CIO

HealthIT CIO Interview Series – Mathew Gaug, Lima Memorial Hospital

Mathew Gaug, CIO

Mathew Gaug, MSIS, ITMLE, Executive Director, Information Technology, Lima Memorial Hospital

Lima Memorial Health System was founded in 1899 as Lima City Hospital by the citizens of the Lima, Ohio community. The hospital is a not-for-profit health care organization with more than 1,500 employees, and 25 facilities in their 10-county service area in the region. Lima’s CIO, Mathew Gaug, works hard to ensure that technology enables a convenient, efficient and high-quality experience to that same patient community that was originally responsible for the founding of the organization. Like many other healthcare delivery organizations, Lima Memorial is challenged with a non-integrated ambulatory EHR and EMR. As such, driven by its physician community, it is pursuing adoption of Meditech’s web-based ambulatory product to replace eCW. Ultimately, this will offer a streamlined solution to improve provider efficiency and consequently, patient experience, while providing a foundation for additional patient engagement and telehealth services to be offered.

Key Insights

From a historical context, our organization took a best of breed approach where we went MEDITECH for the acute side, but eClinicalWorks for ambulatory practices. We recently embarked on a new strategic direction, where we are looking to consolidate applications and making a patient-centric decision to have only one record across care settings.

An integrated system enhances the historical context, as the ambulatory side wouldn’t necessarily always have access to the acute side. It greatly simplifies things, as there is only one medication, allergy or problem list to maintain. From a provider perspective, harmonization of different nomenclatures isn’t as burdensome.

We rolled out the ideas of a consolidated ambulatory practice, had demos, and evaluated products. We were vigilant in ensuring it was a physician-based decision rather than being driven by IT. Our physicians drove the evaluation as to keep the status quo or to adopt a new workflow and mentality with the technology used to practice medicine.

 A lot of the communities we serve are rural and telehealth will allow for our patients to have better and quicker access to care. Our goal is to have it integrate to our new patient portal, which will make visits for our patients that much more convenient.

Campbell: Tell me a little bit about Lima Memorial, your role within the organization and your background.

 Gaug: Lima Memorial is a community hospital in Northwest Ohio. We have roughly 1500 employees and 25 facilities in 10 county service areas. We are an affiliate of ProMedica, but at the same time we are the furthest south, so we kind of stand on our own when it comes to medical and clinical decisions, and decision-making processes. In terms of my role here, I’ve only been at the organization for about 1 year now. I came to Lima via the Cleveland Clinic as a promotional opportunity. I was looking to spread my wings a little bit, as I’d spent 20 years at the clinic. My formal title is Executive director / CIO, and I have a team of 56+ with everything IT-related rolling up through our group, which includes technology, development, biomed, communications and informatics.

Campbell: Coming from Cleveland Clinic, obviously you come with the perspective of an organization that’s typically on the forefront of healthcare information technology adoption and it’s probably doing some innovative things that may be ahead of what the broader marketplace is doing. In terms of the application portfolio that you manage tell at Lima, can you tell me a bit more about that mix. Namely, the mission-critical applications, the history of those applications within the organization, adoption rates and any optimization you may be pursuing today?

Gaug: Our main application within the hospital today is MEDITECH. We upgraded to 6.15 a month after I started in the organization, and as such, the project was well underway when I got involved. The team did a fantastic job of getting that implemented. From a historical context, our organization took a best of breed approach where we went MEDITECH for the acute side, but eClinicalWorks for ambulatory practices. We recently embarked on a new strategic direction, where we are looking to consolidate applications and making a patient-centric decision to have only one record across care settings. As such, we are looking to adopt a new ambulatory platform with MEDITECH’s web-based ambulatory product. We’re looking to adopt that same mentality and go that way with our platforms.

Campbell: The sentiment of having an integrated, single record is one that has certainly been echoed amongst the CIOs who have participated in this series and given how the MEDITECH web-based ambulatory product has evolved from a UI perspective. It seemingly limits complexity as providers have a familiarity on the acute side and more capabilities can be offer on the ambulatory side based on some of the innovation the web-based ambulatory product has offered with syndromic surveillance, population health management, and facilitation of coordination of care. I’m sure that approach is supported even more so due to MEDITECH’s acute product being well embedded at Lima?

Gaug: The hospital has been on MEDITECH in one for form or another since the first install in 1994. An integrated system enhances the historical context, as the ambulatory side wouldn’t necessarily always have access to the acute side. It greatly simplifies things, as there is only one medication, allergy or problem list to maintain. From a provider perspective, harmonization of different nomenclatures isn’t as burdensome. In addition, the providers no longer have to familiarize with two different user interfaces, workflows, etc. Most importantly, from the patient’s perspective, via the portal, they are provided a comprehensive view of ambulatory and acute visits.

Campbell: Tying into managing multiple applications across care settings, can you touch on provider satisfaction within the organization. Recently KLAS introduced the Arch Collaborative to benchmark provider satisfaction, and the new clinical informatics track at the CHIME Fall Forum was well received as it highlighted provider engagement methodologies. How do you approach provider satisfaction within the organization today?

Gaug: We have a subset of the team from my informatics group that round, visit with and train providers as one of their sole or main responsibilities. We have a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week physician hotline where providers can call and get in touch with one of my team members directly. That goes a long way in terms of provider satisfaction because the last thing we want is a provider being stuck and have it potentially impacting patient care. We are focused on providing exceptional services and response so we avoid problems with technology or issues with the electronic medical record preventing our providers from being able to make clinical decisions. Another thing that we have most recently done is separated the role of Vice President of Medical Affairs and CMIO. It was previously a single role with dual responsibilities, and it has enabled increased energy and focus for the two areas.

When we rolled out the ideas of a consolidated ambulatory practice, had demos, and evaluated products. We were vigilant in ensuring it was a physician-based decision rather than being driven by IT. Our physicians drove the evaluation as to keep the status quo or to adopt a new workflow and mentality with the technology used to practice medicine. I think that’s key with driving the success of any type of implementation of a new application. Ultimately, we want to make sure that as a result of our decision, patient care is more convenient and it’s more efficient for the providers.

Campbell: Great. Thank you for providing some color around that. Let’s talk about population health initiatives within your organization. I imagine rollout of capabilities will be eased in having an integrated platform. That said, what initiatives are taking place today? Do you maintain any chronic disease or wellness registries? Have you evaluated or adopted technology perhaps within Meditech or externally to address the potential need?

Gaug: Thus far, the adoption has been within eClinicalWorks. As such, we are really focused on the future with the Meditech ambulatory application and what capabilities we can introduce with the integration of the two platforms. There are some exciting things that we’re anticipating coming forward, but for the time being we use care navigators and our offices to make sure that our patient scorecards are being maintained and they identify opportunities for intervention.  We also have a physician group that’s within our organization which oversees all population health and care navigators that are going on in the practice today.

Campbell: It sounds like there are some innovative initiatives on the horizon regarding population health management and it should enhance what may be a manual or patchwork process today. I recently read that you achieved EMRAM Stage 6, a recognition that’s bestowed upon hospitals for achieving higher patient safety through improved documentation. Tell me a bit about that clinical documentation improvement initiative.

Gaug: That opportunity manifested itself when we upgraded to Meditech 6.1.5. We made sure that not only were we going through an EMR upgrade, but we also analyze and pursued clinical workflow optimizations. With the testing that was taking place to upgrade MEDITECH, in parallel, we went into all the clinical and ancillary departments, evaluated workflows and implemented improvements. That went a long way to eliminate non-electronic workflows and improve existing workflows as we pursue stage 7 recognition.

Campbell: Related to PHM, are there any initiatives you might be introducing to better engage patients? I recently read an article published on the Lima Memorial website that was more marketing focused, addressing how patients should plan a well visit. What other types of things are you dabbling in regarding telemedicine and telehealth?

Gaug: It’s interesting you bring this up as I recently authored an article on telemedicine’s role in advancing patient care.  One of our primary strategic initiatives in 2018 is to have telehealth and telemedicine capabilities implemented and offered if not in all the practices, at least all the types of specialties we have. Telehealth may not be achieved in every family medicine practice, but we want to have at least one of those practices using telehealth. A lot of the communities we serve are rural and telehealth will allow for our patients to have better and quicker access to care. It will also enable us to offer different services we may not have today. Our goal is to have it integrate to our new patient portal, which will make visits for our patients that much more convenient.

Campbell: Absolutely. It closes the loops they have a comprehensive view of the interactions with their provider to complement the clinical record. That’s the bevy of questions that I had for you. Thank you for sharing your perspective and insights and best of luck to you with the transition.

About Mathew Gaug

Mathew is a highly accomplished IT business professional with more than twenty years of executive experience guiding the strategy and execution of mission-critical technology infrastructure and support for large-scale health service providers. Mathew is experienced and has expertise in integrating newly acquired facilities and establishing system-wide compliant technologies as well as migrating data centers. Serving as Executive Director,  Information Technology at Lima Memorial Hospital, he successfully orchestrated the implementation of multiple technology initiatives, touching every aspect of health care operations, significantly reducing costs and increasing efficiencies within an aggressive time frame. Mathew holds a MS in Information Systems and a BS in Computer Science from Baker College. 

CHIME CIO Interview Series – J. Joshua Wilda, CIO, Metro Health – University of Michigan Health

As a community healthcare organization, Metro Health values the ability to engage the community at a local level. Joshua Wilda, CIO, ensures the organization is nimble in its approach to patient and provider engagement, offering innovative solutions by creatively partnering with local employers to offer additional flexibility to the communities they serve. Joshua offers candid and shrewd advice for blossoming healthcare IT professionals as they seek to grow and advance. He also shares acuity surrounding the meaning and importance of health information technology. In his words, “we are not IT professionals in the health care industry we are health care professionals in the IT industry.”

Key Insights

Historically, we have focused on the provider experience which is extremely important. However, if we make the patient experience seamless and successfully address that aspect, providers will have their experience change as well and the entire care team will be able to leverage technologies to drive better patient outcomes and satisfaction.

We evaluate how the technology can be used to manage the care by the entire care team and how that team can support and utilize the information, as opposed to having the burden be wholly on the physician as the entry point and manager of that information. Just as the I.T. industry is tasked with managing big data, providers have been tasked with the entry, management and output. A daunting task when their value is being with the patient. By enabling technologies that allow providers and their care team to manage and interact with the patient at the center, more of the information can be used to better treat our patients.

We must consider what are our payers are going to reimburse us for and that’s been a struggle. There are many technologies that can be leveraged to treat a patient but if there is no reimbursement for the use of these technologies, smaller organizations can be hindered by what they can take advantage of due to cost.  

We are not IT professionals in the health care industry we are health care professionals in the IT industry. Metro Health isn’t an IT organization, its focus is and needs to be on quality patient care. I.T. is only a vehicle to be driven where healthcare can go, and I’m all about instilling that mission and passion in my folks.

Campbell: Thank you for taking time out to speak with us. Please tell me more about Metro Health and your background

Wilda: In healthcare, we tend to describe ourselves as the size of our beds. As a community based hospital, we have a 208-bed village campus and we have a large number of neighborhood centers where different services are geared towards outpatient care. Several years back, our organization had the foresight to transition from sick care to health and wellness management, in the communities where the patients live, not solely in a hospital. We have invested in outpatient centers and clinics, specifically with primary care services. We now own and operate 17 outpatient facilities where we have a multitude of services, mainly rooted in primary care and outpatient specialties.

From an IT perspective, we describe ourselves with the EMR that we use. As a small mid-market hospital we understand the value I.T. can bring to the patient experience and have invested heavily in I.T., more than most organizations our size. We were one of the first of our size on Epic, with a full enterprise deployment. We’ve been a Most Wired hospital for 10 years running and have very much made I.T. part of our strategy. We have been a HIMSS stage 6 organization for both Ambulatory and Inpatient for the last 5 years, with our stage 7 assessment coming soon! We have been part of a very large competitive market, and with Metro being the smallest, our CEO focused on positioning Metro to be the top choice in the market. We used technology to help drive that choice, whether it be with our provider base or with our patient base.

