards for us, as it was too expensive. Epic doesn’t sell to directly to community based hospitals like us, so the only option we had was to partner with another Epic hospital. We took that message back to our physician base. Here in our community we enjoy our autonomy and do not want to get into the hip pocket of another big healthcare organization, so we decided that was not an option.

The MEDITECH Magic platform has been a good product for us. We used it until it was getting long in the tooth. The younger doctors did not like the look and feel of Magic platform, so, we started visiting with MEDITECH and learning how they were moving forward. Their R&D dollars were not going towards Magic, but rather, they were going towards their new 6.x platform. As such, we selected that as our go-forward platform. We implemented that with MEDITECH’s Ready  methodology that they’ve put in place. It’s a project timeline and guide to follow with best practices for choosing your consultants; making sure those consultants know the system – they’re trained and certified; determining what teams to put together internally; how to backfill for them; and how to allow those teams to fully focus on the implementation. We followed the Ready program that MEDITECH offered to us and that significantly helped us achieve a successful implementation.

Campbell: It sounds like you made an outstanding decision to stick with the platform that you’ve long been on and served itself well to you. MEDITECH is well known for their stability and it’s great to hear that you’re advancing your use of their platform and adopting even more features through it. To that regard, tell me a little bit about how that decision was made in the context of interoperability demands? A lot of groups consolidate and move to a single solution so they don’t have to worry about interoperability within the enterprise, especially between care settings. Could you touch on your experience with that and how that’s handled within MRHC?

Parker: When we were running the MEDITECH Magic system, we had Magic on the acute side and then GE Centricity on the ambulatory side. We had lab and radiology report interfaces, but aside from that, there was very little other integration between those systems. As we moved forward, the doctors expressed the desire for one platform. When MEDITECH came on-site to do their demos, they also showed how this new product they were working on that would be fully integrated. The doctors who saw it could see the benefit of it. Although physicians typically don’t want change and appreciating the monumental project that comes with replacing systems, they recognized this is the way for us to progress forward.  Meaningful Use is here to stay and we decided we must continue plugging away at that and other anticipated regulatory measures. Our physicians recognized they’re going to require more and more use of electronic health records and having those systems integrated so we can harvest the data for reporting and analytics is critical to our success.

I’m very proud to say that our physicians drove us to make this move. We have an annual physician educational retreat, where we meet off-site and break into sessions. Out of all those different breakout sessions, there was the resounding sentiment from the 80 or so physicians who attended to replace MEDITECH Magic. It wasn’t that they pushed for a particular system, but they said, ‘We have used Magic for many years, we have made Meaningful Use Stage 1 and 2 with MEDITECH Magic, but we’re very frustrated with it. It’s time to go look for something else.’ That was the intent of the retreat, the findings from those breakout sessions. We took that and determined how to start addressing this for the physicians. That’s what drove our selection process for the next six months or so of 2014. We looked at the options including Epic, Cerner, McKesson, and MEDITECH. We made the doctors a part of that process and solicited their feedback. We also solicited input from all the other departments that it would affect.

Campbell: It’s truly profound that the providers drove the selection process, where you have engagement and they feel like they’re a part of it. Shifting gears a bit, can you tell me about data you migrated from GE Centricity? Did you abstract the data into the new system? Was there a data migration that took place? Is the GE Centricity system still running?

Parker: That is the one thing that’s been a little frustrating in this whole process, as MEDITECH does not have a migration path from Magic or any external system, so it was not an option to migrate data into the system. We still have GE Centricity running, as well as the Magic system, so we can still access historical data in those systems. MEDITECH 6.1 contains a link that allows you to contextually SSO to Magic, which is helpful, but we still need the icon for Centricity on the desktops for the users. Our plan over the next year is to start looking at how we are going to archive all of the data and retire the legacy systems. We have MEDITECH Magic data, we have MEDITECH Homecare Hospice product from years in the past, we have GE Centricity records, and we’ve got some other little systems that we need to archive. We need to be able to retire those legacy systems because right now we still maintain those servers and pay some licensing to keep the systems running.

Campbell: How does archival fit within the overall project of system upgrade and replacement?

Parker: We’ve been very focused on the 6.x implementation for the last two years. We kicked off at the beginning of 2015 with an implementation of the acute side, and that was roughly a 16-18-month project. Once we were live, we spent several months fixing things then shifted our focus to ambulatory. Now that ambulatory is live, we’ll probably spend a few months on enhancements and additional optimization opportunities. Then we’ll start looking at how to get rid of the technical debt that’s looming out there. We know we can save our hospital money if we can pick an archival solution and sunset these legacy systems.

Campbell: That sounds very logical. Shifting gears a bit, what is MRMC’s plans for population health management? Are you leveraging a solution today or do you have plans to? Or is it even something that’s applicable to your organization today?

Parker: It’s not too applicable right now. We do have the surveillance dashboards MEDITECH offers and we’re building them now, but don’t have them live yet. We’re evaluating incorporating those dashboards into the workflow, and we have an internal committee pursuing that initiative. Sepsis prevention is the big area that we’re focusing on right now. Once we get our arms around that, we’ll move onto other population health initiatives. We’re in discussions with a big hospital that’s about an hour south of us regarding collaboration through health information exchange. As we move that forward we’ll look at getting more population health data out of MEDITECH and into this bigger group of hospitals that’s forming a larger community.

Campbell: It’s how you survive in this value-based world. The data sharing must happen and that’s why data blocking is such a huge topic. The patients are demanding that the data follow them, but the infrastructure may not be in place to allow it to happen. Do you have a comment on any other projects that might be ongoing at the organization once you’ve completed the implementation?

Parker: One of the next big large initiatives we plan on tackling is clinical documentation improvement. We recently purchased Nuance’s Clintegrity product and we’ll soon be focusing on getting that up and going. We think that’s a game changer for us and our physicians have been clamoring for something like this. We survived the switch over from ICD-10, but there’s so much more that we could be doing to improve documentation, to code our charts better and to accurately reflect the health of our patients. We were very disappointed in our health grade score, which surprised us, but as we started digging into the data it was clear to us that we are not doing a good job of documenting just how sick our patients are. It looks like they’re not very sick, and they come in and get much sicker, or pass away, and we haven’t done a good job to document that these patients were very sick when they presented at the hospital to begin with. The CDI program that we’re putting into place with Nuance will take us roughly six months to get it in place, but we think it will be a positive change for us.

About David Parker
David Parker serves as CIO/VP of IT for Magnolia Regional Medical Center, a non-profit, city owned, HIMSS EMRAM Stage 6, 200-bed acute care hospital located in Corinth, MS. Mr. Parker leads an IT team of 24 employees and is responsible for IT management, project leadership, budgeting, & strategic planning. Mr. Parker currently oversees upgrading of platforms and operating systems as a part of MRHC’s initiative to become a HIMSS EMRAM Stage 7 hospital.

Prior to his current position, Mr. Parker served as an IT director for a smaller health care system in Oklahoma for 10 years. Mr. Parker has also held positions where responsibilities included support of a local hospital finance system and electronic medical records implementation at a health care facility.

Mr. Parker holds a BS in Finance from Texas A&M University. 

About Justin Campbell
Justin is Vice President, Strategy, at Galen Healthcare Solutions. He is responsible for market intelligence, segmentation, business and market development and competitive strategy. Justin has been consulting in Health IT for over 10 years, guiding clients in the implementation, integration, and optimization of clinical systems. He has been on the front lines of system replacement and data migration is passionate about advancing interoperability in healthcare and harnessing analytical insights to realize improvements in patient care. Justin can be found on Twitter at @TJustinCampbell and LinkedIn.

CHIME Fall Forum Interview Series: Rich Pollack, VP & CIO, VCU Health System

Rich-Pollack-CIO

Rich Pollack, VP & CIO at VCU Health System

There’s a lot of healthcare history at Virginia Commonwealth University Health Systems, where Rich Pollack is VP and CIO, and not just because their medical school has been in existence since 1838. VCUHS was also the third site to deploy the TDS7000 System, meaning computer provider order entry (CPOE) has been in use for more than 30 years. While that predates Pollack, he has a compelling history of his own. He started out on the clinical side of healthcare as a radiology administrative manager. As the world of health IT started to shift and electronic health records became more prominent, Pollack found his clinical background desired by HIT Vendors, and what might look like a meticulously planned career journey was in fact serendipitous. Pollack’s experience continues to serve him well today as he continually looks for ways to enhance patient care through the merging of two worlds. As far as initiatives that are in queue for the year, we discuss everything from telemedicine to data archival, and all their Cerner solutions in between.

CHIME Fall CIO Forum provides valuable education programming, tailored specifically to meet the needs of CIOs and other healthcare IT executives. Justin Campbell, of Galen Healthcare Solutions, had the opportunity to attend this year’s forum and interview CIOs from all over the country. Here is the next interview in the series:

Key Insights

It’s a little unusual, you don’t typically find a lot of academic medical centers with a payer organization

We’re going to try and avoid point solutions and instead go for the EMR vendor’s population health solution, partly because of its tight integration into the EMR.

This organization was an early adopter of electronic medical records and CPOE. We were the third site to deploy the TDS7000 System, way back in the late 70s-early 80s.

What was fortuitous for me was that for a long time, health IT was mainly focused on business systems, financial, billing, and revenue. It was only in the late 80s-early 90s that the focus began to shift to clinical systems and the electronic medical record. That’s exactly around the time that I made the transition into health IT.

You need that understanding of what patient care processes are like: what is the world of the clinician and the caregiver?

Campbell: Let’s start out with a little bit of background about yourself and about VCU Health. I know you’ve been there for over a decade. Tell me about your role there and what you folks are working on.

Pollack: I’ve been here for about 11 ½ years. We’re an academic medical center leveraging Cerner EMR, about a $3B a year organization, and we’re fully integrated. In other words, we have a hospital component that has a community hospital and a children’s hospital, with over 900 beds. We also have a large outpatient component where we see about 650,000 patients a year in over 100 clinics, mostly specialty/sub specialty. We also own our 750-physician practice plan. Those physicians practice in all the clinics and hospitals. They’re complimented by 1,500 other providers, mid-levels, residents, and such.

We are a part of Virginia Commonwealth University, which is the largest university in Virginia. The medical school, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, has been in existence since 1838, so there is a rich history. Another component we added in about 15-16 years ago, is a payer. We have an insurance entity called Virginia Premier. It is a Medicaid HMO, and is the third largest in the state with about 200,000 or so members. That’s a little unusual, as you don’t typically find a lot of academic medical centers with a payer organization.

I run the IT organization, which oversees all the information technology for the entities I previously mentioned. We’re well integrated at the infrastructure layer: we run the same revenue cycle/billing system, from GE, across the inpatient/outpatient environment; and the same EMR, Cerner, services the entire organization. There is a certain amount of decentralization, as you would typically see within an academic medical center, but for the most part, we’re still tightly integrated.

Campbell: That sounds like a vast realm of responsibility for a healthcare information technology leader like yourself. How many applications are you responsible for in the enterprise and do you leverage any enterprise application management software to catalog and manage those?

Pollack: We have about 150-160 applications, depends how you categorize them, which is relatively modest for the size of the organization we are. That’s primarily because we have three core systems that are used by everyone: the EMR, revenue cycle, and ERP. Of those 150-160, some of them are very small applications. You have CBord Dietary Planning Software that runs on a server somewhere and it’s not awfully critical, all the way up to the revenue cycle GE/IDX systems that run on redundant AIX boxes, to the Lawson/Infor ERP, which is remote hosted, as well the Cerner EMR, which is also remote hosted. That’s the portfolio. We don’t necessarily have a formal application management system, but we have a database that we put together that tracks these applications. It looks at: who are the owners, who are the stewards, how old is the software, when’s the next release, when is it going to go out of support, where is it run, how many servers, what location, and those kinds of things. We put that together mainly from a disaster recovery stand-point because we want to know where these systems are, how are they going to be supported from a DR standpoint, what tier they are, and what’s the underlying architecture to support DR for that tier.

Campbell: Thank you for elaborating on that. It’s very insightful. In terms of population health management, how is that managed today? Do you have point solution? Do you rely on the EHR vendor? Do you have a data warehouse that you’re leveraging? Can you tell me a little bit about your approach?

Pollack: Though we don’t have a formal ACO, we are involved in managing population health. As an organization, we’ve been involved in population health management for a long time. We have a large indigent population with a lot of chronic disease patients. We recently stood up a multidisciplinary complex care clinic, that serves our top 5% most costly populations. We use our enterprise analytics data warehouse and our analytics team to help stratify and identify certain populations.

We are looking to deploy Cerner’s HealtheIntent Population Health Platform, primarily the care management aspects of that, both acute and community care management, and secondarily, the smart registries feature. We’re trying to avoid point solutions and instead leverage the EMR vendor’s population health solution, primarily due to its tight integration into the EMR. We are wanting to avoid pushing the physicians, who are the decision makers for these complex populations, out to yet another, or third, application, to try and manage these populations. We wanted to integrate it as tightly in the EMR as we can. That is the place our clinicians live.

Campbell: That makes a lot of sense. I think that’s why Epic and Cerner are in the positions they are today, namely the advantage of native, seamless integration and a singular database across care settings. This approach alleviates the need to harmonize nomenclatures across different care settings. Switching gears again, I know you have a background in medical biology, and you’re a HIMSS fellow as well. Tell me about how you apply your background into your everyday role. Coming from a clinical background, there may be components of it that are valuable to being a healthcare CIO.

Pollack: It’s interesting. In hindsight, it might look like some meticulously planned career journey, but in fact it was anything but. It was pure luck and happenstance that I started out on the clinical side, not on the business and IT side. My first career for 13 years was as a radiology administrative manager. I was involved in: nuclear medicine, ultrasound, radiology, the early days of CT Scanners, PACS, and such. I thought I would stay in that field forever. By chance, I was looking to make a move geographically and ended up going to work for a small health IT company down in North Carolina, that was looking for someone with a radiology background. One thing led to another, and I eventually gravitated into health IT. What was fortuitous was for a long time, health IT was mainly focused on business systems – financial, billing, and revenue. It was only in the late 80s-early 90s that the focus began to shift to clinical systems and the electronic medical record. That’s exactly the time that I made the transition into health IT. My clinical background and experience began to serve me well because of the focus on EMRs; I gravitated towards that. I worked for a couple HIT vendor companies, and then eventually became a CIO. I became attracted to the community hospital setting initially, but then went on to big academic medical centers: MD Anderson, Indiana University Health, and then eventually came to VCU Health.

