EMR Replacement

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

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Susan Carman, CIO, United Health Services

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

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

Key Insights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Key Insights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Campbell: Certainly enlightening and inspiring.

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

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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

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