Campbell: Metro Health formally affiliated with the University of Michigan in 2016 and it was shortly thereafter that you were promoted to CIO in April 2017. Please tell me what CHIME means to you as a result of that promotion.

Wilda: I’ve been with Metro for the past 11 years and originally came on board as a systems analyst. I started my career working on the Epic implementation here at Metro and got the opportunity to rise through the ranks to now being the CIO. I am an alumnus of the CHIME Bootcamp from back in 2009. Our previous CIO, William (Bill) Lewkowski, is still with Metro Health as our Chief Strategy Officer. Much of what we’ll talk about in this interview is attributed to the framework of what Bill built over the past 23 years, anticipating where healthcare was going. A lot of my strategy is based upon honoring that history and advancing and innovating it to the next level. At 37 years of age, I’m considered a young CIO, and I’m fortunate to have gotten the opportunity to lead a healthcare organization.

In terms of the value of CHIME, it’s such an invaluable resource to be able to ask for advice and perspectives from folks who have been pioneers and peers who are considered future thinkers.  Healthcare IT is a vast industry with many facets, opportunities and challenges to overcome. CHIME is a tremendous resource. I considered myself part of the next generation of healthcare I.T. leaders driving what technology means. In attending the CHIME forum this fall, it was interesting to hear where some of my peers are (as far as their career) and to hear their struggles of how they are still trying to get themselves to the table with senior leaders. They are trying to change the perception of I.T. as being a commodity, providing operations and maintenance, and instead having it viewed as a valued capability to driving and shaping organization’s missions and strategies. I am fortunate to be at an organization where they understand our capabilities and continue to invest in our growth. CHIME is a resource which helps me understand what capabilities our team may need to focus on, where we may have gaps and provide valuable resources in how to stay ahead of the curve. Metro focuses on how we can leverage digital transformation to represent the brand of who Metro is to support patient focused services and create loyalty among our patient base.

Wilda: My background and formal training is on the healthcare sciences side. I received a Bachelor’s in Biomedical Sciences and a Master’s in Public Administration with a Healthcare emphasis, I am not the typical information technology professional nor claim to be a true technologist. I’ve had to learn the technology portion of this, so I have a unique perspective there as well. Technology for the sake of technology is never well received in the healthcare industry. We often use the word disruptor.  Disruptor, while a well-intentioned buzz term, can have a negative connotation to end users. I like to say technology is a differentiator and a vehicle to drive healthcare to new areas with a focus on meeting the triple aim plus one!

Campbell: When you can bring that multidisciplinary approach, you sometimes have opinions or views that are skewed already. That leads me to a big topic that was echoed time and again at the CHIME fall forum – physician satisfaction & efficiency and EMR usability. Can you touch on that a bit? Specifically, things you may be doing with telemedicine to help alleviate some of the burden on providers?

Wilda: Historically, we have focused on the provider experience which is extremely important. However, if we make the patient experience seamless and successfully address that aspect, providers will have their experience change as well and the entire care team will be able to leverage technologies to drive better patient outcomes and satisfaction

Technology is perceived as a burden on the provider/patient experience, and that is an area we are focusing on. We are gaining better understanding of the relationship and expectations between providers and their patients; crafting a digital experience as a benefit to that relationship rather than administratively burden providers away from their focus on their patients. To that end, we have a program with our CMIO Dr. Brad Clegg and Medical Informatics Directors Dr’s Lance Owens and Srinivas Mummadi around understanding where the physicians are spending their time with the technology. As part of the program, we partner with providers, assessing productivity and providing them with tips and tricks. Another approach is having an appreciation that technology is perceived as a disruption, there is that word, so when we introduce new advances we go to great lengths to provide engagement opportunities and education of how the introduction of new technologies will actually reduce that burden.

We evaluate how the technology can be used to manage the care by the entire care team and how that team can support and utilize the information, as opposed to having the burden be wholly on the physician as the entry point and manager of that information. Just as the I.T. industry is tasked with managing big data, providers have been tasked with the entry, management and output of that same data; a daunting task when their value is being with the patient. By enabling technologies that allow providers to manage and interact with a care team, with the patient at the center, more of the information can be used to better treat our patients, the providers can focus on the patient and not the technology! We don’t want the physicians to have to manage every single informational input, but rather, we want a team around the patient so we can leverage the collective skillset in managing patient populations. We are heavily focused on unified communications across the care team and remember, patients are a part of the care team. Our focus has been to make sure that the right information is getting to the right member of the team, whether it be the care manager, a nurse, a physician, or a PA/NP and provide communication tools to have the teams seamlessly interact with the patient and each other. This is a current gap. We have siloed technologies implemented, it is now our goal to connect them, increasing patient/care team engagement.

Campbell: Along those lines, Metro Health was one of the early pioneers in delivering remote access, allowing providers to be more efficient and get access to the point of care information in different settings. Can you elaborate on that a bit?

Wilda: Early on, we leveraged the VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) experience because we didn’t want our organization to be limited by the bricks and mortar of a PC. We wanted the care team and support services to be able to have information when the patient needed them to have that information, not when they had access to it via a bricks and mortar type of workstation.

Campbell: What is your mix of payers and what mix of value-based care is there today with your patient population?

Wilda: Like any community organization we are managing those models with a mix of government, commercial and private payers. This is another convoluted area as each has their own documentation requirements, sometimes overlapping, often having their own nuisances. We are spending too much time designing the system for their needs and not enough time focused on what the patient needs but it is how we stay in business. Just like most in the industry we must consider what are our payers are going to reimburse us for and that’s been a struggle. There are many technologies that can be leveraged to treat a patient but if there is no reimbursement for the use of these technologies, smaller organizations can be hindered by what they can take advantage of due to cost so we need to be tactful and impactful, leveraging the entire investment we do make in technologies. Larger organizations may be able to invest in different overlapping technologies. Often, value is left on the able with a large portfolio of services and capabilities. Metro sustains by being purposeful and understanding we do not have the luxury of best of breed to support all areas of technology but leverage the interoperability and value that comes from best of suite integrated solutions.

We are in an extremely competitive market. Metro’s goal is to remain a community organization which prides itself on the family culture and personal interactions we have with patients. To that end, we strive to provide choice in the market. We are partnering with local employers to do something different to drive down the cost of care. We do not have our own payer program, but we provide direct contracting and risk sharing models with local employers in town. It takes out the middle man and puts the responsibility on us as an organization to keep these employer’s staff healthy. We are directly servicing the community, we are engrained in that community and have put skin in the game.

We all have read the benefits of telemedicine. One of those is providing convenient care for patients, reducing the time away from work, away from families. The employee has got to come into the office to see the provider and often, that requires a day off and less productivity. We are examining how we can, with these direct contracts, put telemedicine into the employer’s offices and make it so that employee doesn’t have to leave or take a day from work or inconvenience their family with a disruptive office visit.  It is our belief that having immediate access at their place of business will provide convenient access to employees, increase productivity and decrease costs for employers and ultimately aid in increasing the health and wellbeing of our community. Its sends a message to the community Metro understands what a patient needs to go through to see a provider and we are focused on helping the patient manage that experience, reduce disruption in their lives and can help add flexibility. We feel like this is going to help our patient mix and managing the healthcare experience.

Campbell: I appreciate you sharing the innovation that’s taking place on a localized level. If we could shift gears, I’d like to touch on the topic of population health management and anything you may be doing with Epic’s Healthy Planet module to that regard. Are you currently conducting any sepsis detection or surveillance initiatives or perhaps taking data from the HIE to get alerts about your patient population?

Wilda: We were an early adopter of Epic’s Healthy Planet module. We are one of those organizations that always seems to be on the bleeding edge. From a patient/payer perspective, we partnered with the state of Michigan on programs which gave us a spring board to adopt a progressive care team model around the patient. That model includes a team of care managers and pharmacists which provide support to our providers in managing the wellness of our population. Epic’s module allows us to use analytics to recognize those patients which may be at great risk or need more attention and then act on those patients with greater efficiency and quality. As I stated, technology is a great vehicle to allow our care team’s great accesses, more information and deeper abilities to treat more patients. We’re an osteopathic organization, so population health is ingrained in us, the complete focus on the patient’s health and wellbeing. It’s not just about being sick care but about treating the patient holistically, from root cause to illness to changes in lifestyle. That’s what osteopathic medicine really is rooted in. We are at the table with Epic trying to design the next wave of what that means for a small organization like us to sustain that model.

We also do have a sepsis program though not as robust as a lot of the larger healthcare systems, it is serving our patients extremely well. This is one of the reasons why we partner with the University of Michigan in that we have a lot of great ideas, but we don’t have the scale to do it. Now with the University of Michigan being a partner of ours, we have a lot more access to resources to grow our programs.

We are heavily engaged with our regional HIE, Great Lakes Health Connect. Metro was one of the founding members of our HIE. Around 10 years ago, a number of healthcare organizations came together and agreed while we may be competing for patients, we should not compete on the data around the patients thus forming one of the nation’s most successful HIE programs. Over the past 10 year, Great Lakes Health Connect has grown in its members thus growing the amount of information our providers have access to. Again, HIEs information is being engrained directly into the care workflows, allowing the care team better access, a more robust picture of the patient’s care allowing us for more prescriptive care plans.

Campbell: Very good. In closing, I’d like to ask you a question around your career trajectory. You have a compelling story, having worked on the vendor side for two years and then moving to the analyst side at Metro, being developed and groomed in-house. Folks who have created their own destiny are motivational. That said, what advice do you have for the budding health IT professional? What were the key things that got you to where you were today?

Wilda: One thing I tell anyone who’s starting out in their career is to make your ambitions known. Don’t just expect that by putting in sweat equity, people will know what your career aspirations are. I went out on a limb when I first came here and I scheduled a meeting with the CIO at the time. I told him what my career goals were. Did I envision myself as CIO? Not necessarily, but I’ve have a desire to grow as a healthcare leader and I told him that. He then set a path forward, setting the expectation that he wasn’t going to hand me a seat at the table, it needed to be earned. He knew that I was hungry and gave me the opportunity to succeed and opportunities to fail and learn from my failures. You need to take time to reflect and understand what you want out of your career and make your passions known.

It goes without saying I.T. professionals need to understand their business they support and not think that they are smarter than their customers are. In healthcare I.T., we have many vehicles we support, HR, finance, facilities, direct patient care, and more. It’s a very interesting industry, because we service all those entities and it’s about building the relationships and getting out there to know our customers and partner with them on crafting solutions that increase their services and delivery. You must show that you have emotional intelligence and empathy to understand what their business is, not tell them what their business is. You must really get to understand them and be open minded.

Understanding the people that manage technologies is critically important. We have to understand how to manage people. We often focus on the technology itself, how to manage technologies, but we also must appreciate and understand the inner workings of the organization. We have to put the right team players in the right team settings to make those technologies work. I tell our department all the time, we are not I.T. professionals in the healthcare industry we are healthcare professionals in the I.T. industry. Sometimes, leaders with a pure I.T. background and perspective come at solutions with just taking into account data, the networking, the bare metal, without an appreciation for the healthcare end-users. How will that technology impact, improve, disrupt, delight or disengage the users? It is important the entire I.T. organization of any healthcare system take the time to understand and get to know the business of healthcare.

I focus on our pure I.T. professionals, taking them for occasional walks around the organization, to get them aligned behind the “Why” of what we do.  Many do not understand how the impact of their work, that phone they deployed which they may think is mundane, has a mission, is delivering some critical information to a patient. It might be used to deliver some good news, it might be telling somebody unwelcome news. It might be connecting care teams. But, if that phone isn’t working when that patient needs it to work, it’s useless and you are impacting that patient’s life. That’s the impact we have from the most robust clinical application, the most inconspicuous piece of technology, like a phone.

Metro Health isn’t solely about I.T. Technology is a vehicle to where healthcare can go, and I’m all about instilling that mission and passion in my folks. In fact, it is hard to get away from that mission. My wife is a provider at Metro and I make the joke all the time that not only do I support end-users at work, I live with one and get intimate insight when/how the technology is helping and sometimes hindering patient care. I can’t escape it nor do I want to. It provides for nice dinnertime discussion.