My clinical background has served me extremely well because that is a bulk of what we do, or a significant part of what health IT is involved in. It’s also the most challenging part. You need that understanding of what patient care processes are like: what is the world of the clinician and the caregiver? I’ve been there, I’ve worked closely with them, I understand what’s involved and the nuances about it. I have a passion for it. All of those things have worked to serve me well. If the industry had gone in some other direction and supply chain was the most important thing, maybe I would be unemployed now… *laughing* At any rate, it just so happened that there was a confluence of forces at work – my background in clinical care with the industries change in direction towards EMRs – and it all came together.

Campbell: Very serendipitous. I imagine having that appreciation, more importantly that perspective, allows you to build trust with stakeholders in clinical positions. Thank you for sharing that background. Let’s discuss CHIME a bit. Tell me about the draw of CHIME for you and what you went there looking for this year. What were the key insights you gleaned from attending the event?

Pollack: The size of the event facilitates networking, which is such a key underpinning and important aspect of belonging to CHIME. I have made incredible contacts, incredible friends and professional relationships through CHIME over the years because it’s focused on networking, connecting peers, and mentoring and supporting each other in many ways. That’s probably the greatest value of the organization.

I find the educational offerings, particularly the track sessions, valuable and engaging. For the most part they’re not vendor presentations, they’re real world experiences from my peers across the country that I can derive some real essence from. That’s tremendously beneficial. I think some of the keynotes have been very inspiring over the years, so I get a lot out of that as well. Those are the key underpinnings: the educational aspects, the networking, and the professional development. I’m CHCHIO certified, which I had to study and take an exam for. I was a little reluctant to do so, but I did manage to pass! I tell people they must’ve had a big curve that year. But I got through that and achieved certification.

The other aspect, which has been particularly important the last several years with ACA and so on, is the voice CHIME brings to the political arena in terms of legislation and regulation. Whether it’s the ONC that they’re dealing with, Congress, the Federal Communication Commission, or the FDA, CHIME has developed a very strong advocacy voice for the world of healthcare IT. They represent our interests and needs extremely well and in a pragmatic way. They bring some of our experienced and senior members in close contact with the people who are setting up and crafting the legislation and regulations, so they can realize what will not work and why, or if there is a better way to go. I’m more of a recipient or beneficiary of that activity from CHIME, but I have a great respect and appreciation for it.

Campbell: In closing, what’s on tap for you this year? It sounds like you’re going to be focused on archival and I imagine integrating the community hospitals will be top of mind for you.

Pollack: We’re building a new hospital and rolling them into Cerner and GE/IDX, that’s our singular, largest project, but we have a lot of others. We have what we call an ERR roadmap, that we update every couple of years, with a lot of subprojects. We’re wrapping up Cerner Oncology implementation, we’ve got Cerner Women’s Health taking off, and we’re looking at adopting the Cerner Behavioral Health module. We’re conducting a lot of optimization, where we go back, revisit and optimize physician and nursing documentation. Those are some of the significant pieces. We also have a lot planned on our infrastructure side. This is one of those years where we’re investing quite a bit into building out our DR capability across our two data centers. We are trying to move forward with VDI at the desktop, which has been a challenge for us in the past, but new technology is making it more feasible for us. The organization continues to grow, the outpatient footprint gets bigger, and we’re opening clinics all over the state. We have telemedicine today but we’re going to go more into the world of virtual visits in a big way, so that’s an exciting venue for us as well.

Campbell: Well, I’ll tell you it sounds like you’re on the forefront of healthcare information technology. This has been most enlightening. Thank you for taking the time to chat.

About Rich Pollack
Rich Pollack is Vice President and Chief Information Officer for VCU Health System. There, his responsibilities include setting the vision for IT, supported by effective strategic and tactical plans that define the best practices in support of patient care and operational excellence.

At VCU Health Systems, his accomplishments include:
* Ongoing successful installation of electronic medical records and computerized physician order entry
* Selection and initiation of a new hospital billing system and enterprise resource planning system
* Contributing to the development of a new all-digital 15 story acute care tower utilizing layers of integrated technology, including wireless, VoIP phones, bedside device integration, mobile access to facilitate effective communication and high-quality care

He also has served as:
* Chief Information Officer for Clarian Health Partners, a $2 billion health system in Indianapolis
* An IT leader at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, lastly as CIO overseeing a 500-person information systems organization with projects totaling more than $100 million supporting clinical, academic, research and administrative functions
* Director of Information Systems for Nash Health Care Systems in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, where he and his team successfully implemented a computer-based patient record system for the 450-bed, multi-hospital organization, which received special commendation as best industry-practice

Rich has more than 30 years of health care management experience.

Rich holds a master’s degree in medical biology and is a member of several professional organizations.

About Justin Campbell
Justin is Vice President, Strategy, at Galen Healthcare Solutions. He is responsible for market intelligence, segmentation, business and market development and competitive strategy. Justin has been consulting in Health IT for over 10 years, guiding clients in the implementation, integration and optimization of clinical systems. He has been on the front lines of system replacement and data migration, is passionate about advancing interoperability in healthcare and harnessing analytical insights to realize improvements in patient care. Justin can be found on Twitter at @TJustinCampbell and LinkedIn.

CHIME Fall Forum Interview Series: Robert Napoli, SVP, CIO, Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands

Have you ever started a new job with a lengthy to-do list? Robert Napoli, Senior Vice President and CIO at Planned Parenthood Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands, can relate. When he first joined the organization three and a half years ago he began a rip and replace of their entire system, and in the end, the only thing that remained was the telecommunication system.  Once he was finished redesigning and replacing, he moved on to strategic initiatives including BI and analytics strategy, mobile health, patient engagement, and more. With experience on both the acute care and ambulatory side, Napoli offers up a unique perspective on the harmonization of clinical data. In this interview, he discusses his organization’s journey through data archival; why integrated solutions are the way to go; and the question on everyone’s mind: what’s happening with the potential defunding of Planned Parenthood? Napoli is a well-seasoned healthcare technologist who’s always aiming to innovate, and we discussed what he’s done and where he’s going.

CHIME Fall CIO Forum provides valuable education programming, tailored specifically to meet the needs of CIOs and other healthcare IT executives. Justin Campbell, of Galen Healthcare Solutions, had the opportunity to attend this year’s forum and interview CIOs from all over the country. Here is the next interview in the series:

Key Insights

In my experience, I have found that integrated solutions are typically easier to deploy and maintain, provide more predictable and lower TCO, and offer better support for overall organizational workflows.

So long as the data exists, we have a repository that is easily reference-able and accessible.

We ripped out the entire network, redesigned it, upgraded the equipment, installed wireless for the first time, replaced email and moved services to the Cloud.

Given the political landscape and the potential for defunding, we’re looking at ways coalesce those services, perform consolidation, and expand the expertise that some of the individual affiliates have to a broader, more national effort.

There’s hardly a CHIME event that I don’t come back with something that I can either implement or use in my organization.

We were recognized by CIO Magazine IDG for successfully launching the federation’s first mobile health app. This service virtually extends our medical expertise and allows patients either through a smartphone or computer, to have a real-time visit through a secure video consultation system.

Campbell: Thank you for taking the time to chat with me. Can you provide a little bit of background about yourself and about your organization?

Napoli: Sure. I’m the Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. We’re the affiliate that is based in Seattle and operate health centers in Alaska, the Hawaiian Islands, Idaho and Western Washington. We have ambulatory clinics in each of those states, providing both primary and reproductive care for men and women. I’ve been in this position for a little over three and a half years now. Prior to that, I was the IT Director at a mid-size hospital in Connecticut and before that, held CIO accountability at a similarly sized hospital just north of New York City. In that role, I reported to the CFO and oversaw the strategic and tactical direction of the department as well as the operational management of our technology and information systems.  I was in that position for nearly nine years. So, I have both acute care as well as ambulatory experience.

Campbell: Certainly valuable to be able to understand both of those perspectives, especially given the challenges surrounding the harmonization and coalescence of that data from the ambulatory side to the acute side. Thank you for that background. In terms of applications within the portfolio, can you provide an overview of that? Specifically, the applications that fall under your umbrella in your organization? Could you also elaborate on your enterprise portfolio approach – best of breed, integrated, etc. –  and whether you have plans to consolidate in the future?

Napoli: In my experience, I have found that integrated solutions are typically easier to deploy and maintain, provide more predictable and lower TCO, and offer better support for overall organizational workflows. Certainly, this isn’t the case with all information systems and there have been occasions, throughout the years, when we’ve gone with best of breed solutions – cybersecurity tools being one such example. Also, a slightly different question, although related, is what to do when native functionality in systems isn’t as robust or feature-rich as third-party options. Population health and analytics are good examples of this. In these cases, we have no problem implementing third-party solutions to provide additional functionality and capabilities. But as a rule, I tend to push for integrated technologies when possible.

The application portfolio that my group manages is pretty standard and includes all of our clinical and business systems including the EHR and practice management systems. Shortly after arriving, I initiated a business intelligence and analytics strategy, so we support and manage these systems as well. There are a couple of outliers. For example, there’s a Cloud-based learning management system that we provide some support for, but that is managed primarily by our education and training departments. Outside of that, nearly every other piece of technology or software used by the organization is supported by my group. We’re comprised of the technical folks that support our infrastructure, computers, and telecommunication systems as well as the clinical and business analysts and data management teams. As the organization’s Chief Security Officer, I am also responsible for ensuring our organization’s HIPAA and cybersecurity posture, which our technical team supports with assistance from external consultants.

Campbell: Very good. Let’s touch a bit on data archival strategy. Do you leverage a data archival solution today? I know you mentioned the data warehouse, and I’ve talked with some folks where they’ve used the data warehouse for archival purposes.

Napoli: We do, although we haven’t been able to reach a consensus on a specific archival period. Fortunately, we have the capacity to archive all of our data without limitation, so landing on this hasn’t been a priority.

When I arrived at the organization in July of 2013, we didn’t have a report writer or database administrator, let alone a cohesive data management or analytics strategy. I made the decision very early on that once I had addressed our operational issues by stabilizing systems and redirecting staff, that we would need to focus on being a modern, data-driven organization. One of the first strategic initiatives that I proposed to my executive team and board was a comprehensive business intelligence strategy – it was an easy sell. In hindsight, this project was a heavy lift, and our biggest challenge was transforming an organization that wasn’t accustomed to working with a lot of data to one that now had a ton of data available. To realize full value from our investment and effort, we needed to get our business leaders to a point where they understood the data and owned the business results of using the system. Architecting the system was relatively easy compared to the cultural shifts that needed to take place. My goal from the outset was to provide a self-service data platform – I didn’t want our end users dependent on Information Services to understand our business and to get access to the data that is most meaningful to them. Although this work was extremely difficult at first, it has been a huge success.

Our biggest consideration when architecting the system was whether to build a data warehouse (which is better for archiving) or go with an OLTP approach, which is more suited for real-time business operations and better met my objective of empowering our business leaders. We decided on a hybrid approach that includes a data warehouse precisely for its archival capabilities. Our warehouse includes historical and current data feeds from both internal and external data sources for all our business units. So long as the data exists, we have a repository that is easily referenceable and accessible.

Campbell: One of the things I talked about with several of your peers was requests to access legacy data. The archival whitepaper we published addressed some of the concerns and challenges when there are eDiscovery requests for data. Specifically, when you archive that data, the shape of the data is inherently changed. Another consideration is what the chart that the clinician was presented with at the exact time of inquiry. That could differ from the PDF of the chart that is produced from most archival applications. There’s certainly a lot of metadata considerations. If you could elaborate on how your organization approaches that today and any insights you may have, that would be helpful.

Napoli: Fortunately, we haven’t had many eDiscovery requests in the time that I’ve been at the organization. We implemented our first EHR in 2010, so there isn’t a lot of data that I would describe as “legacy.” Other information systems were minimal prior to this. Our EHR vendor provides an archiving module which helps make our underlying storage environment more efficient, but our most requested data is in our repository where our users can access what they need although It’s not uncommon for us to receive requests for ad-hoc reports or custom dashboards. The requests for eDiscovery information typically occurs between the business unit making the request and our data management team, and I don’t necessarily have a lot of visibility into the actual discussions themselves. My team does a great job ascertaining that the data we’re pulling is correct and appropriate for the need.

Campbell: Shifting gears a bit, tell me a little about what keeps you busy these days. Any major organizational initiatives? Perhaps you could touch on some items you went to CHIME looking to find out more about.

Napoli: Right now, things at my affiliate are extremely stable. As I mentioned earlier, when I first got to the organization there were a ton of operational challenges that we needed to address. We spent the first couple of years ripping out and replacing every piece of core technology in the organization, except for the telecommunications system, which was replaced the year before I got there. We replaced every endpoint, server, and storage device including the infrastructure that housed our EHR and PM systems. We ripped out the entire network, redesigned it, upgraded the equipment, installed wireless for the first time, replaced email and moved services to the Cloud. In the middle of all this, we acquired the Hawaii affiliate and had to merge their systems with ours and bring them up on our EHR, so operationally we had a ton going on. We’ve spent the past couple of years focusing on the more strategic stuff – getting the data warehouse and business intelligence environments up and running, releasing a mobile app, implementing population health and patient engagement platforms, expanding our telehealth services, among other things. We’re at a point now where, not only operationally, but tactically and strategically, we’re in a great spot.

Lately, I’ve been focusing more of my time on assisting Planned Parenthood Federation of America with some newer and broader initiatives, such as cybersecurity and a shared services model. Let me quickly explain our relationship to the federation as this can be confusing. The national office provides our branding and accreditation, but they do not operate any health centers directly, which is the responsibility of one of 56 affiliates. Each affiliate is an independent organization with its own executive team, board of directors, budgets, information systems, and internal decision-making process. Given the political landscape and the potential for defunding, we’re looking at ways to coalesce those services, perform consolidation, and expand the expertise that some of the individual affiliates have to a broader, more national effort. It’s exciting because one of my earliest observations was that affiliates could benefit from centralizing systems and services, but there were internal politics and personal interests that prevented these conversations from moving forward. Although I do not welcome the thought that we could lose a significant part of our revenue, the situation is forcing us to be more agile and lean, and this is a good thing.

Campbell: I imagine sustainability and solvency is top of mind for you, providing value added services to create revenue generation in creative ways, and as you mentioned, finding economies of scale, and getting more operationally efficient because you need to. Tell me a bit about data sharing that may occur from a regional level to a national level.

Napoli: That’s one of the areas we’re evaluating. We decided to build our own data warehouse because there weren’t any viable options available through the national office or another affiliate. During the requirements gathering phase of this work, we heard anecdotally from many of our business leaders who expressed a desire to benchmark our measures against other affiliates or even those of other organizations. We’ve recently partnered with OCHIN, Inc. located in Portland, for our EHR template customizations and they offer an extremely robust real-time healthcare-specific data aggregation tool called Acuere that would provide this benchmarking. We’re impressed with Acura’s capabilities and are moving forward with a subscription. However, its ultimate usefulness and value are dependent on our end user adoption and whether other affiliates see the value in a data aggregation tool and participate in the program.