Campbell: What a powerful message around emotional intelligence and empathy. The perspective you bring is truly inspiring. Thanks for taking time to share.

CHIME Fall Forum Interview Series: Shane Pilcher, CIO, Siskin Rehab

Shane Pilcher, CIO

Shane Pilcher, CIO, Siskin Rehab

The role of the Healthcare Chief Information Officer is changing. Shane Pilcher, CIO at Siskin Rehab, knows it’s important to be on the front lines and understand how every aspect of the organization operates. As Siskin’s first CIO, he paved the way for IT to have a place at the executive table, and now he’s finding new ways to make sure all technology is optimized to fully meet physician needs. In this interview, Pilcher discusses reassessing workflows when implementing new technology, why Siskin needs more than an acute-care-based EMR, and how telemedicine is affecting rehab. He also touches on the CHIME CIO code and the true importance of peer-to-peer connections.

Key Insights

It has been a wonderful combination for the organization, as we’ve witnessed significant growth over the past couple years that I’ve been here. IT has helped enable a lot of that growth, as well as invested significant effort eliminating legacy systems and to update and optimize existing systems.

The longer you spend with any EMR, the more invested you get, and the harder it is to make a change. But, while you get invested with customized content, optimized processes, and those types of things, when you decide to make a change, it’s important to not get caught up in trying to take your old system and fit it into the new system.

We need to spend time looking at how we do our business, optimizing those things, and then wrapping technology around that to enable it.

Not only is that information really important, but the peer-to-peer relationships that you create are critical. You cannot put a dollar value on that, it’s priceless.

I’ll also say, a good resource to have a provider that’s totally against the system as well. Through the process of engaging them, getting them involved, and making them a part of the building process, if you turn them into a supporter, you have a huge resource that will then help the other physician population come on board as well. 

In some cases, I would even suggest that the CIO is very close to having to have the same level of vision that a CEO has in an organization because you cannot focus directly on IT, you must understand the organization as a whole with all of its nuances so that you can help lead them and their technology strategy.

Campbell: Coming from a consulting background, and now working on the healthcare delivery end, you bring a unique perspective to the CIO role. Tell me a little more about Siskin, how you came to be an organization and what your role is today.

Pilcher: We are one of the few remaining, independent, inpatient, acute care, rehab hospitals in the country. We’re just under 200 beds and have been established in Chattanooga, Tennessee for 25 years now. We’re one of the primary sources for rehabilitation care in the area. I came to Siskin in July of 2015.  At that point, they had never had a Chief Information Officer, and certainly IT was never part of the Senior Leadership team. It was a fantastic opportunity to take them down a new direction and finally have IT at the table where decisions were being made and strategy was being developed. It has been a wonderful combination for the organization, as we’ve witnessed significant growth over the past couple years that I’ve been here. IT has helped enable a lot of that growth, as well as invested significant effort eliminating legacy systems and to update and optimize existing systems.

Campbell: Very good. If you’ll allow me to inquire, what are the primary clinical systems that you use today within the organization for EMR and potentially care coordination?

Pilcher: We are a McKesson Paragon shop. We’ve had Paragon in place for a little over ten years now. We are actively pursuing a different EMR, and we’ve narrowed it down to a couple of vendors. We expect a significant EMR implementation in our future within the next calendar year, so its exciting times. Paragon covers most of our areas, especially inpatient care coordination, but we also use an outpatient ambulatory EMR called TheraOffice, it’s one of the few out there that is heavily focused on therapy and rehabilitation care.

Campbell: Thank you for providing background and insight into your pending EMR replacement project. You bring a unique perspective, given that you’re a registered respiratory therapist and served in the United States Navy. Given this, tell me a little bit about how that clinical expertise has benefited you in your career and moving into healthcare information technology.

Pilcher: Absolutely. I have definitely had a varied career path. I do things unusually, in most cases, and my career path is evidence of that. I became a respiratory therapist in the Navy. I spent eight years on active duty and thirteen years in the reserves. After coming off of active duty, I joined Erlanger’s Children’s Hospital in Chattanooga and spent a few years there working as a therapist in the pediatric ICU, the neonatal ICU, the ER, and other areas. They had an opening in the IT department. They were just looking for someone with clinical experience that had an interest in Electronic Medical Records and they were willing and open to train that clinical person to build and optimize the system. So, I found my first opportunity in healthcare IT and spent a few years doing that. I then started consulting, and spent about fifteen years doing that. I was doing all sort of projects from, initially, EMR implementations, optimizations, through strategic planning and interim leadership.

Campbell: That reminds me of the career of Dr. Dale Sanders from Health Catalyst. I attended the Healthcare Analytics Summit a few years back and he talked about applying his diverse career, including command posts at the US Air Force, and how that military background can serve some purpose in offering structure to, what can be, a very overwhelming healthcare IT space, so thank you for that.

Can you tell me a little about any IP you have invested in Paragon today? I imagine having it in place for ten years there may be some technical debt in that system in terms of, perhaps, clinical rules, or documentation. If you could elaborate on the challenges of cataloging those different types of IP in systems as you plan on moving. A lot of healthcare delivery organizations today are moving from a system that is more comprehensive to an Epic or a Cerner, and I assume that is part of your decision making process.

Pilcher: Certainly. The longer you spend with any EMR, the more invested you get, and the harder it is to make a change. But, while you get invested with customized content, optimized processes, and those types of things, when you decide to make a change, it’s important to not get caught up in trying to take your old system fit it into the new system. It’s a beneficial opportunity to be able to reassess what you’ve been using for that period of time and determine if that’s really what you want to bring forward. It also allows for evaluation of established clinical workflows that you’re wrapping technology around. One of the key mistakes that organizations have made for the projects that I’ve been a part of, and even here if we’re not careful, is we try to take a current process and wrap technology around it. If the process and workflow is flawed, or inefficient, we’re just going to exacerbate that and make it worse. We need to spend time looking at how we do our business, optimizing those things, and then wrapping technology around that to enable it.

With Paragon, we have a lot of customized content in it, a lot of our assessments are there. However, because of our unique situation, we are McKesson’s only rehab client, at least up until the last year—I think they got a smaller rehab client that they’ve implemented Paragon with. So, while we have required functionality that Paragon provides us, based on CMS’s Data Regulatory Requirement feature, additional functionality really hasn’t materialized in the last ten years. We’ve had to do a lot of manual processes outside of the system to be able to overcome those gaps. While we have a lot invested in the system, it’s going to be easier for us to make that move than other hospitals only because we’ve had to do so many things outside of the system or used bolt-on third party applications to try and overcome some of the limitations within the system. Now we’re looking for systems with predefined rehab content. We don’t anticipate getting into a situation where we’re the only rehab client that the vendor has, where they don’t have specific functionalities for rehab. That’s due to the fact that while we’re an acute care hospital, we’re also rehab, and we don’t do everything like an acute care hospital does; we need something more than just an acute-care focused EMR.

Campbell: Thank you for elaborating on that. Switching gears, a little bit, can you tell me about your payer base in your market blend, and how that may be unique?

Pilcher: We’re very heavy with Medicare/Medicaid, quite a few of our patients fall into that bucket. We have a variety of other insurance providers, partnerships with organizations as well, for their workman’s comp and other injuries.

Campbell: Is there a good mix of value-based payment occurring, specifically with Medicare Advantage? If so, I imagine there might be a focus for you on HCC – hierarchical condition categories.

Pilcher: I see there being more opportunity. We partner with a few of our referral sources and their value-based programs, but as far as specifically, that’s about the only impact that has with us. Due to our payer process we get daily stipends, if you will, a certain amount of reimbursement per day from our commercial insurance partners and from Medicare. A lot of the value-based purchasing efforts in the acute care hospitals aren’t directly impacting us except as we partner with them to provide care to fit into their value-based purchasing programs.

Campbell: Tying into that, you have a state of the art facility that provides treatment for brain injury and stroke. Do you have any initiatives in place for shifting some of that rehab to home rehab, or incorporating telemedicine, or perhaps patient centered medical home? If so, can you elaborate on that?

Pilcher: The type of patients and the overall population that are presenting to inpatient acute rehab as well as our subacute rehab, is drastically changing. The typical orthopedic patients are being shifted to home health and outpatient therapies, and we’re there to help with that. Inpatient wise, we’re seeing patients with higher and higher acuity levels; they’re sicker than they’ve ever been and require a lot more care. While a lot of the orthopedic and nonmedically significant care is being shifted to home health, our focus has been to ramp up our brain injury, stroke, and neuro programs, as we’re seeing a significant increase in demand for that.  Also, we have patients coming in directly from the ICU requiring rehab, so we’re seeing sicker patients, and many of those that are not being shifted towards the home health and outpatient environment.

Campbell: Thanks for elaborating on that. That’s a very compelling point, you are acute care so obviously you’re going to deal with those who have an inpatient stay. With that said, is it mainly limited to the surrounding areas or do you get out-of-state patients who seek you out because you’re a center of excellence?

Pilcher: We do have patients who come from across the country. The majority of our patients are locally and regionally based. We get referrals from as far as Nashville and Birmingham, but most of our patient population is more local than that.

Campbell: Shifting gears again, what pop health initiatives are in place today? Do you have any care coordination that’s occurring between the acute care setting and home health, easing those transitions of care? Are there initiatives in terms of referrals and/or handing off your portion of the patient record, perhaps through an HIE or any other means?

Pilcher: All of that is in transition at the moment. We have some coordination with our two largest referral sources, the two largest hospitals in the area. They have some specific population health initiatives that we factor in with some of their patients. For some of the orthopedic patients that are not candidates to be discharged, we have programs with organizations to bring them into our organization. As far as very formal sharing of information, that’s not happening much in this area yet, but our two largest referral sources are in the process. One just went live with a new EMR that would give them that ability, and another one is planning on doing it shortly and would change out their system to a system that would support sharing of data. Then, of course, with ours, that’s a key component to whatever system we put into place, to greatly enhance the sharing of data in our area. As far as a formal HIE, that’s not present.

Campbell: Great. I want to touch on your experience at CHIME as well, and gather some of your impressions from it. I know I personally valued the new clinical informatics track this year, which focused on the topic of physician efficiency and engagement. If you could elaborate on your goals with going to CHIME and how you may approach EMR replacement based upon things you may have learned at CHIME, specifically getting clinicians to use a new system and learning the nuances of that.

Pilcher: I think CHIME is an invaluable resource to CIOs in our market space. I was actually part of the planning committee for the fall forum this year, so I’m very pleased to hear that you liked what you saw. We spent a lot of time trying to make sure that the educational content contained value and I certainly think it did. Not only is that information really important, but the peer-to-peer relationships that you create are critical. You cannot put a dollar value on that, it’s priceless. It’s those individuals that are willing to take your call at a moment’s notice so you can bounce an idea off them, and determine how they handled things. When I was transitioning from the consulting side to the CIO role, there were numerous CHIME members that I had developed relationships with over the years, and they were readily available for me to call at any time—and believe me I did—to be able to get advice from. That’s something that, while we get hundreds of calls a day, and can’t take them all, if a CHIME member calls another CHIME member, that call is usually taken. I really value that with our fellow CHIME members.

Being able to get information on how they engaged their clinicians is key because, as we know, that’s not an easy population to have completely adopt an EMR platform, and having them engaged is critical. My advice is that engaging clinicians from the beginning, early on, and frequently throughout the process is a key piece to that adoption. They have to understand that the EMR doesn’t always bring efficiencies, like it was once touted. In some cases there are some, but it usually takes physicians longer to do what they need to do versus when they did it on paper. Understanding why we’re doing it, the safety implications that come from it, and then making sure that they’re part of the process of designing the system that they’re going to use is key. Finding a physician who is leaning towards being able to use the system well is a good resource to have. I’ll also say, a good resource to have is a provider that’s totally against the system as well. Through the process of engaging them, getting them involved, and making them a part of the building process, if you turn them into a supporter, you have a huge resource that will then help the other physician population come on board as well.

Campbell: That’s a great point, to focus on those outliers and not necessarily the low hanging fruit. I agree with your sentiment around CHIME, and kudos to a job well done coordinating that event. Like I mentioned, I witnessed CIOs who are always so gracious with their time. There’s just a deep amount of trust built up among peers and that’s invaluable especially when you’re in a tough position. As you mentioned, the healthcare CIO position today has morphed, as they are the quarterback and the glue within the organization to tie information technology to administration to. I’ll also mention too that the session Bryan Bliven and Dr. Tom Silva from Missouri Health presented was profound. They shared key insights with the way they engaged physicians, making sure that there’s rounding occurring, ensuring there’s -training that is occurring right across from the break room. Those pragmatic and novel approaches were well received.

Pilcher: I completely agree with you on the rounding part. As a CIO, you cannot stay hidden. You have to spend your time out there and that’s where you are able to develop a lot of trust with your end users and not just your senior leadership team. It can be kind of scary and dangerous to get out there because you’re going to hear what doesn’t work, but if you’re committed to getting it fixed, rounding is huge. Just to follow-up on what you were saying, as far as the transitioning of the CIO role, I know a lot of those educational tracks dealt with the transitioning of the CIO and the role we play. In my opinion we are one of the few leaders on the senior leadership team that truly has to understand every business sector of our organization, every business line – understand what they do, how they do it, why they do it, where their pain points are – so that we can then help them put technology around that. In some cases, I would even suggest that the CIO is very close to having to have the same level of vision that a CEO has in an organization because you cannot focus directly on IT, you must understand the organization as a whole with all of its nuances so that you can help lead them and their technology strategy.

Campbell: Absolutely. It must be multidisciplinary, and you must be able to fortify partnerships with your clinician peers. Thank you for sharing these cogent insights and for providing sage advice.

About Shane Pilcher

Shane has more than 25 years of healthcare and healthcare IT experience. He brings to Siskin Hospital his strong healthcare, military and corporate experience in leading teams to align IS strategy with corporate strategic plans.

Shane became a Registered Respiratory Therapist in 1995 while in the United States Navy where he served as a Respiratory Therapist, Navy Corpsman and EMT. In 2003, he converted to an Intelligence Specialist where he served time in Iraq and was the leading Chief over the Naval Intelligence Reserve Region Southeast’s Reserve Intelligence Training program. Shane retired as a Chief from the United States Navy with more than 20 years of active and reserve service. He has also received his Fellowship designation from Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society and holds a BS in Business Administration.

 

CHIME Fall Forum Interview Series: Doug Dietzman, Executive Director, Great Lakes Health Connect – Part 2

This is the 2nd part in a two-part interview. Read part 1 here.

Brian Sterud, CHCIO, FACHE

Doug Dietzman, Executive Director, Great Lakes Health Connect

There are two parts to the health information exchange value equation: how do you add to it, and how do you demonstrate that value? Doug Dietzman, Executive Director at Great Lakes Health Connect, knows this all too well. Leading Michigan’s largest HIE means listening to what providers and organizations need, and creating solutions they can easily integrate to create more connected communities. In this interview, Dietzman discusses how being a nonprofit has made GLHC more in tune with their consumers; why he welcomes the scrutiny that’s put on HIEs; and the unique approach GLHC takes to demonstrate the value of their services. Dietzman also touches on top of mind topics such as the recent hurricane disasters and how HIEs are a vital part of our emergency preparedness.

The establishment of patient identity needs to originate at registration within the provider organization, where care is being delivered.  It will always be more difficult and messy to fix it on the backend.

We need industry consensus around a single security certification process that will satisfy all healthcare participants. 

As a neutral community-focused organization, HIEs sit in the middle of the health plans, hospitals, primary care offices, public health, and all the other physical, behavioral and social service organizations involved in healthcare.  There are compelling reasons why and simple ways how these industry stakeholders can all work together to do the right thing for the people we all serve.

Campbell: I’m going to shift gears, to a topic that’s of interest to a large audience, and certainly has a lot of differing opinions and confusion around it: Patient Identification. What I’d like to get at is how that’s managed within the HIE today, what tools you might leverage, what ideas you have. Mike Gagnon, from Nevada HIE, spoke about some of the vendors he’s talked to about facial recognition, as that’s become more ubiquitous, and whether it’s on private industry to solve, or the responsibility of government. Keeping politics aside, I’m more interested in how it’s technically facilitated at Great Lakes Health Connect and some of the advanced things you’re doing in that regard. Could you touch on any patient matching issues that you may have, and how those are automatically or manually resolved?

Dietzman: I don’t know that we’re doing much that’s different from everyone else.  Medicity remains our virtual health record platform; the MPI that we’re using is through them as well. We don’t have resources dedicated to maintaining or fixing patient identity issues, as we don’t encounter a great deal of those issues on a daily basis. As such, from an administrative and use standpoint, what we’re hearing from our customers is it’s not a huge problem that’s getting in the way of what they need to do. There’s a lot of work we can do in the HIE that doesn’t even require an MPI to be involved in the first place. We do have an analytics environment where we’re doing some patient matching for those purposes, but overall, not a huge issue for us.

It’s interesting that some are trying to solve the problem on the backend. It seems to me that when we talk about patient identity, it needs to originate and start at the registration within the provider organization because that’s where the care is being delivered. If we’re trying to fix it on the backend, it’s always going to be more difficult and messy. In my mind, we’re giving the wrong people the wrong care, potentially, if the patient is misidentified. Palm scanners, facial recognition, and other biometric devices would be the easiest way to solve this. From a social standpoint, there may be some problems with that. We need to make sure we’re treating the right person at the point of care. If we’ve accurately captured it at that point, the backend reconciliation should be much more straightforward. As such, I don’t see this necessarily as an HIE problem.

Campbell: That’s a great perspective. Thank you for sharing. Switching topics again, SHIEC held an annual conference at the end of August, and I was curious of insights gleaned and takeaways from the event.

Dietzman: I’m on the board of SHIEC (Strategic Health Information Exchange Collaborative), and was recently re-elected to a second term, so I’ve been involved with the organization for a while. The conference itself was great. The conference was bigger than the year before. I was encouraged by the energy and the sharing of ideas. It wasn’t just about us getting together and drinking our own Kool-Aid. The ONC was there for all three days, and a number of vendors came to show their support, and have meaningful conversations with the group, which was great. I heard a lot of positive feedback on the quality of the content and conversations. I thought it was another good step forward for the organization. We’ll have some big expectations to fill next year down in Atlanta.

Campbell: That’s fantastic. What were the themes that dominated the event and what problems were tackled at this year’s conference?

Dietzman: Patient Centered Data Home (PCDH) was a big topic; specifically how PCDH can serve as a mechanism for how we can connect SHIEC Member HIE networks on a national level. This was important conversation for helping people understand how SHIEC Member organizations are demonstrating success within our regions. Another was a series of updates on how various organizations are doing things. For instance, Dan Chavez of San Diego Health Connect led a session on how his group is supporting emergency medical services, and how other HIEs can replicate their program. In the breakouts, there were a lot of topical presentations that gave provided ideas and helped us understand behavioral health use cases. Some of the folks from the Nebraska Health Information Initiative (NeHII) shared what they’re doing around prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) with controlled substances and medication databases. Exchanging ideas, collaborating, and being able to have meaningful conversations with industry peers is always helpful.

Campbell: Thank you for elaborating on that. Sounds like it was an invaluable event. I look forward to next year’s conference. That said, I always like to weave in practical stories of use cases where they’ve been impactful. I know you probably share those among staff to develop an understanding of the true impact of the HIE. If there’s one that comes to mind that you could share with us about how Great Lakes has made a difference in the lives of patients that would be great.

Dietzman: Let me give you two quick ones. We’ve been working with a community mental health organization here in Michigan, over towards Ann Arbor, and their use of our Virtual Integrated Patient Record (VIPR). We’ve been challenged with the consent laws and other legal frameworks to accept behavioral health data into our virtual health record. What we did in this case was to make sure their behavioral health care workers were provided with physical health information on their patients. There is no regulatory restriction there, and having access to that information informed their ability to care for the folks they were seeing in the CMH. The Director, Mike Harding, talked about one particular lab test that they would order on a regular basis for their patients. Once they gained access to the community health record, they could see the results of past testing, eliminating the need to run an additional panel. He estimated that their organization was able to eliminate about 200 tests a month because the necessary results were already in the record. This translated to a savings of $72,000 a year for them!

The other example is a center in Grand Rapids that works with a complex population; folks that have physical, behavioral, substance abuse, or other issues that drive frequent visits to the emergency room. We implemented the community health record with them as well. Their workflow and process was for the entire staff to meet as a team first thing in the morning, before patients started arriving. They could then review the records of everyone scheduled for that day to get a sense for each patient’s status and needs. On one occasion, a woman was scheduled for an appointment, and had requested a referral for a CT scan to help identify the cause of some head and neck pain she was experiencing. When they looked in her record, they realized that the previous week she had presented to all three emergency rooms in town on successive days, and had received CT scans during each visit! On one hand, this is not a great story. It highlights the work we have yet to do to inform different care settings and avoid unnecessary, redundant, and potentially dangerous treatments. But also, in this case it empowered those providers with the information they needed to intervene and quickly identify that there was something more going on with this patient. They were able to bring behavioral and social resources to bear on her behalf, and address the root cause of her complaint, rather than continuing to blindly treat the symptoms of her complaint.

These are just a couple of examples of how tools provided by the Health Information Exchange are being used to help people do things differently.

Campbell: Great, thank you for sharing those. Wrapping things up, I know earlier in the year you received a HITRUST distinction for security and privacy and that’s a topic that you take very seriously as an HIE. Could you touch on that topic, maybe conversations at SHIEC to that regard or any insights or points you want to make, regarding security and how that’s managed, and how you continue to evolve, as cyber threats manifest?

Dietzman: GLHC has a responsibility to be just as diligent about data security [if not more-so] as any of the large health systems that we work with. Gaining the HITRUST designation provided us with the assurance that we’re doing the right things where security is concerned. More importantly, this demonstrates to our participants that we can pass that highest level of scrutiny from an independent third party organization, considered the gold standard in this area. It doesn’t guarantee anything. As you said, the threat changes on a continual basis. But HITRUST shows we’re doing all we can to stay in front of those threats. One of the challenges, and some of the conversation that we’ve had within SHIEC and elsewhere, is the lack of a standard industry-wide security certification. There are some health plans, for example, that require HITRUST while others say HITRUST isn’t sufficient and require a different certification. HIEs are in a position, depending on their participants, to have to “check all the boxes” in order to be compliant. This is very expensive, and frankly not realistically possible. So, from an industry standpoint, I’d love to see some kind of coalescence around a particular security standard that we could all align behind. It’s not the security requirement that’s hard, they’re all essentially the same. Going through the process multiple times is a challenge. Having to do it six to eight times to get through all the different varieties is exhaustive.

Campbell: Certainly, there’s a lot of effort that’s involved in penetration testing, just to ensure you’re whole and don’t have any paths to exploitations. One topic that we didn’t touch on that I’d like to conclude with, is a little bit of bio about yourself, how you came to Great Lakes, your background, and how you got into healthcare IT.

Dietzman: Well, I got into it by happenstance. When I graduated, my dad was in retail and I went to work for a retailer for about a year, then I moved to another part of the country and got linked up with Anderson Consulting. When I showed up, I was a green rookie, and they said, ‘you know what, we need people that can breathe down at Aetna in their employee benefits division,’ and I qualified. I started working on some projects there, doing PowerPoint presentations as a young guy, and at some point the partner came up, after a little bit, and said, ‘you know what Aetna’s buying these things called HMOs down in Texas, we’re not sure what this managed care thing is, so go down, spend 30 days in the library and learn everything you can about managed care and all these terms that they’re throwing around and come educate the rest of the team so we can provide better service.’ And I did, and once I spent 30 days pouring through the details of the industry it kind of became my thing. I was hooked.