Campbell: Do you leverage any health information exchange technology? Or have you evaluated that? I know with some groups, it makes it easier if there are other affiliates that need to connect, to move to that hub and spoke model. An alternative is asynchronous requests where you web services are leveraged to broadcast out to other affiliates, ‘hey do you have any data that I care about,’ and that request is fulfilled.

Napoli: We don’t. We do share data with OneHealthPort, which is the Washington State HIE, so the interfaces and configuration necessary to exchange that data are in place. However, this is a state requirement if you see Medicaid patients and there isn’t much of a business case for participating without this mandate. There is, however, a huge business need to share patient data across the federation since most patients don’t realize that our affiliates (even those that are near one another) are independent, stand-alone organizations with separate EHRs, unique patient identifiers and completely closed data systems. Our patients are often surprised that their medical record is not universally accessible in all our health centers since we present a unified brand.

The aforementioned OCHIN has a potential solution to this that, although not an overnight fix, provides what I believe is the best opportunity for coalescing our disparate EHRs into a truly portable patient record. I’ll be working closely with them over the next few months as we explore this further.

Campbell: I wanted to get your thoughts on CHIME. I talked to Chuck Christian, VP at  Indiana HIE –  one of the founding members of CHIME – and he just raved about how refreshing it is to be amongst your peers. There is a lot of noise at the HIMSS conference whereas the CHIME forum is much more focused. At CHIME, you’re talking about the things that are meaningful to you and given the multitude of issues and responsibilities that come with being a healthcare CIO, it’s seemingly invaluable. I’ll give you another perspective you may have read in one of our earlier interviews, that was extremely cogent advice, from Dr. R Hal Baker at Wellspan. He mentioned the currency of a healthcare leader is measured in attention units. You want ambitiously desire to accomplish a great deal of initiatives, but your primary job as a CIO is to ensure extraordinary care to the patient population you serve. There’s so many ways where you can get distracted or lose your focus. Without me rambling on too much I’d like to hear your perspective on what CHIME means to you and the value you get out of it?

Napoli: I would agree that there’s a lot of noise out there, especially at the HIMSS Conference, just because of the size and scope of it. In many respects, I find it overwhelming even though I’m a proud member of HIMSS, hold CPHIMS certification, and serve on the HIMSS Innovation Committee. CHIME is an association that I value, and the annual conference is one that I look forward to for a couple of reasons. For starters, there are so many people over the years that I’ve connected with and met through CHIME. Chuck Christian, for example, was one of my faculty at the CHIME CIO Bootcamp that I attended several years back. Having the opportunity to reconnect with people who you invariably meet over the years is vital. Additionally, the content of the program is extremely relevant, and it’s engaging and useful. There’s hardly a CHIME event that I don’t come back with something that I can either implement or use in my organization. I sit on the CHCIO Exam Review Panel and recently agreed to serve as a CHIME Ambassador – these are testaments to the value I place on my membership.

Campbell: That’s great. Certainly, when you get so much out of an organization it’s great to hear that you pay it forward and give back to it as well. Any closing thoughts that you may have? The readership for healthIT & mHealth is primarily health entrepreneurs or digital health startups and in past interviews I’ve tried to inquire to the interviewees about advice they may have for folks in that space or what’s on the mind of your organization.  You mentioned patient engagement, and it’s a crowded space with a lot of apps offered in that area, but who’s moving the needle in a meaningful way? Any parting insights you’d like to leave our audience with?

Napoli: Mobile health is a personal interest of mine. After all these years, I still consider myself a technologist at heart. I helped develop one of the first medical transcription and dictation systems in the early 90’s and still like architecting systems and solutions as time allows. In 2015, we were recognized by CIO Magazine IDG for successfully launching the federation’s first mobile health app. This service virtually extends our medical expertise and allows patients either through a smartphone or computer, to have a real-time visit through a secure video consultation system. I also recently designed a mobile health app that I’m hoping to deploy nationally to all affiliates. It’s an app that patients can use to find our health centers, book appointments, connect and communicate with us. I’ve provided our national office with the design documentation, so that’s something to look for in the future.

It’s an extremely exciting time to be in Health IT. The more progressive organizations understood long ago the value that technologies such as big data, mobility, social media and the Cloud brought to the business. Increasing numbers of CIOs are now viewed as business drivers as opposed to the business enablers or operators of old. In my opinion, the real innovation is happening around technologies such as artificial intelligence, augmented reality, autonomous systems among others, which have the potential to greatly improve patient outcomes. The work around cancer genomics is especially encouraging. We’re not quite there yet, but I believe that we are on the cusp of some significant breakthroughs.

Campbell: I appreciate your perspective. It sounds like a lot of innovation is occurring and that’s something our readers will certainly be interested in.

CHIME Fall Forum Interview Series: Charles Christian, VP, Technology & Engagement, Indiana Health Information Exchange

Charles-Christian-CIO

Charles Christian, FCHIME, LCHIME, FHIMSS, CHCIO Indiana Health Information Exchange

Innovation is high on the mind of Charles Christian, and rightly so. Christian is part of the largest health information exchange in the U.S. and is continually looking for ways to make connecting over 100 healthcare organizations simpler. His view? When all options are exhausted, the simplest solution is normally the best and most cost effective. It’s a unique perspective coming from someone who is doing the connecting rather than struggling for a connection. In this interview, Christian discusses the compelling work his organization is engaged in: From aiding the United Way in their quest to reduce infant mortality rates in particularly lower income areas, to analyzing data to target childhood obesity. Not only is Christian constantly looking for ways to improve healthcare’s information accessibility, but also healthcare’s leadership. Check out his 7 key takeaways from CHIME’s CIO Bootcamp.

CHIME Fall CIO Forum provides valuable education programming, tailored specifically to meet the needs of CIOs and other healthcare IT executives. Justin Campbell, of Galen Healthcare Solutions, had the opportunity to attend this year’s forum and interview CIOs from all over the country. Here is the next interview in the series:

Key Insights

One of the innovative capabilities we have is a smart search within our repository – likened to a google search.

In the end, we’re not willing to put the privacy and security of the data, for which we are custodians, at risk for the sake of giving someone access.

We have 3 pilots underway, where if a patient shows up in the ER at one of SHIEC’s members, information for that patient is queried to other member HIEs based upon zip code and in the case of a match, a clinical summary for that patient – often times CCD – is returned.

What we’re finding, is that the changing ambulatory landscape is making getting access to the data more challenging.

To me, the whole purpose of CHIME is to weave those networks of individuals regardless of size of organization, longevity in the business, and depth of expertise. It provides the education CIOs need to be highly successful.

Campbell: Let’s start with some background on you, your organization and your role.

Christian: I’m currently with the Indiana Health Information Exchange and have been here about 18 months. I spent 27 years as a healthcare CIO at a couple of different organizations and actually was a customer of the exchange when CIO at a southern Indiana healthcare organization.

We operate the largest health information exchange in the U.S., connecting over 100 hospitals, long-term care facilities, rehabilitation centers, community health clinics and other healthcare providers. All said, we have 140 total data sources, connecting to over 12,000 practices and serving over 22,000 physicians and 12MM patients.

We’ve only been incorporated since 2004. Years before that, the exchange was created out of clinical need in the Indianapolis area. It was actually created by the minds at the IU Health Methodist Research Institute, one of the big health systems in Indianapolis. There was a known need for the ability to share clinical information. We’ve been doing this for over 20 years, and the data in the HIE in some cases is over 30 years old. We currently have over 9B clinical data elements stored in the HIE.

Campbell: That is incredible and impressive. What types of exchange takes place today with the HIE?

Christian: One of our core services is results delivery. We provide the nation’s largest implementation of clinical results delivery and support the Indiana Network for Patient Care, a clinical data repository accessed via IHIE’s CareWeb application.

Results are delivered to participant EMRs in one of three ways – either to a secure inbox, through HL7 integration or through fax. A lot of physician workflows are built around receiving a fax. It’s examined, sorted, indexed and filed.

Campbell: You have quite a few endpoints, which is fantastic. Tell me a bit about the process for participant onboarding.

Christian: We’ve connected to over 250 EMRs. We recently established an HL7 connection to athenahealth. That enabled us to turn on HL7 delivery to over 2000 physicians at one time. Another health system we are working with is moving from fax to electronic delivery. My goal is to have electronic delivery and HL7 for every EMR. Part of the challenge is in resourcing – setting up the feed and building the integration with the EMR. It takes some specialized technical work to execute.

Campbell: Tell me a bit more about the payload of transactions that you receive.

Christian: We currently don’t receive CCD. Instead, we predominately get ADT transactions, results, transcribed documents, or HL7 embedded with PDF. We ingest it into the repository, normalize the data and send it along to subscribing entities. Through normalization, we organize the clinical elements to present to the end users via a portal. In this way, it makes it nice for physicians to use SSO from their EMR of record to the portal, and be able to see a lab result from Methodist hospital, let’s say, sitting alongside a lab result from St. Francis Health.

One of the innovative capabilities we have is a smart search within our repository – likened to a google search. Take one of our ER physicians at Eskenazi, for example. He’s got a search protocol called “chest pain,” which pulls any recent admissions with chest pain as the chief complaint. It also pulls troponin levels, any echocardiograms, or cast studies, and delivers to him instead of the physician having to hunt for them. We are actually working with an EMR vendor to embed this capability within the system of record. In this way, we can embed a search bar and the physician can access saved searches that retrieve information based upon criteria and filters they setup.

That is just one example of the extremely creative initiatives we are working on to minimize the workload for the physicians.

Campbell: With so many sources, I imagine there is a deluge of data you are swimming in. Can you elaborate a bit about the governance processes you employ today to dictate data access?

Christian: We have a seat on the management council for The Indiana Network for Patient Care. The exchange is also a curator of the data. It’s owned by its members and there is governance across that. A group of 20 voting members are elected by the members and use cases of HIE data access are presented to the voting group. The group determines the appropriateness of data access requests and whether they meet HIPAA guidelines. This approach is used for a variety of use cases. With approved requests, a window of access is provided. Participants can always see the data they provide, but the only way full access to the record is granted is if there is a treatment relationship with the patient. We’ve had some physicians present unique use cases where they are seeing a patient, for instance, a consult with an oncologist, and they don’t have a treatment relationship with that patient. Hence they cannot access the data. I get it. If it were my family member trying to consult, there would be frustration with the impediment. However, it’s one of those balancing acts to provide secure access to the data. Same goes for organ procurement, which has about a half a dozen use cases, but we still haven’t figured out how to create the appropriate access safely. In the end, we’re not willing to put the privacy and security of the data, for which we are custodians, at risk for the sake of giving someone access.

Campbell: Thank you for elaborating on the sound approach you are using for data governance, security and access. Do you have a unique compelling use case that comes to mind that you could share?

Christian: United Way has a program – fully funded by them – where they send nurses out into the community for areas that have high infant mortality rates, particularly in the lower income areas. The nurses provide help – whatever they may need. Perhaps get them to the pediatrician’s office, for instance. United Way approached us and said it would be marvelous if they could see the corresponding data – prenatal care, course of events, C-section, those types of things – that would be helpful as part of their outreach. The problem was that they are not a HIPAA covered entity. Our attorneys helped get them covered and we stood up the program. It’s great because of the difference made in those children’s lives, especially considering they are typically low income folks that don’t have the same access others are privileged to have. It’s truly an extraordinary effort to provide help to that population.

Campbell: It’s great to hear stories like this, where health information exchange truly makes a difference in the lives of patients who need it most. What other initiatives is IHIE working on or taking part in?

Christian: We are a member of the Strategic Health Information Exchange Collaborative (SHIEC), whose members are 50 of the sustainable HIEs in the country. Many of the members have different business models than we do. For instance, some are state entities, like Kentucky Health Information Exchange (KHIE), and others don’t persist data, they just transact, as with the Kansas Health Information Network (KHIN) model. Our first annual meeting was in 2015, where about a dozen of us got together to share ideas and have conversations about how we can work together, ways to share services, and how to lower operational costs.  Our country does not have an operational HIE that covers all of the market. SHIEC is the closest we have, and that covers about half of the population.

Take for instance, the Indianapolis area, where 500K people present downtown. They inevitably come to the ER. Unfortunately, the providers treat them based upon what is in the head of the patient or family members. We have 3 pilots underway, where if a patient shows up in the ER at one of SHIEC’s members, information for that patient is queried to other member HIEs. In the case of a match, a clinical summary for that patient – often times CCD – is returned. Once treatment for the patient is finished, it is bundled up with the clinical record and shipped back to the querying HIE. That is a model that can be replicated.

Campbell: That is truly an impactful initiative and I’m excited to hear where it will go – hopefully eventually providing connectivity for all of the population. Let’s shift gears a bit and discuss data persistence. With 9B clinical data elements, and metadata considerations, I imagine that creates a huge demand for storage. Do you purge any data today?

Christian: We persist data forever. We are acutely aware that it costs money to store the data, and costs money to back it up. We take our direction from our general council and we have terms and conditions built within the confines of state and federal laws for participants we receive data from. That said, we don’t have the primary record, rather we have pieces of it. In light of that, is it OK to purge or trim? It’s a good question, but it is not built into the software. We are socializing with members and asking the question “if you are going to delete data, what would it look like.” Our CMIO advisory group suggest that we don’t get rid of any of it. One of the use cases we came up with, is that if you are deceased for 5 years, and there is no new data after 5 years, then the data can be purged. All said, pursuit of purging data is a difficult boulder to push up the proverbial hill.

Campbell: It’s no secret that a lot of HIEs face solvency and sustainability issues. What does IHIE offer its members today as part of its value proposition?

Christian: Healthcare has long been very hospital centric. Hospitals were the ones who first moved to digital solutions and automated. Now we have a large number of physicians practices that are automated. We get data from them, parse that information and store it in our data repository. Consequently, the opportunity truly lies with the innovation occurring on the outpatient side. What we’re finding, is that the changing ambulatory landscape is making getting access to the data more challenging. You have urgent care offices popping up, telemedicine is gaining traction, and a lot of educational institutions use their own health clinic.

One of the initiatives we are working on is targeting childhood obesity. We are analyzing the data – such as height, weight, and age – to produce insights. Most of that data is located in the physician office record. Children have more access to physician care in a practice, particularly infants that are seeing the doc.

Campbell: Shifting gears again, let’s talk about CHIME. Tell me a bit about your experience attending this year. What did you get out of it? What were some of the things that drew you to the event?