I spent most of my career, from that point, in managed care, mostly in health plans. I worked for a couple different health systems serving in different capacities: Project Management; IT; Management Consulting. I then worked with Spectrum Health, in Grand Rapids, MI, helping them develop connections to the providers in the community, delivering results and doing other things that they needed. A conversation started with other hospitals in town who were using the same technology about how we could do things better and collaborate around this clinical data exchange. They asked me to facilitate the conversation and then, once we decided to become a real entity and incorporate in 2010, they asked me to lead the effort and see if there was a business model and how the organization would go forward from there. It was just me, and so from 2010 forward it’s just been growing one person at a time, to try and solve problems, and figure out how we can build a model that will sustain itself. For me it was cool, I’d been in health plans, I’d been in hospitals, I’d been in primary care offices. It seemed to me that there was a way for all three legs of that stool to work together in a way that could advance healthcare outcomes. As an exchange, we get to sit in the middle and work with all the legs of the stool to figure out how we can share data and do the right thing for patients. It’s a great way to bring all of that experience together.

Campbell: That is so profound. Thank you for sharing. It’s always fascinating to learn of the turns and twists in someones career, and how that shapes, not only who they are, but the organizations that they lead.

CHIME Fall Forum Interview Series: Todd Rogow, CHCIO, Senior VP & CIO, Healthix

Todd M. Rogow, MPA, CHCIO

Todd M. Rogow, MPA, CHCIO Healthix

Healthix is the largest public health information exchange (HIE) in the nation, serving the most comprehensive range of organizations in New York, from the largest hospital systems to the smallest community health centers and physician practices. Healthix delivers data of more than 16 million patients to participant organizations that include hospitals and health systems, provider practices, behavioral health organizations, long-term and sub-acute care organizations, health plans, other public HIEs, and private HIEs. Todd Rogow, Senior VP & CIO, recently led the organization’s move from an outsourced resource model to an insourced technical team, including the implementation of a robust security program and SOC 2 Audit. In this interview, Todd elaborates on the benefits of building a mission-driven internal team to support the HIE, including improved scalability, nimbleness and responsiveness, but also cost effectiveness and innovation. Todd also shares his perspective on HIE funding models and sustainability, innovative approaches to patient identity and matching, leveraging predictive analytics to drive insight to the point of care, and the responsibility of the HIE in ensuring security and privacy.

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 joined Healthix two and a half years ago, I observed that we were losing ground because we were getting 11K new potential patient matches every day that required manual review.  With such a high volume, we couldn’t possibly keep up using a manual approach.

Having direct relationships with our vendors – whether they represent an application we leverage, hardware we run, or a service provider we work with – expedites the process of getting results by removing unnecessary overhead.

Insourcing the IT work has allowed us to become experts and facilitated a mission-driven, dedicated team that stays on top of our operations and growth. Being in this unique niche of healthcare IT and health information exchange really makes this approach advantageous.

Of key value to residents of New York is giving them access to their healthcare data. It’s something that we’ve taken steps to deliver through APIs made available to any of our participants that wish to tap into Healthix.  This enables them to make Healthix data available to patients through their own patient portals.

We believe that federal and state funding will continue to be a part of our sustainability model moving forward, although we can’t be sure of funding levels.  We are always exploring other revenue streams.

As a steward of PHI, Healthix understands that it is critically important to secure the data that we are entrusted to hold.  Technically, we do not own the data; it comes from a variety of participating organizations such as providers, payers, behavioral health, pharmacies, or in some cases Medicaid. It is therefore our obligation to protect it to the highest security standard we can offer.

Campbell: Tell me more about your bio, background, career trajectory, the organizations you’ve worked with, and the technologies they use.

Rogow: I’ve been involved in healthcare information technology for 15 years. I got my start working with electronic health record systems while as a contractor at Northrop Grumman, working for the Department of Defense. I helped to build their unique custom EHR, which was used by DoD, and spent several years enhancing that EHR product, from seeing its client-server application evolve, to helping create its first cloud hosted model. I then moved into the HIE space, spending over 5 years at HealthInfoNet, the statewide HIE for Maine. I was among the first five employees engaged there and saw the organization grow to a staff of 27. I led the redesign of the HIE from a technology perspective. One of the first things we did was to evaluate best-of-breed vendors to design an effective HIE solution for collecting data and providing real-time services to the participants, who are really the customer base.  The participants were comprised of clinicians in Maine’s healthcare community.

HealthInfoNet really shaped me and set me on a good path for what we’re doing here in New York. Going through that rebuilding experience and tackling scalability, having scaled the Maine HIE to be truly statewide, was impactful. In terms of the data we were collecting, the organizations we worked with ranged from behavioral health, with HIV sensitive data, to the common clinical data you would expect from reference labs or from hospitals or private practices.

When I joined Healthix, it was really to redesign the HIE, and begin a program to insource operations. For several years before I joined, the IT department was outsourced. One of the major tasks I was given was to build a team to handle the complexities of this business. We talk about Healthix as the largest public HIE in the nations. We really measure not just for the number of connections or data feeds we have built, but rather the size of the population we serve. At this point, we’re well over 16 million unique identities which contain clinical information. We have a lot of people who come in and out of New York City from all over the state, the country and even the world who may end up in our healthcare system.

On average there are 46 million messages coming into the Healthix system.  Over the last few years we’ve really focused on pushing data out. Like HealthInfoNet, Healthix is a real-time HIE, and that is where a lot of the value lies.  We have close to a half million real-time clinical alerts each month and push out over one hundred thousand continuity of care documents. In many cases, we build a tight integration into the EHR product, especially in those cases where the participants don’t have that capability, depending on the vendor they use.

Campbell: A well-rounded overview. I appreciate you reinforcing some of the high-level statistics you publish and highlighting some of the advanced work that’s occurring within the exchange today. If we could dive into one topic in particular, you mentioned managing more than 16MM lives. I want to touch on identity. You provided some detail around how a patient search is accomplished through demographics and MRN. Tell me a little bit about Healthix’s patient matching and identity management strategy, how exceptions might be handled, and what solutions you may leverage.

Rogow: I’ll provide you with another number. If you think of the variety of data sources that feed into Healthix – behavioral health, private practice, and hospitals – we get different medical record numbers from each of those organizations. As such, we have just over 58MM MRNs that we’ve brought in for the 7-8 years of data that we have. The challenge, as you pointed out, is really knowing that Todd Rogow is the same thing as T Rogow or just Todd Rogow who has gone to a different organization and has another unique identifier associated with him. We’ve been able to boil that down to close to 16MM unique identifiers and we have a couple of technologies in play that facilitate patient identity. We use IBM’s product, which was built by Initiate.

In addition, the velocity of matching associations wasn’t fast enough for us. We had a lot that fell into a gray area where we think they’re the same person, but they really need to be manually reviewed. As you can appreciate, this is extremely laborious. When I joined Healthix two and a half years ago, I observed that we were losing ground because we were getting 11K new potential patient matches every day that required manual review.  With such a high volume, we couldn’t possibly keep up using a manual approach. To automate the process, we contracted with Verato, a company that has a service that does something unique. They realized a while ago that there are a lot of public records for Todd Rogow. For example, I have an electricity bill, so there’s a public record of me and my address. There could be a credit agency that also has my name and my address and could include other things like a social security number, home phone number, or my date of birth. All of this is publicly available. They built an application that we reach out to as a service through an API, and we provide two identities for who we think may be the same person. We’re not certain, so we reach out to them and we ask them to query their public datasets from credit agencies, public utilities, etc., and come back with a recommendation on identity matching. Basically yes, maybe or no. It’s similar to what IBM is doing, but it’s another pass with more data that we don’t have access to.

With that, we have seen tremendous improvements. Not only have we dropped our manual approach of auditing these records individually, but we were able to go back and revisit our full backlog – anything which was a potential match. We were able to further collapse, by several million identities, and consolidate clinical records. From a clinician’s point of view, we’re now bringing extra clinical value around the proper identity of the patient and all of his/her records through that service. That’s been a really big improvement that we’ve made since I joined Healthix, and represents a new vendor that we’re working with very effectively.

Campbell: From sitting in on a New England HIMSS HIE advocacy panel event put on in early spring, outside security and privacy, identity is top of mind for HIEs. Thank you for elaborating on that. Shifting gears, you mentioned that you had out-sourced and then moved to an in-sourcing model. What challenges occurred with that, and what benefits did you realize as a result of moving to that model?

Rogow: I’d like to spend more time on the benefits, but let’s start with some of the challenges of moving from an outsourced to insourced resource model. A lot of companies go through the opposite – moving from insourced to an outsourced model. They think that outsourcing is better, only to swing the other way and insource. Just before I was hired, Healthix realized we needed more direct control over our destiny. What I mean is Healthix wanted to be very responsive to its customer base, and found that this was hard to do through 3rd party intermediaries. Having direct relationships with our vendors – whether they represent an application we leverage, hardware we run, or a service provider we work with – expedites the process of getting results by removing unnecessary overhead.

The other aspect is that Healthix didn’t feel that the growth we wanted to undertake could be accomplished without a change. Specifically, we didn’t feel that an outsourced vendor could keep pace with the scalability and amount of security required. Given the scope of the PHI stewardship responsibility of the organization, we felt that it was important to have that control.

As such, the organization engaged me to build a team and tasked me to insource our operations. Based on my prior experiences with HealthInfoNet in the state of Maine, I had familiarity with IBM Initiate for EMPI, and we leveraged Orion for the clinical data repository and clinical portal front end. However, Healthix implemented InterSystems HIE, so there was a little bit of a learning curve for me. The approach I took was to evaluate our system support needs and build a team that would address those needs. Certainly, there are some core roles you know you need to fill right out of the gate, but beyond that, there was examination of where resources were needed internally to be as responsive as possible to our customer base.

Once the core was in place, we directed focus on building new features and evaluating what resources we needed to tackle those initiatives. All-in-all, this approach offered tremendous benefits. We’ve witnessed enhanced scalability and quicker response times; a result of the direct relationship with our vendors. A major side benefit was the overall cost reduction we observed. We knew that if we were to try to scale to the same level where Healthix is today with an outsource arrangement, the costs would be too high. Insourcing the work allowed us to become experts and facilitated a mission-driven, dedicated team that stays on top of our operations and growth. Being in this unique niche of healthcare IT and health information exchange really makes this approach advantageous.

Campbell: I couldn’t agree with you more. It emphasizes the point that Ed Marx made at the NYSHIMSS meeting in that, it’s all about culture, and the ability to tap into that passion through a mission-driven team. The tough part is surely getting up to speed on a platform you aren’t necessarily familiar with, and identifying those roles you need to fill – whether its data governance and harmonization, or security and infrastructure. It’s great to hear that you were able to recognize some cost efficiencies as a result.

Rogow: Interestingly enough, we went through the same thing in Maine when I first joined HealthInfoNet. As I previously mentioned, when I first joined, I was among the first employees hired, and at that point, we had outsourced the IT portion as well. I brought that in-house. Being mission driven in this niche of healthcare really does attract the best people, and there is a lot of dedication that follows.  Ultimately, we are impacting patient care.

Campbell: I imagine you have countless stories of facilitating care coordination where key insights derived from the HIE are driven to the point of care as a result of the exchange.

Rogow: Absolutely. Both at HealthInfoNet and Healthix, I’ve heard stories where our staff goes out to visit with sites and they tell us how they are treating complex patients and how our service is being used to push insights out to them. It drives the point about mission home, and even though my staff are focused on keeping the system up and adding new capabilities and functionality to make it a more useful service, they believe, and I believe, that we are really saving lives. Not only saving lives, but also helping to improve healthcare for patients. That’s why we’re here and in this business. To have our staff get exposure to that is impactful when it comes to our mission.

Campbell: That covers the value proposition of HIEs quite well, but what about sustainability and solvency? Funding is an issue that comes up over and over again for both public and private HIEs. Whether it’s a subscription-based model that is used, or perhaps grants in play to prop up the HIE. What does sustainability look like for Healthix? You touched on having a series of clinical notifications planned, but how is that value funded?

Rogow: The state of New York is extremely supportive. The governor made a decision to support a statewide HIE through the use of federal funds that come in through CMS as well as state matching. Just before I joined, we entered into a period of 3 years where the state had allocated funding for us. 90% of our operational funds come from either federal or state funds. Before that, it was very similar to the model for Maine’s HealthInfoNet, where each participant, whether it be a hospital or private practice, would pay their portion of a service fee that would help fund the operation. We believe that federal and state funding will be a part of our sustainability model moving forward, although we can’t be sure of funding levels.  We are also exploring other revenue streams.

We’ve introduced new services, such as predictive analytics, focusing on the top 5-10% of the population that could be, or are the highest cost patients. We aim to get in front of the cost curve, and be proactively impactful, giving the care management teams of healthcare organizations an indications as to who the individuals are that we believe are likely to present in the ER or another inpatient setting, or have the potential of having a chronic condition. We highlight these patients so clinicians can effectively reach out to highest need patients. That is a Healthix service which customers are paying for today.

Other areas we’ve been exploring are customized real-time clinical event notifications. We offer a lot of the basic trigger events. For instance, if a patient presents in the ER, that will trigger an alert. However, if we’re able to provide a chief complaint, and other key data within that alert, that provides greater value to the provider or care manager.  Increasingly, we’re able to identify   services that our customers’ value and are willing to pay for. Healthix received funds for grants from various agencies, some at the New York City level, where we work on specific projects. As such, the grant money is really project-based and not a significant source of income.  Many feel that HIE shouldn’t rely on local city, state, or federal government picking up the entirety of the bill, but they do feel that there is a role for them to play in terms of funding. We’ve always thought of the three-legged stool in terms of funding – providers paying a service fee, the payers or insurance companies paying a fee, and the government contributing the remainder. The public services that we offer comprise the majority of our expenses, but we’re trying to make it a model where funding is more diversified across those we serve.

Campbell: It sounds like a very sound model. As you said, the point can’t be underscored enough in that it is truly a public service. What Healthix is doing is facilitating healthier New Yorkers, and healthier populations.

Rogow: We feel that there is a lot of untapped potential with delivery of services around predictive analytics and engaging providers or communities.  As they’re receiving a direct benefit from it, we can monetize those services. We certainly aim for a diversity of revenue stream, but having the backbone of government funding is critical. It’s helped us to mature as an organization, and to really show our value.

A critically important public value is giving the residents of New York access to their data. It’s something that we’ve taken multiple actions to deliver through APIs available to any of our participants that wish to tap into Healthix, so that they’re patient portals can make the data available for patients. Of course, all of this is contingent upon patients providing their consent, which is heavily controlled.

Campbell: That’s a great point. Being mission-driven, the most important entity in all of this is the patient. I myself use the MAHIway, and can appreciate the utility of having my chart available and being an active participant in my health. This is especially pronounced if you are managing many chronic conditions; having the HIE to lean on can be critical.

Rogow: It’s so important. We have a lot of HIEs across the country that are doing well overall and the service is getting more valuable as time goes by and technology improves. However, what’s really going to be a game-changer, is putting that control in the hands of the patient; when you’ve got a mobile device that provides you access to your records and allows for your records to be transportable. We are on the cusp of witnessing the patient really taking control of their records and leveraging that control to change healthcare. Not just the access to their clinical data, but providing awareness and contextual information around where to go for the best treatments, for instance.

Campbell: It certainly seems like there is a convergence taking place that will lead to data liberation. We know that the patients are clamoring for it given what’s at stake. Shifting gears a bit, at the NYSHIMSS meeting, the collaboration that occurs with other HIEs in New York through the SHIN-NY was highlighted. Can you touch on that and perhaps speak to other registries that you may integrate with?

Rogow: Starting at the highest level, we are connected to the Sequoia project, which is really the framework to exchange clinical information across the country. We’re also close to going live with the Veteran’s Administration for bi-directional exchange of clinical data with VA hospitals and ambulatory organizations. In terms of the SHIN-NY, it’s really a statewide clinical information exchange that’s comprised of each of the HIEs in the state. Right now, there are 8 of us serving the upstate and downstate regions. Since I’ve joined Healthix, we’ve witnessed a great deal of consolidation, which is a good thing. We know that people work, travel, reside and receive healthcare across geographic regions. Recognizing the size of the state’s population, and also the large geography, we have to collect data on behalf of the residents, regardless of the boundaries. This can be challenging, but there are services in place to identify that resident across the entirety of the state. This allows records to be exchanged within the state boundaries, and really offers a statewide support structure. Even though Healthix’s primary territory is New York City and Long Island, those boundaries go away when patients and providers retrieve data.

Going down to the next level, you mentioned attaching to different registries. We support several public registries. One in particular is the New York City Department of Health AIDS Institute. Their mission is to monitor the health and treatment of HIV+ individuals in our community and retain them in care. We identify HIV+ persons and the care they are receiving, so NYSDOH can focus public health surveillance efforts to ensure linkage to care, retention in care, antiretroviral therapy, and viral suppression.

Another registry we support that is kind of unique to New York State is what’s called eMOLST, around an end-of-life legal document. MOLST is a clinical process that emphasizes the discussion of patient’s goals for care, including shared medical decision-making between health care professionals and patients who are seriously ill or frail. The result is a standardized set of medical orders documented on the MOLST form that reflect the patient’s preferences for life-sustaining treatments. Our partnership with Excellus BCBS gives providers access, through the HIE, to the medical orders and wishes for an end of life patient.

We support a New York City Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene service called NYCEPS – the New York Emergency Patient Search program. – After a mass casualty incident, a key concern is locating and assuring the safety of loved ones who may have been affected and cannot be easily reached or located. NYCEPs queries real-time patient data through Healthix, particularly information from encounters at acute care hospitals and nursing homes – all with the intention of facilitating family reunification. NYCEPS staff can help search for a missing person who may have been treated at a New York City hospital, thereby giving families’ one place to inquire about a family member. This potentially reduces the overwhelming number of phone calls to individual healthcare facilities which are already overburdened in times of crisis.

Campbell: Thank you for elaborating on those initiatives and advanced HIE use cases. It’s fascinating and compelling to see the many tentacles coming out of the HIE and the numerous entities that directly benefit. Any final thoughts you’d like to offer?

Rogow: I’m going to settle on security as the final thought, though it’s always at the very top of our minds. We will be undertaking the HITRUST certification by the end of next year. We’ve taken a lot of steps towards that third-party certification and have undertaken other measures, including going through a SOC 2 compliance and achieving that certification. These are critical when handling volumes of PHI.

As a steward of PHI, Healthix understands that it is critically important to secure the data that we are entrusted to hold.  Technically we do not own the data; it comes from a variety of participating organizations such as providers, payers, behavioral health, pharmacies, or in some cases Medicaid. It is however our obligation to protect it to the highest security standard we can offer.

With the recent press around ransomware attacks and digital security threats, Healthix takes this extremely seriously and dedicates a fair amount of resources and operating expense to implement the technology as well as secure the data. It’s an important message for people to understand: we consider this one of our highest priorities.

We talked about obtaining the patient’s consent in order for providers to access their record for treatment and quality improvement. The model we’ve implemented in New York State is consent to access (similar to an opt-in model).  This is what enables a clinician to look up a patient’s record. Typically, consent is obtained during the registration process. We have the proper technology in place so that we are able to control contextual access to the data, which could be sensitive, to ensure it is properly accessed by authorized and authenticated users.

Campbell: It’s reassuring to know that those safeguards are in place. It’s also refreshing to hear how serious Healthix takes their role as being a custodian of the data, especially in light of all of the other initiatives and operational functions. Considering the volume and velocity of the data, it must be top of mind, so it’s great to see that you folks are a leader in that area.

Rogow: When I came onboard, it was critical for me to bring on a Chief Information Security Officer. Our participant organizations and leadership continue to make this a priority.

Campbell: Thank you for taking time to speak with me. This has been extremely enlightening, and I am appreciative of you sharing your experiences, insight and wisdom.

About Todd Rogow

Todd M. Rogow, MPA, CHCIO joined Healthix in 2015 as the Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer, where he is responsible for providing the vision, strategy and day-to-day operational leadership for all technical aspects of the company. Todd brings a wealth of knowledge and industry experience and has worked in the health information exchange space for over ten years.

Todd joined Healthix during a period of rapid growth and innovative change. He has fulfilled a critical role of building and leading Healthix’s Information Technology function, migrating its technology development and operations in-house through the implementation of next generation application software and completing the technical systems merger of several HIE organizations that now make up Healthix. He has driven a comprehensive security program at Healthix that includes the onboarding of a Chief Information Security Officer and achieving SOC2 security.

Before joining Healthix, Todd served as the Chief Technology Officer at HealthInfoNet, Maine’s State HIE. With 20+ years of experience, primarily in directing technical projects, he has provided business and consulting services to a range of Fortune 100 companies and many government agencies including the Department of Defense. Todd has served as a subject matter expert at conferences and on national and international panels and at conferences on the subject of healthcare technology. He has also authored a number of publications and case studies.

Todd has a Master’s in Public Administration and a BA from the University of Vermont. He is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and a 2012 graduate of the Hanley Center’s Health Leadership program. In 2016, he became one of only a few hundred Certified Healthcare CIOs in the nation.

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 Interview Series: Sue Schade, Principal , StarBridge Advisors, LLC

Sue Schade, CIO, MBA, LCHIME, FCHIME, FHIMSS

Sue Schade, CIO, MBA, LCHIME, FCHIME, FHIMSS Starbridge Advisors, LLC

#HealthITChicks show up and stay fierce, and Sue Schade may just be the epitome of that. A nationally recognized health IT leader, Principal at StarBridge Advisors, LLC, and current interim CIO at Stony Brook Medical Center, Schade has over thirty years of collective health IT management under her belt along with a plethora of awards and recognitions from HIMSS, CHIME, and other leading health IT organizations. Now part of a consulting, coaching and interim management firm, Schade has sage advice to share with other CIOs. In this interview, she talks optimization versus replacement, population health management solutions, how to measure success, and the benefits of knowing your application inventory. Sue Schade is paving the way for women in health IT everywhere.

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

My approach, or my philosophy, that I’ve worked with organizations on is when you’re adding new components, you first start with the core vendor: can the core vendor do it today?

Usability and number of clicks is clearly something that we hear over and over from clinicians

The main point with workflow is: do you adopt your workflow to the product or do you adopt the product to your workflow?

Vendors are looking at how they can be more user configurable to adapt to the uniqueness of an organization and their specific workflows.

Just inventorying your application portfolio can be painful. You have a lot more disparate and duplicate applications than you ever realized

I’ll be the first to say that many organizations don’t have something they can pull up and say ‘here’s our inventory.’ They should but they don’t.

Campbell: Tell me a little bit about your background, organizations you’ve worked with, and StarBridge Advisors.

Schade: Let me start with StarBridge Advisors. It’s a new health IT advisory firm that I started in the Fall of last year with two colleagues, David Muntz and Russ Rudish. We provide IT consulting, interim management, and leadership coaching, targeting the C-suite and healthcare organizations around the country. We have a network of seasoned experts and advisors that we are able to bring on engagements depending on particular client needs. I currently serve as the interim CIO at Stony Brook Medicine on Long Island, where I have been since March of this year. We are actively recruiting to fill that position with a permanent CIO.  Prior to that, I served as interim CIO at University Hospitals in Cleveland for over eight months, when I first started down this path of consulting and interim management and left the permanent CIO world. Before I went to Cleveland, I was the CIO at University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers in Ann Arbor for a little over three years. Prior to that I was the CIO at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, part of the Partners Healthcare System in Boston for almost thirteen years. Take all of that plus the years before that and I have over thirty years in health IT management and a lot of experience in the provider world. I also spent some time working for one of the large consulting firms, Ernst and Young, as a senior manager in their healthcare IT practice, as well as with a startup vendor in the health IT space.