Christian: I am actually one of the first charter members of CHIME. When I was with a small hospital in Southern Indiana, I received the call for an invitation, and thank God for it. A lot of my success in that small hospital was the result of having the privilege of standing on giants – John Glaser, Jim Turnbull, Bill Reed, Skip Hubbard. I got to know them and it was invaluable to call on them as a resource. Whenever I had a question and would send an email, they always answered it. The thing that differentiates CHIME from organizations like HIMSS, for instance, is that with HIMSS, I sit at a table with engineers, folks from telecom, people from different disciplines, whereas with CHIME, I sit down with all CIOs, and I know a lot of them very well. I only get to see my good friends once or twice a year, and it is vital to collaborate with them and gain their perspective and opinion.  It’s truly a privilege being on the faculty. In fact, it reminds me of a story. Buddy Hickman, a faculty member as well, and close personal friend of mine, is someone I know I can go to if I’m struggling with life or a work issue. We got together one Friday night as we were about to begin CHIME boot camp, and we got to talk about a personal issue. We huddled and shared each other’s stories. It’s really consultation group therapy. I left that critical conversation ready to rock and roll.

To me, the whole purpose of CHIME is to weave those networks of individuals regardless of size of organization, longevity in the business, and depth of expertise. It provides the education CIOs need to be highly successful. There is no fantasy that members take all the advice offered, however, if 1/10 of it sticks, they’ll be in great shape. As I mentioned previously, the beauty of it, is that I look at these people who work in prestigious organizations – some of the most noble men and women – and they are more than willing to give time they don’t have. CHIME has been accused of being a fraternity or sorority of sorts – an exclusive club – and my response is “And….?” To me, that is the draw and the beauty of CHIME. I remember being on the board for the first time in the early 2000s and I was in charge of membership where we were struggling to get to 900 members. We’re now up over 2000 members.

Campbell: You certainly have a wealth of experience and expertise surrounding pertinent healthcare information technology issues. Given the broadness of the field, is there a particular area of initiative you are working on to advance information technology in healthcare?

Christian: I’m working on a piece around predictions – many around interoperability. I have this feeling of the sirens calling me to a shipwreck. My view is that when all other options are exhausted, the simplest solution is the best and will cost the least. However, I have no delusions that I have a biased opinion, that’s to say, I have a view of the topic that is different. When you typically read about HIE – both the noun and the verb are used interchangeably, and that isn’t appropriate. A friend of mine, Dr. Josh Vest, Associate Professor of Health Policy & Management, IU, is conducting research on HIEs, classifying them: Are they private/enterprise? Are they a state entity or a community-based? He was originally shopping around the idea to fund it, but as happens all-to-frequently, there is not that much money when you are researching. He instead decided to take the research on pro-bono even though he has very well-funded research. I remain very interested in the results he finds.

About Chuck Christian
Charles Christian, serves as Vice President of Technology and Engagement Indiana Health Information Exchange, which provides the nation’s largest implementation of clinical results delivery in the country (DOCS4DOCS Service).  Christian has spent 40 years working in healthcare, including 26 years as CIO at Good Samaritan Hospital in Vincennes, Indiana, where he led the development and implementation of an EHR system and other IT initiatives. He also worked for Compucare and Baxter Travenol, in both management and implementation roles. Prior to his current appointment, Christian was vice president and CIO of St. Francis Hospital in Columbus, Ga.

Christian is a charter member and 2015 Board of Trustees Chair of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), and served as Chairman of the Board of Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) in 2008. In 2010, Christian was recognized by CHIME and HIMSS with the industry’s most prestigious honor: the John E. Gall Jr., CIO of the Year Award.  He was also honored by the Indiana Chapter of HIMSS with an award in his name: the Charles E. Christian Leadership Award. 

About Justin Campbell
Justin is Vice President, Strategy, at Galen Healthcare Solutions. He is responsible for market intelligence, segmentation, business and market development and competitive strategy. Justin has been consulting in Health IT for over 10 years, guiding clients in the implementation, integration and optimization of clinical systems. He has been on the front lines of system replacement and data migration, is passionate about advancing interoperability in healthcare and harnessing analytical insights to realize improvements in patient care. Justin can be found on Twitter at @TJustinCampbell and LinkedIn.

CHIME Fall Forum Interview Series: Susan Carman, CIO, United Health Services

susan-morreale-cio

Susan Carman, CIO, United Health Services

Susan Carman is no stranger to the fast-paced change of the healthcare IT world. United Health Services, where Carman is currently CIO, is in the process of overhauling their IT strategic plan, including a potential replacement of their best of breed EMR/EHR for an enterprise solution. Since the current inpatient EMR was only implemented 3 years ago, Carman is faced with the tough decision of yet another system replacement, both from a fiscal and employee fatigue point-of-view. She discusses the implications behind their review of the enterprise; why being best of breed and having a data warehouse doesn’t always jive; and her key takeaways from CHIME.  She also provides sage advice to those startups and digital health organizations trying to get their solutions in front of healthcare IT decision makers.

CHIME Fall CIO Forum provides valuable education programming, tailored specifically to meet the needs of CIOs and other healthcare IT executives. Justin Campbell, of Galen Healthcare Solutions, had the opportunity to attend this year’s forum and interview CIOs from all over the country. Here is the next interview in the series:

Key Insights

When I first came in about a year ago, there was no true inventory of applications. We used a number of avenues to figure out exactly how many we actually had.

We’re a best of breed shop, the kind you don’t see much of any more. It’s causing us a lot of issues because we have about 200 interfaces running information back and forth. It’s very resource intensive and expensive to run.

We’re trying to figure out if we can connect directly to our data warehouse as opposed to connecting to the source systems directly. That’s a big question mark for us right now.

With this information the IT governance team decided that the best approach was to develop a 3 to 5-year Strategic Plan.  The most important component of that plan was to decide on a future EMR roadmap.  Our biggest challenge is meeting our integration goals but doing it in a fiscally responsible manner.

Sitting around the table with other CIOs—gathering the information about where they’re at with their application portfolio, best practices, and things of that sort—was immensely helpful to me. I think it’s mutually beneficial because clearly the vendors are doing this to get some information for their business.

Campbell: Can you give me a little background about you and your organization?

Carman: We have about 380 physicians, 4 hospitals – 2 of which have over 200 beds – 2 smaller hospitals, and 62 clinics.  One of the biggest things we’re working on is our IT strategic plan, so a lot of the questions I’ll be answering today will, unfortunately, be changing over the next year or two.

Campbell: No problem, that’s to be expected. Along the lines of the strategic plan, how many applications does the organization have within the portfolio and how do you manage those today? Do you have an enterprise portfolio management system or is it managed by spreadsheet?

Carman: That’s a great question and going back to talking about being in a state of transition, this is something we’re working on, and spending a lot of time on right now. We have approximately 175 applications that we run. When I first came in about a year ago, there was no true inventory of those applications. We used a number of avenues to figure out exactly how many we actually had. It was sort of an unknown, but I certainly knew there was quite a few of them.

We’re a best of breed shop, the kind you don’t see much of any more. It’s causing us a lot of issues because we have about 200 interfaces running information back and forth. It’s very resource intensive and expensive to run. The application portfolio is basically being kept on a spreadsheet.

Another initiative we’re going to be starting next year is we’re purchasing an ITSM system. A lot of our application portfolio should be kept in that system once it’s implemented rather than keeping it on a spreadsheet. We’re bringing in a consulting company for the first half of next year to help us work on adopting ITIL best practices. The implementation of the ITSM system will be about midway 2017. We’re hoping for some great things as far as doing a better job of keeping track of our applications, providing better customer service, and improved change management.  The last step will be application rationalization to sunset and retire anything that we no longer need.

Campbell: Very good, and speaking of application rationalization, do you leverage an archival solution today? Do you have a data warehouse that it’s shipped off to? Or are you simply taking a copy of the database and storing it on your servers? Could you elaborate on that topic?

Carman:  The business intelligence and analytics software is overseen by the CMIO at UHS.  It is not part of the Information Services department.  Our CMIO is not only a practicing cardiologist, he is an expert in the development of applications and business intelligence. A lot of what we have at UHS is homegrown.  We have a separate Business Intelligence department. We utilize a lot of students from Binghamton University that are working toward their Master’s degree or PhD and need a real life project. We do have a data warehouse.  We are striving to get to a point where our data warehouse is our one true source of information.  We are currently working on our data accuracy via a new data governance model.

Campbell: Right, a lot of organizations are dealing with that, those point solutions, especially if you’re best of breed. How do you integrate that ETL process with the data warehouse?

Carman: We just purchased Watson Health as a population health solution, and we’re going to be implementing that next year as well.  We’re trying to figure out if we can connect directly to our data warehouse as opposed to connecting to the source systems directly. That’s a big question mark for us right now. This would require ensuring all the data is accurate before it gets into the data warehouse and that all of the data is being sent and in a timely fashion.  We don’t have all the data normalized and some things don’t go to the data warehouse at all for various reasons. Sometimes it’s limitations of the applications, but there’s a variety of reasons why not everything is going there right now. We would like to avoid connecting to every source database but we will likely have no other choice.

Campbell: I can appreciate that. You want that data warehouse to serve as the hub, but oftentimes there may be data that’s missing in the ETL process from the source system. I know you spoke of potential replacement of the EMR/EHR. How long has the organization been on the current EMR on the inpatient side and the EMR on the outpatient side?

Carman: We’ve been on NextGen for 12 years and it has outlived its usefulness. It is no longer supporting our physicians in an efficient manner. It’s come to a point where the writing is on the wall with NextGen. We need an ambulatory information system that is more adaptable to the differences in our specialty practices.

As far as the inpatient side, it’s only been 3 years since Soarian was implemented. Now of course we got the bad news that Cerner is only going to support the Soarian Clinicals for 5 more years and we’re 2 years into that.  When I first came on-board, one of the things I was charged with was to survey the ambulatory information system and gather information from the physicians as to whether they wanted to enhance the current system or replace it. Overwhelmingly they wanted to replace the current system.  Since we had just gotten word from Cerner that Soarian Clinicals would only be supported for a maximum of 5 more years, it made sense to review our entire enterprise. With this information the IT governance team decided that the best approach was to develop a 3 to 5 year Strategic Plan.  The most important component of that plan was to decide on a future EMR roadmap.  Our biggest challenge is meeting our integration goals but doing it in a fiscally responsible manner.

Campbell: Right and, to share with you, that’s the sentiment I heard from several folks while at CHIME. There’s just a lot of ‘where’s the money coming from?’ ‘Sure the organization wants to invest in a new application or maybe replace the EMR, but show me how we’re going to be solvent in whole once we do that.’

Carman:   Our Senior Leadership team mostly agreed that we need a fully integrated solution.  Our first step in that process is an EMR Financial Feasibility study.  We need to see exactly what we are up against when it comes to total cost of ownership.

Campbell: Shifting gears to CHIME, tell me about your experience. What did you look get out of it? What were some of the things you appreciate about the event?

Carman: I loved it. I can say overall, I thought it was fantastic. I got more out of the focus groups than anything else. Sitting around the table with other CIOs—gathering the information about where they’re at with their application portfolio, best practices, and things of that sort—was immensely helpful to me. I think it’s mutually beneficial because clearly the vendors are doing this to get some information for their business. Out of the entire week, that was where I felt I got the most information.

I certainly had a lot of questions about converting to an enterprise wide solution from best of breed, I spoke to a lot of different people about their situation. I even spoke to the #3 person at Cerner about customers who have transitioned from Soarian to Cerner.   I left there with a good feeling that we were performing the correct analysis. It was a great validation for me, and a very worthwhile trip.

Campbell: That’s excellent to hear. Aside from the networking aspect, like you said, you’re able to test hypotheses and synthesize strategies. Perhaps you could offer some insight to our audience at Health IT & mHealth, which is primarily focused on startups and digital health companies – a market that is overwhelmed by patient engagement solutions. For your organization that’s traditionally been best of breed, and maybe looking to an enterprise wide solution, tell me a little bit about how you would ever consider a digital health startup solution? What would be your criteria for evaluating that?

Carman: Target what the bigger companies don’t have or don’t do well. I think what you’re going to see is, if you’ve got a Cerner or an Epic Enterprise solution and they’re selling that same product, you’re not going to win because CIOs will gravitate toward their core vendor. They want to just go to one person; they don’t want to have numerous vendors that they have to deal with on a daily basis because it takes up so much time for a CIO. If there’s some sort of niche that you can find, where the vendor has either done a lousy job of providing the solution or they don’t do it at all – and certainly Epic has several things that they don’t do – concentrate on those areas. When you’re coming to the table you can say ‘look, you don’t have this currently, you’re not able to get it from your core vendor, and we have a great solution.’ I think that’s how you get CIOs to listen to you.

Another piece of advice I would give is always come to the table with how you’re going to make that CIOs life easier. First and foremost, what are you going to do to solve the problem that organization is experiencing?  Investigate who is in need of the solution before you go and invest your time.  Make sure to target your audience in that way. I get dozens and dozens of emails a day about things that aren’t relevant to me.  I think, ‘goodness these people are wasting a lot of time, I’m not responding and so on and so forth’. I think a lot of the smaller vendors need to do a better job of targeting their audience. Every now and then I get an email and I say ‘hey you know what I am going to respond. I don’t normally respond, but this person really got my attention, it’s something I need, they clearly understood my business here and what we do.’ It wasn’t a generic email.

Campbell: That’s a great point and great advice for anyone in the space. Any other closing thoughts you wanted to offer around the CHIME event or any organizational newsworthy items?

Carman: At this point, one of the big things we are grappling with, is what do we do with MACRA and MIPS and how do we transition. There’s no more PQRS, and MU is fading away. It’s a big question mark for us, and now with the new administration coming into play I think we’re all kind of scratching our heads saying ‘what does that mean for healthcare IT?’ With Obamacare up in the air, I’m sure a lot of CIOs are sitting back and saying ‘does that effect MACRA, MIPS, and everything else coming down the pipeline? What’s going to change?’

CHIME Fall Forum Interview Series: Daniel Morreale, Senior Vice President/CIO, Hunterdon Healthcare System

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Daniel Morreale, Senior Vice President/CIO, Hunterdon Healthcare System

Consolidation is big on the mind of the CIO Daniel Morreale, of Hunterdon Healthcare System. After inheriting the multi-system environment two years ago, he has been evaluating a rip and replace initiative, moving to one core system. That’s not the only change Morreale hopes to make at the healthcare system. He’s inspired by the world of social media and the connections it can extend. In this interview, Morreale talks about the “membership model” for healthcare he’s looking to implement; the ups and downs of data archival and storage; and Hunterdon’s current data governance strategy. He also shares his personal predictions for the future of healthcare and bringing the focus away from the toys and back to the people.

Be sure to register for an upcoming healthsystemCIO.com All Stars Panel Daniel is participating in on January 19th: “How to Ensure Your Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery Plan is HIPAA Compliant.”