That’s my background. I can tell you the experience when it comes to EHRs is different at every one of those organizations. At Stony Brook Medicine, we’re basically a Cerner shop for our clinicals, both ambulatory and inpatient; we have revenue cycle through them, and the old Siemens product, Invision. At University Hospitals, it was an Allscripts shop for clinicals on the ambulatory and inpatient side, and Cerner Soarian for the revenue cycle. At the University of Michigan, I helped them move the ball towards a total Epic environment as an integrated solution, for inpatient, outpatient, and revenue. At Brigham, we had mostly internally developed systems, which were inherited from a rich history at Brigham of leading the way in the 90s with CPOE. As part of the Partners system, there was a mix of internally developed core systems as well as some vendor products. Prior to my departure at Brigham, we had decided that all of Partners would go onto Epic, and move away from the disparate systems at each of the hospitals. They are just about done at this point, having moved most of their hospitals onto Epic. I’ve worked with the major EHR vendors and certainly have a perspective on the importance of integrated solutions.

Campbell: What an extremely decorated career with a tremendous amount of experience and wisdom gained along the way. Tell me a little bit more about integrated solutions. There is a lot of replacement occurring in the market as folks look to have an integrated system bridging the inpatient and outpatient care setting. What is your view on that? What have you steered organizations to in the past? There’s a lot of opinions between optimizing what you have versus replacing, is the replacement truly worth it?

Schade: I think so! An integrated solution from a core vendor, is optimal. You can argue that core vendors may not be as robust in all areas or specialties,  which is where some may have started from and then built upon. However, at the end of the day you’re dealing with one major vendor that can provide all of those solutions, has a roadmap, and is continuing to build out other modules that integrate into that core system. From a user perspective, there’s one system to learn how to navigate, you have much more seamless workflows, and much better data integration. I think there’s a lot to be said for that.

My approach, or my philosophy, that I’ve used in working with HDOs, is when you’re adding new components, you first start with the core vendor: can the core vendor do it today? Is it on their roadmap? Will they be able to do it, say in the next 12-18 months, or is it not even a thought of theirs? If it’s nowhere today, or not on their roadmap, then you look at a niche vendor that may have that product. If you’re so far ahead of the market in what you’re trying to do that there’s not even a niche vendor that’s looking at it, then you would consider developing it and trying to integrate it into your core system. That’s my philosophy, that’s the approach I will take. Obviously, you may go into organizations, or I may now as an interim CIO, that have a different outpatient system from inpatient, or a different revenue from clinical. You must take into account where an organization is in terms of investment, where they are financially, and where they are in their lifecycle on their contract. It’s not a one-size-fits-all answer. I do see a lot more organizations trying to move to an integrated solution.

Campbell: Sure, and if we take integration between the care settings for instance, I know there’s some sunk cost and unique IP that’s baked into the organization, and embedded into the workflows, quite frankly. As such, it’s a big forklift to be able to move that to a new platform. In terms of core EMR and EHR vendors, what is your perspective in how they are addressing population health management —a term that is admittedly very broad and often overused? It’s seemingly a fragmented market. Do you see that solution coming from core EMR vendors or do you think that they’re best suited for the transactional nature of the records they support and it’s going to be an outside vendor perhaps for population health management?

Schade: I think that some of the stronger vendors in this space are probably somewhat niche and not the core vendors, though the core EHR vendors do have offerings. For instance, we are utilizing Cerner’s HealtheIntent product at Stony Brook Medicine for the work we’re doing with what’s called the Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment Program (DSRIP) in the state of New York. There is a potential for that to be used more broadly as our population health platform, but I think it’s still too early to make that determination. Sometimes it’s vendor readiness and it may also be the organization’s readiness. Some of the population health initiatives are probably driven, very much driven, by those parts of the organization such as operations and administration, not IT, and rightly so. People get to a point where they have to make a change and can no longer wait for IT, who may still be consumed by their core EHR implementation. They stay on the lookout for solutions from niche vendors. It hasn’t quite shaken out yet, but considering what you’re fundamentally working with in terms of patient data, it makes sense that it could be driven from your core EHR vendor, if they can keep up with those solutions.

Campbell: Right, that makes a lot of sense. Speaking of the core EHR, I feel like, and maybe you can comment on this, organizations need to treat it more than a transactional system and rather a strategic asset. EHR and EMR optimization should be a continual process following implementation. Perhaps you can touch on optimizations that you’ve participated in. From the discussions we’ve had with healthcare CIOs and leaders, the toughest part seems to be determining ROI. In terms of drivers for optimization – whether it’s usability, workflow efficiency, number of clicks – what were the areas you focused on and how did you measure success?

Schade: I think you hit the big ones. Usability and number of clicks are clearly something that we hear over and over from clinicians, more so for physicians, but I think it’s an issue for our nurses as well. The main point with workflow is: do you adopt your workflow to the product or do you adopt the product to your workflow? I think there’s some happy medium there and what you don’t want to do is a lot of hard-coded customization,  because every time you get a new upgrade from the vendor you’ll have to do all the retro fitting; Organizations are trying to do less of that so that they can work within the base product. Vendors are exploring how they can be more user-configurable to adapt to the uniqueness of an organization and their specific workflows. This is where your CMIO, CNIO, informatics folks, and clinical analysts are critical in partnering with end users to make sure that the solutions that we deploy make it better for them and not worse. You commonly hear that clinicians understand and accept EHRs are here to stay but still acknowledge how cumbersome certain features are. I’ve been involved in different optimization efforts at organizations post-implementation, and I will say we haven’t focused so much on ROI as we have workflow and user satisfaction. You often get into a situation with a big implementation that at a certain point you must get it done and start creating that list of things that are going to be in the next phase of optimization. Once the go-live is complete and you’ve stabilized, you start looking at your growing optimization list. It’s important that you have clear governance and, again, that you have a partnership with your clinicians and IT so that your clinicians, with support from leadership, are driving the high priority changes that are needed in that optimization effort.

Campbell: Right and you hit the nail on the head there. I’m co-authoring a white paper with Jim Boyle, VP of IS at St. Joseph Heritage Healthcare, as they are going through an optimization initiative, and as you mentioned, there must be a partnership between IT/Administration and clinicians. At St. Joe’s Jim mentions they have established dyad relationships between administration and clinician leaders, and as such, there is perspective and vested interest from both sides. I appreciate you sharing that viewpoint.

Schade: One point I also want to highlight about optimization is training. I think the training piece is critical, as you have to connect those two to the extent that for what you do roll out, your users have to be very well trained, they need to know how to use all the functionalities, and they need to know how to use it efficiently. Sometimes when an optimization or a change is requested, when you really look at it, it could be a training issue, in that the users don’t know how to do something or lack awareness into something that is possible within the system. You should have those two tied very tightly together. I’ll use the example without mentioning specifics, but we have a go-live this week at Stony Brook Medicine introducing a couple new major enhancements and modules. Keeping tabs on how it’s going, one of the issues that’s coming up is training: did everyone go through the training that was made available or not? When you have training available, but not mandatory, you start running into issues of, people aren’t sure how to do something, what’s possible, and they might ask for it to be different, but again then it goes back to let’s make sure we have comprehensive and complete training.

Campbell: That’s a truly salient point. Recently, three prominent Boston-area physicians just contributed an opinion piece to WBUR, “Death By A Thousand Clicks”.  They postured that when doctors and nurses turn their backs to patients in order to pay attention to computer screen, it pulls their focus from the “time and undivided attention” required to provide the right care.  Multiple prompts and clicks in an EHR impact patients – and contribute to physician burnout. That said, if providers lack proper training, they may not know of the systems capabilities or have awareness of a more efficient way of accomplishing a task.

Schade: Exactly, do you use Outlook, for example, or what’s the main software you use?

Campbell: Yes, Outlook.

Schade: So people like you and me, who do not use an EHR as the system of record, we’re in Outlook all day for calendar, tasks, and email. Someone may watch over your shoulder as you do something one day and go ‘Oh! Didn’t you know you can do xyz?’ and you go, ‘Oh! No I didn’t!’ and they go ‘Here click on that.’ Suddenly you learn a quicker shortcut or method to accomplish something but in the meantime you’ve been doing it the way you’ve always done it with significantly more clicks and steps. Again, it comes back to training and people understanding what’s possible and how to do things. That’s not to say there aren’t opportunities to make the software work better for our clinicians.

Campbell: I wanted to touch base on one more broad question around application rationalization and consolidation. I’m sure it’s been different from organization to organization, but as CIO, what applications are under your purview outside of the EHR? Have you taken part in a consolidation effort in the past where you may have duplicative functionality brought on by a best of breed approach to system adoption? And did you leverage an application to do that or certain practice? If you can elaborate on your experience with that I think it would be helpful for other organizations who are looking at eliminating the technical debt legacy systems create.

Schade: We had started down that path at Michigan, before I left, so I can’t say that I took it all the way to completion. It was one of the opportunities identified as part of an overall value and margin improvement effort in attempting to reduce costs within the organization. I’ll tell you, just inventorying your application portfolio can be painful. You have a lot more disparate and duplicate applications than you ever realized, but step one is to get your hands around that current state. Let me just say this, application rationalization is something that often goes hand-in-hand with implementation of a new core EHR because you may be implementing a common system where there have been disparate systems at multiple facilities and that common system can replace a lot niche applications. The current state inventory of applications is a critical initial step. I’ll be the first to say that many organizations don’t have something they can pull up and say ‘here’s our inventory.’ They should, but they don’t.

About Sue Schade

Sue Schade, MBA, LCHIME, FCHIME, FHIMSS, is a nationally recognized health IT leader and Principal at StarBridge Advisors providing consulting, coaching and interim management services.

Sue is currently serving as the interim Chief Information Officer (CIO) at Stony Brook Medicine in New York. She was a founding advisor at Next Wave Health Advisors and in 2016 served as the interim CIO at University Hospitals in Cleveland, Ohio.

Sue previously served as the CIO for the University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers and prior to that as CIO for Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Previous experience includes leadership roles at Advocate Health Care in Chicago, Ernst and Young, and a software/outsourcing vendor.

She is active in CHIME and HIMSS, two leading healthcare IT organizations. Sue was named the CHIME-HIMSS John E. Gall, Jr. CIO of the Year in 2014 and holds the following recognitions:

  • “Most Powerful Women in Healthcare IT” – Health Data Management, 2016 & 2017.
  • “50 Top Healthcare IT Experts” – Health Data Management, December 2015.
  • “11 Hospital IT Executives You Should Follow on Twitter” – Health Data Management, August 2015.
  • “50 Leaders in Health IT” – Becker’s Health IT & CIO Review, July 2015.
  • “Top 10 Most Influential Healthcare CIOs on Twitter” – Perficient, April 2015.
  • “100 Hospital and Health System CIOs to Know” Becker’s Hospital Review, 2013, 2014, 2015.
  • “10 CIOs You Should Follow on Twitter Today” – FierceCIO, April 2014.
  • “Top 10 Women ‘Powerhouses’ in Health IT“ – Healthcare IT News, April 2013.
  • “8 Influential Women in Health IT“ – Fierce HealthIT, October 2012.

Sue can be found on Twitter at @sgschade and writes a weekly blog called “Health IT Connect” –  http://sueschade.com/

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 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 Interview Series: Paul Brannan, Alabama Health Information Technology Coordinator, Alabama Medicaid Agency

Paul Brannan, Alabama HIT Coordinator

Paul Brannan, Alabama HIT Coordinator, Alabama Medicaid Agency

A champion in the Medicaid arena and now in health information exchange, Paul Brannan, Health Information Technology Coordinator and Director of Alabama’s HIE, One Health Record®, knows how to make quite the connection. His advice to those in the HIE startup/entrepreneurship space is the same he follows himself: create solutions that are easily usable in the provider’s workflow. One Health Record® is intentionally free to its providers and has gained flexibility with how they send records outbound, based on what the system is ready to consume. They are also willing to customize their interface with the provider’s EMR system. No EMR? No problem. One Health Record® provides a portal through a secure website where you can see the longitudinal record of care. Brannan’s future initiatives reflect this provider-centric way of thinking: from working to integrate with Public Health so One Health Record® can become a connection hub for their providers, to reestablishing their connection with Georgia’s HIE, One Health Record® has a robust value proposition and it shows.

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’re in the process of expanding into providing a patient portal for patient’s to be able to see consolidated views of their records from the providers who participate in our exchange.

In the state of Alabama, we find a lot of our provider community is rural in nature and may not have a high-profit margin, so we want to be as low cost to them as we possibly can.