CHIME Fall CIO Forum provides valuable education programming, tailored specifically to meet the needs of CIOs and other healthcare IT executives. Justin Campbell, of Galen Healthcare Solutions, had the opportunity to attend this year’s forum and interview CIOs from all over the country. Here is the next interview in the series:

Key Insights

If you’re in my system longitudinally, can I get rid of those lab results you had 8 years ago? No, and I think that’s a problem.

Then again we have to ask ourselves, how long do we keep our EMRs and is anybody running an EMR they were running 20 years ago? Chances are no.

But then in the event of legal action, if I have it I have to produce it, it’s discoverable. I would rather only present for discovery that which I’m required to present for discovery. If the data had been purged by policy and no longer there then I’m no longer responsible for producing it.

Most health systems tend to grow by buying physician practices or expanding their market, which is a pretty traditional means of doing that work. However, I think an extraordinarily strong mobile presence and web presence can start to attract the 20 and 30 year olds who aren’t really using healthcare now, who I want if I’m in a shared risk environment.

At the end of the day I’m doing healthcare and that’s about people. How do I make the experience easy for you and me, or family, and deliver quality, convenience, and access?

Campbell: Let’s start with a little background. Tell me about your organization and your responsibilities.

Morreale: Hunterdon Healthcare is the only hospital in the county, [located in Northwest New Jersey]. It was started in 1956, in an effort to improve the health of the population and community. As an organization we kind of have a 60-year head start on population health. It’s still a standalone facility, we have just under 200 inpatient beds, and do just under a million ambulatory visits a year.

Campbell: What are some of the initiatives you’re working on right now? What are some of the reasons that drove you to CHIME in terms of the learnings you expect to hear from your peers?

Morreale: The initiatives we’re working on in the healthcare system right now are dedicated to two propositions. One is to improve usability; how do I make the variety of systems we have more user friendly? And secondly, a consolidation effort; looking across our vast number of software tools and trying to consolidate them. Prior to my arrival at Hunterdon two years ago, every department bought whatever they wanted. As a result, I have 5 document management systems, 6 faxing software applications, etc. We’re trying to consolidate and replace with enterprise level tools when we can. Next year we’re going to start doing core replacements around our financial systems, and that’s going to be a rip and replace. We’re planning an initiative around creating an access center, i.e. one telephone call to concierge level service with the health system.

Campbell: Tell me a little about where archival fits into this. With the systems you look to replace, have you gone through that evaluation of migrating versus archiving?

Morreale: We have not, and for several reasons: A majority of the healthcare tools that are out there don’t have a good process for archiving, deleting, or massaging patient records, at least at the patient level, which is always a challenge. However, we do have criteria for retaining data, predicated on state and federal mandates. Right now everything is in a tiered data structure. Our more transactional data is on a state drive, our deeper archival data is on EMC, some IBM storage in the middle, but my intent is to go pure solid state. This will add cost, but increase retrieval speed and simplify the environment. But even in that environment I’m just continually adding and saving data. I’m never really deleting anything. So there are records that are 25 years old, that I no longer need, and I have no means of getting rid of them.

Campbell: Have you evaluated any archival solutions that are healthcare specific? Tell me about the challenges you see in the vendor marketplace for archival solutions.

Morreale: Well on the technology side, I think there’s a wealth of tools, but their weakness is in the healthcare applications. In my EMR I do not have the capacity to delete a record. I absolutely do not have the capacity to delete part of a record. If you’re in my system longitudinally, can I get rid of those lab results you had 8 years ago? No, and I think that’s a problem. It costs me money to store it, manage it and keep it secure. But then in the event of legal action, if I have it I have to produce it, it’s discoverable. I would rather only present for discovery that which I’m required to present for discovery. If the data had been purged by policy and no longer there then I’m no longer responsible for producing it.

Campbell: As part of the overall portfolio strategy, do you see yourself consolidating applications and migrating from one EMR to another?

Morreale: Eventually I think we’re going to have to, and we’re targeting 2020 or 2021 as the year to make that jump. That is my opportunity, and only opportunity, to clear records.

Campbell: Is there hope that in that time there are some advancements made?

Morreale: I think it would be nice, but I don’t see it happening, I don’t hear any vendors talking about providing tools that do that. Then again we have to ask ourselves, how long do we keep our EMRs and is anybody running an EMR they were running 20 years ago? Chances are no. I think over that course of time we generally take all we can from a product and at some point we start looking for additional functionalities, newer user interfaces, and more bells & whistles

Campbell: Shifting gears, what is your data governance strategy within the organization?

Morreale: Data governance is pretty straight forward. We have our applications tiered for priority, and as a result of that, the data is tiered. We ask the primary departments to be the titular owner of that data, in that the patient is the real owner. We look at IT services as being the police – the ones who stores it, protects it and keeps it under lock and key. When there is a challenge around data, it always manifests in reports: what is the length of stay in system A, is it not the same as in system B? With great effort, a year ago, we undertook building out a data dictionary. To this regard, I know that when I’m using field MX4233 in my EHR, I know it’s a patient address and that it is defined in this way. Then we’ve carried that across to the other clinical systems that have that data. It is by no means complete, it’s a continuous effort, and it’s massive with the 160 different systems. We really concentrated on those items that people are regularly reporting on. As such, when I produce an end of day admission report in system A it’s also the same in system B.

Campbell: What’s the vehicle or mechanism that you’re using?

Morreale: This is one of the examples where we built our own tool. We went out and created a data lake: we’re taking a snap shot of the data, putting in the data lake, normalizing it, and then consolidating all our reporting out of the data lake. So, at least my reports are more consistent than they were prior.

Campbell: Where do you see an opportunity for innovators in the vendor space?

Morreale: I think there’s opportunities in home health, which is pretty much owned by a few big companies with technology that’s a little dated.

I think there is a whole field of healthcare to be discovered in social media. How do we capture that? How do we integrate into that world? How do we use that to attract future patients? Most health systems tend to grow by buying physician practices or expanding their market, which is a pretty traditional means of doing that work. However, I think an extraordinarily strong mobile presence and web presence can start to attract the 20 and 30 year olds who aren’t really using healthcare now, who I want if I’m in a shared risk environment. Use that as a tool to create that sticky relationship between you and my health system so that when you do need our services, we’re the natural choice.

I think the value proposition around that has to be very high, but it’s certainly difficult to compute. We’re putting a lot of effort into that arena. My development team is looking at creating what we’re calling a ‘membership model’ for the health system.  It’s essentially taking the concepts around Netflix and American Express: you become a member, and incorporate that into how I deliver care. If I can convince you to be a member, I can give you one telephone call scheduling; I can stop leakage out of my physician offices by scheduling your next appointment as you’re walking out the door; or schedule that x-ray or that minor surgery you might need. I can broadcast educational information to your mobile or home device. I can create social platforms for you to talk to other people with your disease state. I can do all of those things as a background product, but at the same point I’m creating that sticky relationship between you and my health system.

We’re also looking at integrating wearable data. We are fortunate enough to be the in the healthiest and wealthiest county in New Jersey, so we think there’s the capacity to offer the service to our community: let us monitor your Fitbit or your wearable device data, tell you how you’re doing on your health effort, and give you an opportunity to earn points. We have a points program in our membership model – buying broccoli instead of bread; going to the gym –  those sort of things. And I think that kind of stuff is going to be more of my future than buying physician offices.

Campbell: There seems to be a diminishing return there or rather a saturation to that model.

Morreale: I think so. How many physician offices can you have in a community? How far can your reach go? If I’m doing it through mobile and social media, my reach is greater. I’m not limited to 20 miles or 25 miles. I can be attracting or engaging people who are 50-60 miles away. I can help you take care of your parents who live in Phoenix or back in Boston, I can do all of those kinds of things. We think there’s some potential there. It’s going to be one of our big investments in 2017 – to further define that model and see if we can make it fly.

Campbell: Certainly enlightening and inspiring.

Morreale: I think it’s just a different way of looking at what we do. I don’t like to get caught up in the technology. I know a lot of CIOs who get caught up in the technology and the toys, and the toys are cool. I mean let’s face it, but at the end of the day I’m doing healthcare, and that’s about people.  How do I make the experience easy for you and me, or family, and deliver quality, convenience, and access? I think that’s where a large portion of our future has to be.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

About Daniel Morreale
Daniel Morreale is CIO at Hunterdon Healthcare, a community hospital based in central New Jersey. He has held CIO roles at a number of organizations, including Riverside Healthcare System, Kingsbrook Health System, and Atlanticare. A CHIME fellow, Morreale was the recipient of CHIME’s’ Innovator of the Year’ and ‘Collaboration of the Year’ Awards, and was recognized by Computerworld Magazine as one of the ‘Premier 100 IT Leaders.’ He also received the Safety Net Award from the National Association of Public Hospitals, and the Smithsonian Center of Innovative Technology Honors Laureate Award. Morreale is past-President of the New Jersey Chapter of HIMSS.

About Justin Campbell
Justin is Vice President, Strategy, at Galen Healthcare Solutions. He is responsible for market intelligence, segmentation, business and market development and competitive strategy. Justin has been consulting in Health IT for over 10 years, guiding clients in the implementation, integration and optimization of clinical systems. He has been on the front lines of system replacement and data migration and is passionate about advancing interoperability in healthcare and harnessing analytical insights to realize improvements in patient care. Justin can be found on Twitter at @TJustinCampbell and LinkedIn.

CHIME Fall Forum Interview Series: Jeff Weil, CIO, District Medical Group

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Jeff Weil, CIO, CHCIOe, CPHIMS, District Medical Group

There is no shortage of projects going on at District Medical Group, where Jeff Weil is CIO. From an integration engine implementation to clinical, business and infrastructure upgrades, and implementation of workflow optimization technologies, Weil and his team certainly have their plate full for 2017. However, for someone who has worn almost every hat in the industry, you would expect nothing less.  Weil talks about population health initiatives and how Technology Leadership approaches have changes over the past year; the inexpensive side of data storage; interoperating between different practices with different systems; and how in some cases it is working with records that are literally still in boxes.

CHIME Fall CIO Forum provides valuable education programming, tailored specifically to meet the needs of CIOs and other healthcare IT executives. Justin Campbell, of Galen Healthcare Solutions, had the opportunity to attend this year’s forum and interview CIOs from all over the country. Here is the next interview in the series:

Key Insights

Eventually the ROI is going to turn in our favor if we’ve got staff in house to design and develop interfaces and if we purchased an integration engine as opposed to outsourcing this work to our Vendor Partner.

We really didn’t have a robust infrastructure from which to have an appropriate foundation to expand our business. That was my primary mission when I came in, and I’m finally starting to feel that we’ve accomplished most of that mission.

The thing that really stuck out to me at CHIME this past year was the difference in attitude toward population health technology. Last year, most CIO’s felt they needed all the technology. This year, since people have started to get into these initiatives already, and have started to actually practice some of the data gathering and some of the reporting around population health initiatives and value based care contracts, they took a much more conservative approach.

I think we’re moving into a very interesting time. We still haven’t quite figured out how to optimize our electronic health record systems. We still have physicians struggling with utilization of these systems, yet now we’re being asked to add on new technologies whether it’s connected health or population health initiatives.

Campbell: First and foremost, if you could tell me little bit about yourself and the organization, what EMR application that you use and some initiatives that you’re working on.

Weil: I’ve been in this business a little over 20 years. I sort of fell into it and have worked on large scale engagements in engagement management, mostly with multi-facility or academic health systems. I’ve worked on the provider side in both the acute and ambulatory space, as well as on the vendor side for a little bit, and I’ve done my share of consulting. A couple years ago, I had an opportunity to come here [District Medical Group], from a health system in Fort Worth, Texas and decided it was the right time for this move.

We are primarily a large physician practice, and we also have a couple of our own clinics. About 70% of our revenue is based on the fact that we supply all the physicians and mid-level providers–CRNAs, physician assistants, etc.—to Maricopa Integrated Health System here in the Phoenix area. We also head all eleven departments over there as well as oversee residency programs for the University of Arizona College of Medicine. We just recently made an announcement that we’re going to be working with Dignity Health and Creighton University to train some of their residents as well.

We have two of our own clinics right now. One is a behavioral health clinic in the East Valley. We have a very large multi-specialty pediatric practice for special needs children through a contract with the state and United Healthcare. We also have a partnership with a behavioral health organization here in the valley, where we’re providing physical health to complement their behavioral health. We’re looking to do more in partnerships and with population health cooperatives in the coming years

Campbell: In terms of the technology that is being leveraged from an EHR and EMR perspective, does that vary from physician to physician or is there an enterprise standard? Tell me a little bit about how you’ve acquired physicians in the past and perhaps the need to migrate data into the system.

Weil: Usually we start from scratch in determining the technology requirements for each one of our partnerships. There will be requirements for clinical documentation as well as practice management. For instance, we do the bulk of the professional billing for the physicians that are at Maricopa. As such, when there’s an encounter that happens over there, Maricopa does the facility billing and we do the professional billing for that physician’s charge. We have an interface with them and their Epic system. All of the clinical work they perform is in MIHS’ Epic system.  In terms of own internal systems, for our clinics, we have GE Centricity EMR as well as GE Centricity Business for our practice management system.

Campbell: Are there challenges around interoperating, maybe between different care settings – acute care versus outpatient care – and are there any technologies that you’re leveraging to facilitate that?

Weil: There are because we’re working on these partnerships activities. For instance, with the behavioral health provider partner here in town, we have to bring in the billing information from a different EMR and practice management system into ours, so we always have to get creative in working on integration strategies. Moving into this next fiscal year, we’re investing in our own integration engine, as well as bringing on staff to support that initiative. If you think about it—and I’ll just throw out the normal budgeting number—but every single time we do an interface it may cost $15,000 and take 90 days to develop. Eventually the ROI is going to turn in our favor if we’ve got staff in house to design and develop interfaces on our own integration engine platform. We’re getting ready shortly after the first of the year to start our implementation on that.

Campbell: Interoperability is a topic that’s near and dear to me. We actually hosted an interoperability panel last year with some folks representing HIEs, some representing government, and some representing practices. It was eye opening to say the least. I imagine you’ve got the short list of vendors out there. Are you going through the selection process now?

Weil: We already went through a bit of a selection process. What it came down to was the fact that our analysts need to wear multiple hats and even though I may bring in an interface engineer, they may also be doing a bit of database administration for our healthcare systems. That’s why we decided to go with Corepoint, because it offers an object-oriented programming interface, as well as a modular build approach.

Campbell: Absolutely. We’ve heard great things about Corepoint; rated top of KLAS and they offer some great thought leadership. They have a great community and resource center, so it’s no surprise that they would be at the top of the list. I imagine, coming from a diverse background where you’ve actually worked on the consulting side of it before, you get it and you understand from the vendor perspective the things to look for and the things you want to do your due diligence on.

Weil: We’re a fairly small shop. I’ve got seventeen people in all of IT, and that’s both on the applications and technology side, supporting almost 1100 employees. We’ve got quite a bit going on so I do need people to wear multiple hats and if I can make it a little bit easier for the person working on the interfaces to do their job to build and maintain, then so be it.

Campbell: Tell me how integration works today for the medical group. Is it point-to-point as opposed to hub-and-spoke, and will you be replacing that current model?

Weil: Everything is point-to-point. The plan is to deploy the new interface engine and move to a hub-and-spoke model. Any new initiatives would be implemented first on the new platform with the goal being that by end of June, we will have migrated all of the legacy interfaces over to that platform.

Campbell: And the good news is, at this time, there’s really a lot of interface libraries to leverage out there. It’s not like in the early days of EMR adoption when it was a challenge, based on the APIs that were available. Today, given the communities that are out there, it should make for a more efficient deployment of integration across the enterprise.

Shifting gears, a bit, tell me a little bit about archival, is that a topic that’s relevant to your organization? Do you ever face legacy application retirement? Tell me about the strategy within the organization in terms of managing the application portfolio, if that’s something that falls underneath your purview.

Weil: When they brought me in two and a half years ago, my primary mission was to build a robust infrastructure from which we would have an appropriate foundation to expand.  That was my goal when I came in, and we finally got to the point where the infrastructure is in a good place. We haven’t had to retire any systems yet, but what we did do was implement more of a cloud-based archive strategy. We have an appliance on-site and everything gets backed up to it on a schedule. If we need to restore, we can do quick restore. The appliance actually archives to the cloud and replicates so it gives us multiple layers of redundancy that we really need.

Campbell: Absolutely. We actually recently supported a client with our business continuity product called VitalCenter. They had a downtime situation and VitalCenter allowed them to continue to document through the downtime. It’s like an insurance policy – you have to have it.

What are your thoughts on data retention requirements? What is your policy in regards for retaining data whether that’s in paper form or electronic form? Have you had eDiscovery inquires in the past where you’ve had to furnish and produce a patient chart based upon an inquiry?

Weil: You can imagine that with a large number of providers, record inquiries occur quite often, so we’ve had to do quite a bit or eDiscovery. We do a combination of things, depending on the situation. For instance, at the large special needs children’s clinic, all of the legacy medical records have been scanned in to the system. We basically have a database of scanned documents that we have to use if there’s older information we’re trying to pull.

For the most part, as part of eDiscovery process, we either take some sort of an export out and send it to file or we have to print a whole bunch of stuff. We end up looking through all of our databases. We also provide medical directorship to some nursing homes/long term care facilities and other facilities here in the area. They don’t – as I’m sure you well know – necessarily have EMR systems and as such many records are in boxes in basements or over at Iron Mountain. We have to go to wherever they store their records and pull that information out.As you might imagine, it’s not an easy task.

Campbell: No, certainly not. I can imagine just the amount of effort that’s needed and that detracts you from other organizational objectives. It’s not as easy as one thinks when it becomes electronic because then you have to pull from different systems, you an audit trail to maintain. A lot of the time the metadata is the most important component because it tells you what happened, when and why. You have to protect the integrity of that patient record and be able to show why the care was provided in a certain way for that patient.

Closing out that topic, one of the challenges Galen finds when working with clients is that, when we’ve migrated them from, let’s say Allscripts to Epic, we archived a lot of the data. What they don’t get sometimes is they think it’s simply a matter of using one of the industry agnostic vendors, but healthcare’s’ a lot different. Fundamentally, when you archive that data you may be forced to change the shape of. You’re moving it out of the system and the shape of that data could change. In addition, when you present that data for viewing, you could also be changing the shape of it. There’s just so many considerations and as you can tell, it’s been a focal point for us.

One of the things I’ve talked about with your peers is the purging of data. What is your policy on retention? Do you hold data forever? I imagine that takes up boxes, and that takes up storage space.  Tell me a little bit about the organizational policies and maybe future strategy in regards to that.

Weil: My understanding is that it’s seven years and then for pediatrics it’s until they’re 21. We haven’t gotten to the point yet where we feel like we have to get rid of anything just because storage is fairly cheap at this point. For now, we’ll keep on storing and storing until it seems like it’s worthwhile to move things off to something, which I don’t know what that would be yet. It’s an interesting topic because it used to be much more relevant than it is now. The cost of storage has gone down so much. Years ago you used to have information life cycle management and based on the type of data you used to do this that and the other thing, but that isn’t necessarily as relevant anymore.

Campbell: Now the issue is that it’s the volume of the data. As so many people can appreciate, with the deluge of data, how do I get at the data I want and how do I derive insights from that. That’s the promise and premise of population health.

Let’s talk about initiatives for next year. I imagine the deployment of the interface engine technology and development and delivery of those interfaces is going to consume a lot of your time next year. Do you have a plan as to when you anticipate completing that project? Are there other population health initiatives that you have on the agenda for next year?

Weil: There are a couple of population health initiatives under discussion. We just started a value based contract with one of our payer partners. We’ve got the Corepoint implementation. We’re talking about two factor identification for our remote access portal. We’re going to implement an across the board email archiving strategy. We just updated to Exchange 2013 and that has its own robust archiving strategy, and we want to be able to handle the archive activities for our users. We’ve got a decent sized EMR upgrade coming, that will be done hopefully sometime in the first quarter. We will likely replace some of our ancillary clinical systems with a cloud based solution.  We have a SharePoint upgrade scheduled.

Campbell: So no shortage of projects in the next year!

Weil: No and if you know me this is pretty typical, I don’t necessarily like to remain stagnant too much. This years’ workload is actually less than it has been in the past couple of years so my team feels like we’re going a little bit easy. This years’ projects are smaller in scope and size and will allow for focus on optimization activities.

Campbell: Let’s circle back to CHIME. Tell me why you chose to attend the event? Were there key themes that stood out to you this year? Was there a focus group that struck you? A presentation that was compelling?

Weil: From my standpoint, it’s where can you go and collaborate with close to a thousand people that have the same interests and challenges that you do. That’s why I enjoy being a part of CHIME and always get a lot out of it. I feel energized when I come back to the office from a CHIME forum. When you’re around the industry for as long as I’ve been, there’s a lot of benefit to being able to visit with and network with old friends and colleagues to be able to share ideas.

Security was up there. I have to say I think in the past two years I’ve come to learn more about security than I would have ever known.  I’m also the organization’s chief security officer, and we’ve implemented intrusion detection and protection systems. We have pretty sophisticated endpoint protection for both malware and viruses, and we have endpoint encryption. The only thing that we’re missing, that I really want to put in place, is SIEM technology. We are logging, but to actually get anything of value out of the logs is a monumental task right now.

The thing that really stuck out to me at CHIME this past year was the difference in attitude towards population health technology. I went to one focus group that was done by Cerner that I had attended last year. We run through an exercise where we are given $10 million dollars are provided the programs objectives, types of contracts, and the costs for all the different kinds of resources that may be needed including human capital, systems, and technology. We teamed with three other CIOs to determine what we thought the best plan is. Last year, everybody said I need a data warehouse, I need this, I need that, and blew all their money on the technology. This year, there was a stark difference in how the group approached the exercise. It seems that since people have started to get into these initiatives already, and have started to actually practice some of the data gathering and some of the reporting around population health initiatives and value based care contracts, they took a much more conservative approach. They were bringing on health coaches; bringing on a data scientist to look through the CMS data to do manual risk stratification; bringing on care managers and care coordinators. Then in year two or three, they begin to implement their pop health solution, when you see what you’re getting in from an incentive stand point. It’s sort of guarding that ROI in a much more conservative approach. I actually thought that was extremely interesting to see the difference in approach in just a year.

Campbell: Fascinating. It still remains a very fragmented pop health and analytics market. John Moore, of Chilmark Research, pointed out that people are still dipping their toes in the water, and like you said, what they want to do is understand the incentive and reimbursement side of it, and make sure that the dollars and cents are making sense, before they make a substantial investment in technology. As such, we’re seeing a lot of point solutions, such as spreadsheets, taking the place of adopting an enterprise population health management solution that is marketed as solving all problems, but certainly comes with a huge price tag.

Weil: As with any of these technologies when they first start out, there probably isn’t any one of them that has everything that you need. You notice people sort of piecing together little best of breed plugins as opposed to going with a single enterprise solution. That’s been typical of this industry over the time that I’ve been in it. When things start out people tend to go with a best of breed approach, and have to integrate the systems. The vendors eventually catch up and offer either all-in-one solutions or they end up buying and putting together suites of solutions.

Campbell: Right that makes a lot of sense. It seems the path to realizing true ROI is by approaching a slice, and solving for a particular problem, as opposed to trying to boil the ocean.

I certainly appreciate your time here in speaking with me and for the tremendously salient and cogent insights that you’ve provided. Are there any closing thoughts before we conclude?

Weil: It’s very interesting to speak about these things. I think we’re moving into a very interesting time. We still haven’t quite figured out how to optimize our electronic health record systems. We still have physicians struggling with utilization of these systems, yet now we’re being asked to add on new technologies whether it’s connected health or population health initiatives.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

About Jeff Weil
Jeff is an experienced Healthcare IT Executive with over 20 years of experience leveraging the use of technology to meet the needs of Healthcare Organizations in the Acute Care, Academic, Public and Ambulatory domains. He brings with him a wealth of experience in leading teams in the implementation and support of multiple vendor EMRs, Vendor Neutral Archives, Medical Imaging Systems, Ancillary Clinical Systems, Perioperative Systems, Supply Chain Management Systems, Solution Design and Disparate System Integration.

Prior to joining DMG, Jeff held the Role of Project Director at John Peter Smith Health Networks in Fort Worth Texas where he was responsible for the delivery of Information Technology and Reporting needs required to support the startup and sustainability of the organization’s 26 DSRIP (Delivery System Reform Incentive Plan) projects.

Jeff holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Ramapo College of New Jersey and is a Certified Professional in Health Information Management Systems and is Certified Healthcare CIO eligible. He has been an active member of the Healthcare Information Management Systems Society for over 20 years where he currently serves on the board of the Arizona state chapter as Director of Health Information Exchange, Interoperability, Privacy and Security. Jeff is also a member of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, also known as CHIME. Jeff serves on the Arizona Health-e Connection Board of Directors, which is a statewide non-profit organization driving the adoption and optimization of health information technology and health information exchange.

About Justin Campbell
Justin is Vice President, Strategy, at Galen Healthcare Solutions. He is responsible for market intelligence, segmentation, business and market development and competitive strategy. Justin has been consulting in Health IT for over 10 years, guiding clients in the implementation, integration and optimization of clinical systems. He has been on the front lines of system replacement and data migration and is passionate about advancing interoperability in healthcare and harnessing analytical insights to realize improvements in patient care. Justin can be found on Twitter at @TJustinCampbell and LinkedIn.

CHIME Fall Forum Interview Series: Dr. R. Hal Baker, Sr. VP Clinical Improvement & CIO, WellSpan Health

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Dr. R. Hal Baker, M.D. FACP, WellSpan Health

Dr. Hal Baker is in a unique situation as a CIO who is also still a practicing physician at WellSpan. As his organization finalizes their Epic transition plans, he recognizes the importance of having an integrated patient record across the system and creating new workflows to accommodate the 5 hospitals and over 100 practice locations that are all coming together. In this interview, he talks about his organization’s community-focused, health data retention practice, his plans for legacy application support, and the value of attention units in the healthcare industry.

CHIME Fall CIO Forum provides valuable education programming, tailored specifically to meet the needs of CIOs and other healthcare IT executives. Justin Campbell, of Galen Healthcare Solutions, had the opportunity to attend this year’s forum and interview CIOs from all over the country. Here is the next interview in the series:

Key Insights

We quickly experienced the value of an integrated patient record across offices, which highlighted the previous disconnect between maintaining two separate records in an inpatient and outpatient setting.

We’re bringing over seven years of laboratory and clinical information for our patients. We recognize that’s more than typical, but we think there’s value in having that depth in the record for our community.

I’ve been through enough of these to know that everything looks good in a demo and you need to get through the first couple of weeks before you figure out what have been the great wins and what have been the great challenges you didn’t appreciate until you got there.

The reality is that the most significant innovations arise out of smaller startups who then become large. However, a majority of small startups aren’t successful, and most legacy systems persevere.

The currency of the business of healthcare is dollars, but healthcare is applied in a currency of minutes and each minute a doctor or nurse spends doing one thing is a minute they’re not spent doing another.

Campbell: What has your focus these days?

Baker: To provide some background, we’ve had a couple of mergers or acquisitions into WellSpan, that we are trying to consolidate. We have McKesson, MEDITECH, Cerner, Allscripts systems that we’re migrating to Epic.

Campbell: That’s a good launching point. I presume that decision was made to simplify the portfolio and to move forward with an enterprise standard for an EHR. Can you elaborate on your decision to consolidate applications, and maybe also elaborate on how your organization manages applications within the portfolio today? Do you have further consolidation plans in the future?

Baker: From an electronic health record perspective, we went live in ambulatory and inpatient in a best of breed approach for legacy WellSpan. At the time, it was hard to appreciate the value of an integrated medical record, when you had disintegrated paper records at each office. We very quickly started to see the value of an integrated patient record across offices, which highlighted the disconnect that occurs between the two separate records in an inpatient and outpatient setting. As we had other communities join WellSpan we recognized the need to consolidate around a corporate-wide solution. It didn’t make sense to further propagate our non-integrated solution—a different billing system vendor, and a different EHR vendor on the inpatient and outpatient side. That’s how we came to our ‘Project One”, of coming together with one record for all of WellSpan.

Campbell: Related to the topic of consolidating data, what are your thoughts on health data retention? I talked to some of your peers at CHIME and they had concerns over ‘hey I have to store this data for the patient but I may not care about a lab result for a patient that’s 8 years old, but I also have no way of purging that data.’ Is that something that you have an opinion on or you could perhaps go in a different direction with that topic in regard to the eDiscovery inquiries you get and how your organization manages that?

Baker: We are converting seven years of clinical data in our migration – we’re bringing over seven years of laboratory and clinical information for our patients. We recognize that that’s more than normal but we think there’s value in having that depth in the record for our community. We have an archival strategy put in place to retire our legacy applications.  With the absence of a rigorous purging strategy, the entire database record needs to be maintained for the longest patient whom you have a record retention requirement for. In our state that, would be last baby born on the old record plus 21 years plus 7 – so 28 years. Our statute of limitations is age of majority plus 7.

Campbell: That makes sense. In talking with another one of your peers, who’s migrating over to Epic as well, he discussed the considerations and challenges with migrating data from a legacy application over to Epic.