The move to value-based purchasing in the healthcare arena is going to make the information that we have, and its ability to improve treatment, of greater value to our large-scale payers.

If providers don’t have an EMR or they’re not happy with how the information being sent is viewed from the EMR, we also provide a portal where providers can access a patient’s longitudinal record of care.

What we find with a lot of our smaller providers is that, without an extensive IT staff, the cost and difficulty of maintaining all the different connections they encounter is becoming prohibitive.

Most providers are still thinking in a fee for service mindset, where they’re looking at the volume of healthcare. If a HIE adds time and effort to the treatment of the patient, there’s going to be resistance even if the HIE adds value.

Campbell: Can you give me a little bit of background on yourself, your organization, and your current role within the organization.

Brannan: My historical background has been with the Medicaid Agency. I’ve been with the Alabama Medicaid Agency for 20 years. I first came on board in the tech support area. In the late 90s, when we were looking to implement a claim processing system, I was drafted to be a part of the team who developed the RFP and did the implementation.  As a result, I was promoted to Deputy MMIS Coordinator. After a couple of years, my boss moved on to another opportunity, I had the chance to take over our Medicaid Claims Processing System as MMIS Coordinator.  Our Commissioner later gave me the opportunity to direct our Project Management Office because of the project management rigor we were using in the MMIS area.  Two years ago I was asked to lead the State’s health information exchange and was named by our governor as the State HIT Coordinator.

Now our HIE’s background: Medicaid has been interested in the electronic health record market for many years. We started under transformation grants, establishing a free EMR for Medicaid providers, focused on monitoring certain chronic conditions. That morphed, when the Affordable Care Act was passed, taking advantage of the funding by helping providers purchase their own EMR system through Meaningful Use as well as establishing a statewide health information exchange. In Alabama,  One Health Record® is the only HIE in the state.  We offer services for all Alabama providers, not just Medicaid.

We’re in the process of expanding into providing a patient portal for patients to be able to see consolidated views of their records from the providers who participate in our exchange, as well as implementing ADT alerting.

Campbell: I appreciate the thorough background. I noted on your website that as of January 31st you’re at just over 2 million patients, 87 connected facilities, 13 connected hospitals, and over a million registered documents. That’s pretty impressive. Tell me a little about the sustainability and, quite frankly, the solvency model for the HIE. I know with public HIEs, some of them are funded through grants, others have a business model centered around the value proposition they’re offering. If you could elaborate on that, that would be helpful.

Brannan: We have intentionally been free to our providers, at least as far as what we charge, to drive adoption. In the state of Alabama, we find a lot of our provider community is rural in nature and doesn’t have a high-profit margin, so we want to be as low cost to them as we possibly can. This means we’ve been funded to date by a combination of: federal funding, state funding through the Medicaid agency, as well as grants from the Department of Public Health, and Blue Cross Blue Shield—which is Alabama’s major insurance provider. Long term, for sustainability, we’re looking at several different funding models.  We feel that sustainability will come from a combination of value to our large-scale providers and our major hospitals in the state providing a large part of the funding. Lesser amounts will likely come from our individual providers, our primary care doctors, and others, with some funding coming from our insurance community as well.  The move to value-based purchasing in the healthcare arena is going to make the information that we have available, and its ability to improve treatment, of greater value to our large-scale payers.  In Alabama, large scale payers make up a good portion of the population under Medicaid.  Therefore, we anticipate Medicaid funding being a part of the long-term solution, and we hope that our major insurers will see value in what we’re doing as well.

Campbell: In terms of the transactions that are taking place, you mentioned ADT’s for the patient portals, but what about for providers? What data do they have access to in the portals? What inbound transactions do you consume today?

Brannan: We can consume any of the ITI-based standards for incoming transactions, and as such we support patient registrations and queries for information.  We are fairly flexible in how we send things outbound based on what the target system is ready to consume. If they want a CCDA, we can do that. If they want a customized interface with their EMR system, as some of our large-scale providers do, we’re willing to work with their EMR vendor to implement that by breaking the CCDs into discrete data elements per standards. If all they’re ready for right now is purely a direct account, we are a HISP (Health Information Service Provider), so we can provide direct mailboxes for them as well. If they don’t have an EMR or they’re not happy with how the information we send is viewed from their EMR, we also provide a portal that they can go in to see the longitudinal record of care. That can be viewed through a secure website, and if their EMR system supports it, we can make that viewable as a window within their EMR system.

Campbell: Switching gears a bit, a lot of the HIEs are swimming in a deluge of data. Can you elaborate a bit on the governance process you use today to dictate data access? Is it federated at all?

Brannan: We are a hybrid. We have some providers who are very interested in having us store their data. For them, we have a data repository where we can store their records. However, we have several providers who feel strong ownership of their information and are not interested in it being stored in multiple locations. For those, we offer a more federated approach where we simply store the demographics along with the pointer information. That information then gets pulled on-demand, but it’s not stored, so it does not persist with us, it goes straight to the provider. We require everyone who is connected to our exchange to agree that they will only provide records for people that they’re actively treating and they will only pull those records for treatment purposes.

Campbell: Is there a particularly compelling use case that you can share, in terms of the HIE being used in the provider community, or more broadly, for public health purposes?

Brannan: The use cases that we support directly with a query-based exchange have a lot to do with emergency situations: someone’s away from their primary source of care, they’re on vacation or somewhere where their records are not easily accessible. We make it so that those records can be made accessible in an emergency.

We had an even more interesting use case recently where a provider referred to a specialist, and the specialist called to get the records. The people who had those records said ‘you need to get on One Health Record® so we can send them electronically, we’re trying to get out of the paper record business.’ Without us even having to contact that specialist, they were calling us saying ‘I’ve had a couple of people wanting us to get on One Health Record® so that we can quit this paper exchange.’ They were interested in what they needed to do to be a part of our exchange so they could remove the inefficiencies involved in sending paper records back and forth.

Campbell: That’s great. When people are coming to you, instead of you having to sell the value, that they’re being incentivized to do so, that’s when you know it’s working. I noted an article published in the Birmingham Medical News in December 2015, featuring Alabama One Health Record®, mentioned you were pursuing initiatives around immunizations and specifically alerting. Can you tell me about any progress or challenges you faced with that initiative?

Brannan: The only real drawback we’ve had in moving forward with those initiatives is getting approval from public health authorities to set it up. They want to make sure the information that is going to be shared is secure. We’re working with their leadership to hopefully make that happen soon because it is something we’ve had provider interest in. Once that occurs, what we envision happening, as part of our value-added service, is being a connection hub for all our providers. Right now, providers must maintain multiple connections. We want to simplify that for them by taking on the connection to Public Health so they can do immunizations reporting, cancer registry reporting, or any public health-related reporting, without having it as a separate connection. We’re even exploring, as a long-term possibility, establishing connections to insurers as well, to allow them to do eligibility inquiries and claim submissions.  What we find with a lot of our smaller providers is that, without an extensive IT staff, the cost and difficulty of maintaining all the different connections are becoming prohibitive. We’re trying to simplify that as part of our value-added proposition to our healthcare community.

Campbell: You hit the nail on the head there, as smaller groups just don’t have the resources. If you have an entity like the HIE it makes a lot of sense: the infrastructures is already there, let it do the heavy lifting and connect rather than having to make a major outlay and investment in IT.

Let’s talk about other initiatives that have your focus in this near term. There is seemingly a purchasing pause in the industry, at least in the provider community, where they’re trying to rationalize their existing infrastructure and investments. It’s not the days of money being thrown into the implementation of new technology via government incentives, but rather there’s a lot of rationalization occurring. That said, tell me what it’s like to operate as a HIE in this climate, and what initiatives that you might be facing in the next couple of months.

Brannan: We’re asking a provider to make an investment of time and for many a capital outlay. We are free but their EMR vendor will likely charge them for establishing the connection as well as charge an annual maintenance fee.  Before they make that kind of investment they want to know what’s in it for them. The obvious selling point for a HIE is having complete access to the record of the individual at the point of care. Part of what we’re marketing now, as more and more payers in the Alabama region are moving to some type of value-based reimbursement, is the importance of them being able to see what’s happening in the provider community and with other people who are treating the patients as well. Our value-add proposition is to provide any data they might need to help manage their population, as well as looking for opportunities to partner with them to improve healthcare practices in those hospitals.

Campbell: Absolutely, if you have access to the data, the power of analytics and machine learning applied to that data is very profound. Switching topics for a moment, has there been anything made aside from just the initial connection to GaHIN (Georgia Health Information Network) or is there active communication today? Was it merely a proof of concept or is it something used in practice to serve the two geographies?

Brannan: It has been used in practice and we’re looking to reestablish it. Unfortunately, one of the drawbacks of being a state entity is that as long as we’re under the state umbrella, we follow state procurement laws, which means we can’t purchase a system that other vendors use on a permanent basis. Instead, we have to periodically go out for bid.  Our HIE backend software had to go out for bid last year, and a new vendor won the bid, which meant we had to replace our HIE software. This required us to reestablish our Sequoia certification which was part of the underlying agreement we had with Georgia.  Because we are reestablishing that certification, we have had to temporarily cut off the connection with GaHIN. We are right on the brink of regaining that Sequoia certification – we expect that happening in the next few weeks – and Georgia has expressed interest in reestablishing the connection as soon as that happens.

It is a very important connection. We have people in the eastern part of the state, who see providers in Georgia. There are also populations who simply cross over to other states and have the need for medical care while they’re there and providers there need to see their records. So, that’s something we’re interested in reestablishing as soon as possible, but it’s not currently active today.

Campbell: I can appreciate that. It is a major forklift going from one major HIE platform to another

Brannan: We have providers actively using the new platform as it stands. We tried to make that cutover without causing any disruption to their current connections, making it as seamless as we can.

Campbell: And all the while you must be mindful to look at what’s in the queue in terms of integration that has yet to be developed. As such, I imagine there was some bifurcating of feeds that were occurring while you were working through that transition.

Brannan: Exactly. We had that going on for a good period of time making the transition as seamless as possible. Ultimately all our connected provider had to move to our new endpoint. It took them a little while to make that transition, depending on what their IT infrastructure looked like. We’ve been able to do it fairly painlessly. Most providers made the move with us, which is something that we’re very pleased with.

Campbell: Very good. Lastly, in closing, given your vast background on the Medicaid and HIE side, what have you learned over the years that you would like to impress on our audience of health IT entrepreneurs and startups. Has there been anyone, mentor or colleague, that’s impacted you? If there’s something you’ve learned in your career, or just based on your experience, and can share that story, that would be great.

Brannan: The key to working in the entrepreneur/startup space is making something that is usable in the provider’s workflow. That’s ultimately where the rubber is going to meet the road. As long as a HIE system is seen as an additional tax on the provider’s time, then it’s going to be difficult to get buy-in, no matter how much value it gives. Most providers are still thinking in a fee for service mindset, where they’re looking at maximizing the volume of patients treated. If what is being provided for them adds time and effort to the treatment of the patient, there’s going to be a resistance. Integrate what you’re doing into the workflow of the provider so that it works somewhat seamlessly or causes minimal disruption to what is already a busy workflow.  Most of the resistance we’ve seen comes from providers who say ‘well I see value in that, I just can’t afford to take an extra five minutes per patient. Because of the way my EMR looks at the records you provide, it requires me going to a whole other screen and making so many additional clicks.’  That’s part of the reason we’re willing to integrate into EMR systems for providers who have the wherewithal to support the cost and effort it takes for the EMR to integrate our records into their system.

About Paul Brannan
Paul serves as Alabama Health Information Technology Coordinator, where he is responsible for managing the $5 million HIT program for the state. He also serves as Director of One Health Record®, Alabama’s State Health Information Exchange.

Paul works with local, state, federal, and private partners to build collaboration with Alabama’s health providers, payers, and patients to improve health information exchange and promote better health outcomes. His vision is to see all Alabama stakeholders connected and securely exchanging data as appropriate to make Alabama a healthier state.

Paul is a graduate of Auburn University, holding a BS in Secondary Education.

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.