Baker: Right. There are three buckets to my mind: there’s the data you need to import into the database; there’s perhaps a subset of that, which is data that you don’t want to import in bulk, but you want the ability to import selectively as needed later on; then there’s the data that you need to have access to for when you need it. For example, I need to go back and look at the past reports from 15 years ago, but I don’t necessarily need to move every pathology report from 15 years ago into the record— rather I need to have access to it from your archive system. Then there’s the metadata that you either may need for population health or business purposes in the future that you haven’t recognized you need. This could be due to requirements from a legal medical auditing perspective or for quality or for billing purpose under statute of limitations for regulations.

Campbell: I imagine the legacy systems are going to have to have some sort of application support, how are you approaching that? Are you going to dedicate all your existing staff to the new application and seek outside back-fill to support the back-end, or are you taking the approach of have some people support the legacy application while others in their departments learn Epic?

Baker: We staffed up for Epic with a combination of experienced IS staff, experienced operational staff, and a few outside people. We got everybody trained and certified. For the staff who continue to support the legacy application who did not move into the Epic team, we generally supplemented vacancies there with contracted staff from some of our contract partners. A critical element was implementing a very tight change control for the legacy systems and limiting any nonessential changes.

Campbell: Very good. What’s been the sentiment around Epic? Being a provider and talking to the other providers, I’m sure you have a keen awareness. Is there a lot of excitement of moving to the application, given the seamless nature with which you’re likely to be able to access data across care settings in the new environment? Are there any apprehensions they may have?

Baker: I think any move of this magnitude is both exciting and challenging. Our providers are looking at this thoughtfully and are actively involved in it, but we’ll know more when we get into training and go-live. I’ve been through enough of these to know that everything looks good in a demo and you need to get through the first couple of weeks before you figure out what have been the great wins and what have been the challenges that you didn’t appreciate until you got there.

Campbell: Let’s discuss data governance as it relates to the migration. There are different departments and specialties that will have different nomenclatures and dictionaries that they need to manage. How is WellSpan Health going about managing those dictionaries and deciding on potential adjustments to workflows to accommodate the new system?

Baker: We’re designing new workflows in the Epic process because we’re bringing together 5 hospitals and over 100 practice locations, many that were on different electronic records.  We’ve had a conjoined effort to find new workflows that everyone will be moving towards, and it has been around data governance principles, having single points of truth, and standardizing nomenclature. The expectation is that all traditional behaviors are going to need to be worked into the new workflows and those traditions will need to change to accommodate the workflows.

Campbell: Very good. Let’s shift gears to CHIME a little bit. Tell me about your impressions this year. Was there a particular session you attended that resonated with you? I know that CHIME is valuable from a networking perspective but what were the themes you witnessed this year, and in talking with your peers, what were the common topics?

Baker: The most interesting parts of CHIME are hearing people figure out how to creatively leverage the data. I went to a talk with a doctor from Mercy Health, who shared their approach to leverage data topography to understand correlations occurring in their system that are clinically meaningful, but would otherwise not be recognized. For instance, they discovered that a diabetes nerve medicine use seemed to correlate with an earlier discharge for a knee replacement. That was a hypothesis that arose from the data that’s being validated rather than one that was thought of and queried. I think it’s going to get very interesting when we look at how can we leverage these databases to generate information, opportunities for improvement, and for when the data becomes the source of hypothesis versus it all being contemplated.

Campbell: For the startup audience that follows the Health IT & mHealth, what catches your eye when it comes to smaller organizations or vendors? CIOs tend to be risk adverse and they’re attracted to something that solves a problem for them and a vendor organization that’s sustainable. Tell me why you might consider a smaller startup and/or what are the areas that you see as an opportunity for them to address the market incrementally?

Baker: I think it’s honestly a calculated gamble on whether to strategically bet on a small innovator or a major vendor. The reality is that the most significant innovations arise out of smaller startups who then become large. However, a majority of small startups aren’t successful, and most legacy vendor systems persevere, but get caught in some degree of inertia that makes innovation harder.

Campbell: While at CHIME, Blain Newton, Executive Vice President, HIMSS Analytics, shared with me that one of the more profound discussions he had with you was on the topic of currency for healthcare information technology leaders. Can you share that story with us?

Baker: The currency of the business of healthcare is dollars but healthcare is applied in a currency of minutes and each minute a doctor or nurse spends doing one thing is a minute they’re not spent doing another. We’re worrying about the percentage of the time available in day that is spent at the keyboard versus the bedside; the amount of time holding a mouse compared to the amount of time holding a hand. We want to be judicious with how we spend the currency of minutes of our staff so that it balances the needs of the business – the information systems, and the communications that the records provide – with the needs that the human beings who need our care and attention receive.

As a leader, the currency of my work as a manger and executive is attention. I have to decide where to spend my attention units and be judicious with that because there’s the same opportunity cost.  That’s why I have great sympathy for startups because it’s very hard for me to give up attention units to them that I could devote to my organization – to listen to a cold call pitch on a product solution. It’s also very difficult to try to dissect through the presentation to understand what the true opportunities of the product might bring – how it compares to its competitors, and what are the risks and unintended consequences that it might have. There’s a real challenge there because most of us don’t have enough time to spend with all the people who need our attention inside our organizations. So those who are outside, who are not currently our partners, and asking for 15 minutes are challenged because we all have to be very judicious in how we give up that time. One thing I will add is that it’s my opinion that the most persuasive approaches for a vendor is to have a credible client who has an enviable success that they’re willing to talk about with their colleague.

Campbell: Sound, candid, and sage advice & insight. Thanks again Dr. Baker.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

About Dr. R. Hal Baker
R. Hal Baker, M.D. FACP, serves as senior vice president for clinical improvement and chief information officer for WellSpan Health, a regional integrated health system that serves four counties in central Pennsylvania and northern Maryland. In this capacity, Dr. Baker leads quality and safety initiatives as well as the use of information technology as a means to create a reliable patient experience across the health system’s hospitals, physician practices and ambulatory facilities.

Dr. Baker joined WellSpan York Hospital in June 1995 as associate program director of the WellSpan York Hospital Internal Medicine Residency Program. He has also served as the lead physician at Apple Hill Internal Medicine, which is part of the WellSpan Medical Group. Dr. Baker came to York after completing a general internal medicine fellowship at Johns Hopkins Hospital and a residency at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. He holds a bachelor’s degree in biology and a medical degree from Cornell University.

About Justin Campbell
Justin is Vice President, Strategy, at Galen Healthcare Solutions. He is responsible for market intelligence, segmentation, business and market development and competitive strategy. Justin has been consulting in Health IT for over 10 years, guiding clients in the implementation, integration and optimization of clinical systems. He has been on the front lines of system replacement and data migration and is passionate about advancing interoperability in healthcare and harnessing analytical insights to realize improvements in patient care. Justin can be found on Twitter at @TJustinCampbell and LinkedIn.

 

CHIME Fall Forum Interview Series: David J. Runt, CIO, Contra Costa Health Services

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David Runt; CIO, FHIMSS, CPHIMS, Contra Costa Health Services

One Patient. One Record. That’s the philosophy at Contra Costa Health Services, where David Runt is Chief Information Officer. Their uniquely structured health department has everything health-related under a singular patient record, all fueled by Epic. They’re most healthcare organization’s dream. Runt considers himself fortunate to be a part of it. In this interview, he discusses CCHS’s transition from build to buy, including the sunset of a large amount of legacy systems; their data warehouse good fortune; why their data retention standard is “forever”; and how CHIME stands out from other industry events.

CHIME Fall CIO Forum provides valuable education programming, tailored specifically to meet the needs of CIOs and other healthcare IT executives. Justin Campbell, of Galen Healthcare Solutions, had the opportunity to attend this year’s forum and interview CIOs from all over the country. Here is the next interview in the series:

Key Insights

Our philosophy is one patient, one record.

Use those talented internal development resources to build niche product for customers that you can’t buy.

However, that served as the foundation to feed data into Epic. All of our data is going into the warehouse. It’s fantastic, the amount of data we have at our fingertips now. It’s revolutionizing our capabilities.

Our philosophy is to retain the data forever. Given our model, we don’t lose patients, so to speak, to our competitors.

Don’t be everything for everybody. Pick your niche. Get successful there and make a name for yourself there.

Campbell: Please tell me a bit of about yourself and your organization.

Runt: I’ve been with Contra Costa Health Services for eight years. I was in Arizona for ten years prior to that. Contra Costa Health Services is a county health department.  We are probably the only one in California that’s structured the way we are, in that everything “health” related falls under one patient record. This means that, public health, mental health, EMS, hazmat, health plan, hospital clinics, everything falls under one health officer. We provide health in five jails across the county as well. In our organization, public health reporting falls under one umbrella, with health services & traditional hospital clinic structure falling under the other umbrella. As a result, we have a lot of flexibility in managing health across the enterprise.

Our philosophy is one patient, one record. Whether that patient is seen in our hospital, our clinic, in our psych emergency room, in the jail, in public health – we know everything about them. We’re fortunate that we have that data in one location and we don’t have to coerce the data out of a perceived competitor such as the health plan or public health, like the other county health IT departments have to do.

Campbell: What platform do you leverage for the EHR?

Runt: We’re leveraging Epic across the enterprise. We’ve got it in the five detention facilities, as well as in our health plan. We’ve deployed it in behavioral health, in our own behavioral health clinics, and made it available to our network providers as well. We’re not selling services, but rather we’re giving the providers portal access for their patients. In this next year or so, we are rolling it out more into the public health space.

Campbell: That’s exactly where your peers want to be. In talking to a lot of other folks, they have one system on the outpatient side, and a different system on the inpatient side. As a result, harmonization of nomenclatures and dictionaries between the two systems, as well as reconciliation of the data poses to be an ongoing challenge.

Runt: Not to mention your health plans on another system! I could not imagine trying to get payer information on your own patients with that model. My counterparts are just pulling their hair out and feel fortunate to be where we are.

Campbell: It allows you to focus for sure. Speaking of that focus, tell me a little bit about your application portfolio, outside of EHR. How big is the portfolio? Are there legacy systems that are sort of sitting in the corner?

Runt: Everybody has the legacy systems. When I got there, we were a cat and dog shop. We were a development shop and I had 50 developers on staff. They were actually writing—which got killed before I got there—a patient appointment system. Really that’s a commodity, you buy that, so a lot of these things were sunset when I got there. We turned the organization into a buy instead of a build. We had a LOT of cats and dogs, best of breed systems. We were the poster child for the best of breed shop. As a result, bringing in Epic proved to be tremendous, as we sunset somewhere around 75-100 systems. Some of these were just little Access databases sitting on someone’s PC, but we were able to sunset a lot of that and reduce a lot of the ongoing licensing, maintenance and support costs.

We’ve gotten out of the “build your own stuff” mentality except for specialty areas such as environmental health, where you have an underground storage tank inspection system for instance. You can’t buy applications like that, so we build those. We use those talented internal development resources to build niche products for our customers that we can’t buy.

I am very fortunate that we’ve had a data warehouse for well over 15, maybe 20, years. It wasn’t very populated, in fact it was primarily financial data, because of these cat and dog systems. However, that served as the foundation to feed data into Epic. All of our data is going into the warehouse. It’s fantastic, the amount of data we have at our fingertips now. It’s revolutionizing our capabilities.

Campbell: Data liquidity cures all. Now when you went through that consolidation process, did you archive the data into that data warehouse?

Runt: Most of the data was already there. Those cat and dog systems, the ones that were sitting on somebody’s desk, we probably didn’t need that data anyway. It was Excel spreadsheets, or Access databases – those really didn’t have an impact on the business overall. Some of those systems that we sunset, we just took the data, imported it into SQL and populate it into the warehouse.

Campbell: That’s a critical point. The archival strategy whitepaper we discussed examines the tradeoffs, when you extract data from a legacy system and you store it because inherently you’re changing the shape of that data. You’re changing the shape of it to store that data; you’re changing the shape of it to present that data. There’s also metadata and audit trails considerations.  All that said, looking back on what was your archival strategy and how did you handle it?

Runt: We did not have an EHR. We had MEDITECH primarily for billing and ADT functions, and consequently, we didn’t have much clinical data in there. A year after I got there, CCHS finished a painful implementation of ED, and that’s the only clinical data we had. That was already in the data warehouse – we took it from MEDITECH and populated the warehouse. Other than that, it was billing information from our third party billing systems. We really didn’t change the shape of the data that much.

Campbell: Shifting gears a little bit, I’d like to get your perspective on data retention requirements. I’ve been talking to some of your peers about the fact that most states require persistence of the data for 7-10 years. A lot of EHR vendors don’t allow the ability to purge and there may be some instances when you do you want to purge that data. For instance, when that patient is no longer yours, you’re no longer seeing that patient, yet you still have their data so there’s still some liability associated with that if there’s an eDiscovery request.

Runt: Our philosophy is to retain the data forever. Given our model, we don’t lose patients, so to speak, to our competitors. Being the county, we serve a unique, well-defined, patient population. Yes, some people will flow in and out of the system, depending on their economic or social background, but for the most part we retain our patients. So we want that birth to death record to be available, wherever that patient may present. The patient could move around the county, but they’re still going to be seen in one of our clinics.

Campbell: And does Epic natively allow for ease of eDiscovery if you have an inquiry for a record? Or do you go to the data warehouse?

Runt: We go to the data warehouse for that.

Campbell: Shifting gears again, let’s talk a little bit about CHIME. Certainly the networking aspect alone is unparalleled. Tell me a little bit about how long you’ve been coming to CHIME and what you are looking to get out of it, specifically, this year as it relates to your initiatives.

Runt: I’ve been in healthcare IT for 36 years and have been a CHIME member for about 15 years or so, maybe longer. It’s much better than other industry events in that you have the one-on-one interaction with your peers. CHIME gives you the opportunity to reconnect with peers whom you have a relationship, and also connect with the important vendors. Other events have 20,000 vendors there and half of them won’t be around the next year; half of them aren’t relevant to the types of things I’m focused on.

It seems that only the “cream of the vendors” are associated with CHIME. It gives you the opportunity to interact with them, have meetings and meals with them, social interaction with them, which for me has been a benefit. Unlike CHIME, I don’t go to other events for the sessions, I go there to talk to vendors. The sessions at CHIME are different from a lot of industry events and conferences in that they are educational and not sales driven.

Campbell: It’s just more focused here.

Runt: Exactly. It is more focused, and I wish there were more organizations like CHIME for non-healthcare because there are a lot of good ideas out there in the marketplace around data, around PMO activities, and other things that are not purely healthcare-related.

Campbell: Lastly, focusing on HealthIT & mHealth’s audience, which are startups and entrepreneurs, do you have pieces of advice for them? How does a niche, small, little-known startup- vendor capture your attention? A lot of these startups are jumping into the fray with patient engagement solutions and if you really look at it, are they really solving a problem for their end customers? This is a very broad question, but if you have any piece of advice for startups and entrepreneurs entering into the healthcare space what would it be?

Runt: Don’t be everything for everybody. Pick your niche. Get successful there and make a name for yourself. We’re doing business with some small vendors who were probably startups five years ago. They’re small, they’ve got their niche product or their niche service, and they don’t want to be everything to everybody. Stay true to your initial idea and your initial concept. Answer the questions of ‘Why did you go into business? What need does your services or solution address?’

This interview has been edited and condensed.

CHIME Fall Forum Interview Series: Perry Horner, CIO, Adelante Healthcare

Perry Horner; CIO, Adelante Healthcare

Perry Horner; CIO, Adelante Healthcare

As a CIO of major healthcare system, one of the most important lessons Perry Horner learned was when he found himself personally forced into the complicated world of connected health. With his new motto of ‘keep it simple,’ Horner is taking on the connected health world full force, implementing new and affordable technologies, always looking three years ahead. In this interview, Horner talks about Adelante’s EHR transition from Vista to Nextgen; his data governance strategy; and what he’s looking for in a practice management system solution. He also discusses his compelling personal story with the healthcare system and the improvements he’s pushing for to make solutions simpler and more affordable to all.

CHIME Fall CIO Forum provides valuable education programming, tailored specifically to meet the needs of CIOs and other healthcare IT executives. Justin Campbell, of Galen Healthcare Solutions, had the opportunity to attend this year’s forum and interview CIOs from all over the country. Here is the first interview in the series:

Key Insights

I never used to be an agile project management style person, but over time I’ve changed and I see the same thing with software. Gone are the large monolithic products, where they do everything. Stick with your core competencies. If you’re doing something well, partner with someone who’s doing the other part well. Make one conglomerate product. That’s where I’m hoping to see things go.

I was in the ICU for 10 days, and when I got out I had 5 months to recover before I could go back to work. During those 5 months I went through the ringer as far as what a patient experiences, and I was taking notes. Mental notes and physical notes as to what I was seeing, how things were being treated, keeping a focus on technology. When I got back, I wrote a 5-year plan for Adelante and I infused into it what is now called “Connected Health”.

I’m tired of hearing “I have an app for that.” I’m experiencing app overload. I’m kind of reversing thoughts, back to making it simple.

Forget about trying to capture the whole supply chain. Find your place on the supply chain and just focus on it. Do the best you can there.

Campbell: Let’s start with a little background. I saw that you actually come from the vendor side, that’s probably a helpful perspective to have when working for a provider organization. Tell me a little about yourself and where you’re working at now.

Horner: In my previous life I spent 17 years at ASU, I was the Head of the Library Systems, Technology Support and Development department. I jumped into healthcare with Adelante Healthcare because they intrigued me with a position opening, a Linux network administrator—which there is no such thing, so I was curious about what they were doing. The CEO immediately gave me an offer to head the entire technology operation there so I took that.

I inherited their EHR at the time. At that time Adelante had 7 locations. The first site they brought up using the open sourced version of the VA Vista EHR, and with the success of launching that site, we received a HRSA HIT Rapid Grant. Two Grants actually: one to form a HCCN, and the other to implement an EHR for all those members. Two other community health centers joined us and we became an HCCN and implemented Vista for all of them including Adelante, which was a member of HCCN. I was then hired by the network, which was called the Community Health Open Source Network, as their CIO. I hired three others and we developed out our support department for all the members. That lasted 18 months and then our largest contributing member pulled out and it was not sustainable anymore, so we decommissioned everything.

Adelante Healthcare was on Vista and I knew we could do better, even though as a technologist I was in love with the Vista system. It’s a MUMPs database, which is basically a flat file database, beautifully written, I’m amazed at it. As far as the end product and the application, for us, there was a little of the square peg round hole that had taken place. When Meaningful Use, the whole Accountable Care Act, etc, came about, Vista kind of squeaked by. My crystal ball said that this is going to give us problems all the way down the road with stage 1,2,3, and having to actually develop all the little kludges around it, because there are no companies that are doing it. So I started a sunset on Vista and we RFP’ed for a new EHR.  We settled on NextGen as our EHR.

Before my time, when they were working on implementing the first site with Vista, it was done in a garage development style. The EHR that Adelante was using included traces of experimentation from the beginning and there wasn’t a demo or learning system created. So both the CMO and myself were not comfortable with bringing over the data into NextGen. Instead, we transferred over about 12 key demographics for each patient over into NextGen and left the entire chart in Vista. For the next year, providers would go back to Vista when they saw a patient that had a NextGen record and extract certain elements out of their chart and put them into NextGen. The whole patient cycle included about 38,000 unique patients.

When that was done we started on the sunset project for Vista. It was too expensive and cumbersome to maintain the operational server. So I had to get all that data out of there and into a system diagnostics machine-readable format. I wanted everything to be indexed using four different identifiers, so you could do reverse look-ups using: date of birth, last name, social security number, and the medical record number. I wanted the format to be in discrete XML – specially in a CCD format. Every single patient record needed its own directory with sub-directories of all the imaging data and any other files. We needed two formats: the XML and then a presentation mode – everything in a PDF. In order to accomplish this, I contracted with a programmer, who over two years, finalized the extraction. Vista is so complex with its filing system hierarchy within that database. The referencing and finding the linkage of every piece of that patient’s record was challenging, as it’s scattered everywhere.  I was quite impressed that we were 100% able to extract everything, reformat it and make it useable.

That was our EHR at that time. At that time too, our practice management system was GE Centricity Practice Solutions, so there’s my next project next year, getting that data out. Luckily that’s a SQL database, much easier than doing it with MUMPS.

Campbell: Tell me a little about data governance in your organization and how that is handled

Horner: We’ve got a plan for 2017: creating an information governance committee. In the meantime, everything is more specialized—a privacy committee, security committee, the various others around compliance, quality assurance—we want to bring all of that up into the next level of the leadership decision-making body and have an overarching Information Governance Technology Steering Committee.

Campbell: Do you have challenges at all with interdepartmental nomenclature, mapping? How is that handled?

Horner: Very wild-wild west style. We are small enough at the moment where we can still talk to each other and accommodate. Ten years from now we won’t be. We definitely need to have common definitions, common protocols. That’s why in 2017 the information governance will form and set the framework to start development from there. I’m pretty pleased that AHIMA has really taken the lead in producing a lot of resources around information and data governance.

Campbell: And speaking of the portfolio, how many applications do you have in it today? Do you leverage any portfolio management applications or is it small enough where it can be optimized?

Horner: Small enough at the moment.  Right now, except for our HR system and a credentialing application, everything is on premise. In two years, we will have outgrown our corporate headquarters, so we’re building a new facility and this time around we’re not building a data center in it. The project kicks-off in December, and we are slowly migrating hosting out to third party, starting with the low hanging fruit – file services, those type of things – with the EHR at the end.

Campbell: Mission critical applications last.

Horner: Yes, we designed our Mesa Facility as our fail over location, so we do have redundancy there. We’ll continue to use that for fail over but for our primary, we want it in an external data center. And if anything is platform-as-a-service, software-as-a-service, we are always entertaining that. Anything that can accommodate a heterogeneous environment.

Anything that’s HTML5, a no SQL database back-end, that true software-as-a-service environment, that’s what I keep my eye on. Any vendor that’s moving that route, has a product there, is large enough to actually interface with others. I never used to be an agile project management style person, but over time I’ve changed and I see the same thing with software. Gone are the large monolithic products, where they do everything. Stick with your core competencies. If you’re doing something well, partner with someone who’s doing the other part well. Make one conglomerate product. That’s where I’m hoping to see things go.

Campbell: I did some research and saw that there was an initiative, back in May, where you went out for bid with some other organizations for application development

Horner: Yes, that is on the connected health end. That was the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce’s Reverse Pitch for Healthcare. Speaking of connected health, in the beginning of 2014, I went in to see my doctor, who happens to be an Adelante Healthcare provider. My heart was one minute going 160 beats, next minute going 70, just off and on. It was a nuisance to me and it had been doing that for about 4 weeks, during December, during the holidays. She hooked me up to some diagnostics and after about 20 minutes of checking readings, she immediately looked at my wife and said, ‘if he drove, he’s not, you’re driving him straight to the hospital; he’s to be admitted to the ED.’

For the next 48 hours’ things were looking bleak. I was on my last leg. I was feeling fine until that Monday evening when I was in the hospital. My heart was failing – down to 15% capacity, and my family was told I had maybe 48 hours, and to start making preparations. I had a team of twelve different specialists all trying to figure out what was going on, and finally it was a cardiologist who figured it out. It was my adrenal gland. One of them was causing this and he came up with a cocktail that actually worked, stabilized my heart rate and threw me on the road to recovery.

I was in the ICU for 10 days, and when I got out I had 5 months to recover before I could go back to work. During those 5 months I went through the ringer as far as what a patient experiences, and I was taking notes. Mental notes and physical notes as to what I was seeing, how things were being treated, keeping a focus on technology. When I got back, I wrote a 5-year plan for Adelante and I infused into it what is now called “Connected Health”.

I was given a great care plan, things that I had to do at home, and I didn’t have an at home nurse, so that responsibility was given to my wife. She would make sure I was taking my blood pressure every 4 hours, and taking these pills in the morning, these pills in the afternoon, I was walking around for x amount of time, and ensuring I was eating these low salt foods. Two weeks later she was tired of it, she was angry with me, and I was tired of it too. I was then slacking back into a mode where I wasn’t doing everything and my specialists and my PCP weren’t seeing me every other day to monitor. I was on a schedule to come back and they would evaluate me and see what my progress was. I was like “there’s got to be something to keep me motivated and also keep that care team informed early, in case something goes wrong.”

A lot of times providers experiment. You’re on one medication and then they’ll check-in maybe three months later to see if that worked, and if not, it is changed. Now take this medication. Well it didn’t work in the first 72 hours, it’s not going to work for the remaining 90 days. Connected health solves this by having those monitoring and diagnostic devices in the home. It’s nothing new for the hospital world, in fact it’s been around for a while. You get discharged and you take a package home, that’s got a blood pressure cuff, a thermometer, a scale, or whatever, all connected via an app to your phone, to the internet. For me though, knowing how tired and wiped I was from the hospital experience, I cannot see how somebody who wasn’t a CIO would go through the process of connecting all of these devices, having to always spark up a tablet or a phone in order to see readings and do things to communicate. I wanted it to be as simple as possible. For example, with my scale in the bathroom, I could replace it with a connected device whereby, I just set this scale down, I don’t have to program it, do anything to it, I just have to step on it. Everything should be done already. The reading should be able to go back to my provider seamlessly. Same thing with the blood pressure cuff, I just want to press the button and that’s it. Nothing else.

I went to HIMSS Connected Health Conferences, which was really a bunch of developers trying to figure out what’s going to play into this world, with not very many established products yet. I desired a product that was just dirt-simple. For our population, 50% of our patients are on state Medicaid, which means they’re in financial distress. I want our devices to be as [affordable] as possible. It just needs to be what it is. That was my ask. Create this…and there was a company that actually did. Carematix collaborated with Verizon to develop a solution. So now you’ve got your carrier service, and you’ve got your product. The transmission doesn’t go directly to the cloud from the scale. The scale actually communicates to this little hub device that is plugged into the wall or any outlet, hidden away. The patient plugs into the power, steps on the scale, anywhere in the household. They don’t need to program anything, don’t need to worry about it, don’t ever have to remember that they have the little box plugged into the outlet ever again. Everything works and it’s affordable. That was the other piece. Carematix has priced their product at a dollar – a dollar a day per patient. That’s $30 a month for two devices. The cloud based management system, the whole shebang, no carrier fees, nothing – that is everything. So for us, we’re looking at $360 per patient per year. That is sweet. Problem solved.

But I had to wait 2 years for something like that to appear, and none of this is new technology. We’re going to do a pilot for two years now too. We have a control group – same chronic conditions, same age, everything very similar to its pair experimental group. The experimental group gets the devices while tthe control group receives traditional care. Over time we’re going to see if we can improve that patient’s health by early warning, being able to follow up immediately when we see something, and being able to contact that patient to see if we can change something. Improve that health much faster than the traditional way. If so, money well spent. To circle back around to your original question, that’s what that initiative back in May was about.

Campbell: It’s seems you’re well in tune to startups. What learnings did you have with interacting with some of those startups and what advice would you have for folks in those areas that would give them a leg-up or make them more efficient?

Horner: Well for me, I’m getting really jaded. I’m tired of hearing “I have an app for that.” I’m experiencing app overload. I’m kind of reversing thoughts, back to making it simple.

When it comes to solutions, if you can shift the time and complexity away from the end user, make it as simple as possible and most importantly, know and understand your customer. I can’t believe the complexity of some of these devices in connected health that they’re sending home with elderly patients. Really? You’ve got to be kidding me. Keep it simple and affordable.

Forget about trying to capture the whole supply chain. Find your place on the supply chain and just focus on it. Do the best you can there. Play nice with your competitors because the consumer is going to piece-meal their solution together. Apple has done this, but they’ve kept to their own ecosystem, so kind of do like Apple but in an open way. I’m a big open source advocate.

Campbell: Well that’s the topics that I had looked to cover. I appreciate you taking out the time. That personal story you told was so compelling. To me it’s stories like that, where you, the information technology leader for the organization that’s trying to improve that care, has the first hand perspective – a perspective that a majority of the time is lacking

Horner: That was my silver lining. That was my experience and I appreciate having gone through that. Because that was everything, from imaging to lab work up the wazoo, blood work every other day, the diet and dealing with the nutritionist. These providers, they want you to get better and they come up with their plan for you. These people come up with their plan for you, and it’s so much you’re overwhelmed. You were sick and recovering to begin with and then to be burdened with so much stuff to have to do. It’s almost like that’s the formula for you to fail anyway, even with those great intentions behind it. Somethings got to be there, that’s in my house, with me by my side—and it’s not my wife—that will keep me moving along but not somethings that’s going to overwhelm me. It’s got to be simple and easy. Part of my routine in the morning, is getting up, stepping on the scale. I do that already. It represents a great opportunity to capture that data because that’s got clinical implications. For others, there would be other things that they do, maybe someone gets on a StairMaster every day. Well do you hold onto it? Is it capturing your heartrate? Data. Capture it. Use it. Internet-of-Things, where we’ve got devices communicating to devices communicating to devices, intelligently. That’s going to do things. “Oh your heartrate is going up quite a bit, let’s lower the temperature in that room” I didn’t have to do anything. My smart watch already communicated to my smart thermostat and did that for me.

This interview has been edited and condensed.