Population Health Management

HealthIT CIO Interview Series – Bob Sarnecki, CIO, Children’s of Alabama

Bob Sarnecki, CIO

Bob Sarnecki, CIO, Children’s of Alabama

When it comes to healthcare, kids are different. They need healthcare focused on their unique needs, care that involves parents from start to finish and is delivered in child-centric, healing environments. Children require extra time, monitoring, specialized medications, specially trained health care providers who are compassionate and understand kids of all ages. They also need institutions that champion health care practices and policies to continually improve pediatric care, making it affordable and accountable. It’s this premise that has driven Bob Sarnecki, CIO, Children’s of Alabama, to make a career out of delivering information technology solutions that support care delivery for children. Children’s hospitals aren’t just buildings – they are key pillars of the community, providing services available to all children through urgent and emergency care, primary care and wellness, injury prevention and child abuse prevention, community fairs and in-school health services. In this interview, Bob shares his leadership philosophy of taking care of the kids and doing it the right way, use of Medical Logic Modules to deliver enhanced clinical decision support, providing improved efficiency and quality, and future plans to engage community practice affiliates.

Key Insights

One of the things that’s always intrigued me about children’s hospitals is that they do not see themselves as “treating young adults”; there is a whole different level of care required and parent involvement is critical.  The volume of data that can be generated from birth to age 18 is vast, and provides great insight, both for care and for research.  Specialized pediatric care in rural areas is always in high demand.

Our goal is to build MLM-based clinical decision-making capability through our development team, engineered for reusability and clinically significant.  We have a strong group of programmers that meet regularly with our chief medical officer; the goal is specifically to build out our systems and technology capabilities so that we are our stepping up to the need to provide meaningful interaction with the physicians.

We have a simple mission statement in IT.  We are here for the kids, and the people who take care of them.  We do the right things, the right way.

Identifying first with the kids and the clinicians helps me to remember that my first job is to listen, not to have a position, but to listen. We can bring the technology to bear, but if we bring great tech and it’s not really helping the Children’s mission, I’m not sure that it’s really doing the right thing the right way.

Campbell: Please tell me a little bit about yourself. What is your background and what drew you to the position at Children’s of Alabama?

Sarnecki: I have over 30 years of healthcare IT experience in healthcare, including consulting and hospitals, specifically. I’ve been in Children’s of Alabama for about a year now. I came in as a consultant and was asked to stay permanently in July of 2017. There are a lot of things that attracted me to the opportunity, but one thing I desired was a role with a focus on community and children’s hospitals are my “first love”.

The technology is in great shape at the Hospital. Alabama is a state with a lot of challenges; there are a lot of needs, and the state is doing its best to try to meet them creatively. It’s one of those places that’s just attractive because there’s a commitment and there are plenty of challenges. I’m happy to be a part of it.

Campbell: Thank you for the background. Speaking of the responsibilities of a CIO at a Children’s Hospital, can you talk us through what’s different? I know you’ve been on the consulting side, but what’s different about a Children’s Hospital specifically?

Sarnecki: What is always fun and intriguing about a children’s hospital is that for most kids, and any kids with any chronic care issues, we are stewards of their first 18 years of medical history. These are formative years where you can make a huge difference on the impact of the quality of their life long-term.  We’re at the front line of what you can do with genetics information.

I enjoy working in children’s hospitals because kids are not “mini adults”; the physicians who care for kids have very unique data needs. The care is so specialized, and in high demand in rural areas especially. Opportunities for telemedicine, population health management and patient-centered medical care—All those things are at the forefront of what children’s hospitals wind up getting involved in. It’s a way to stay busy and for the technology to really leverage what the business is trying to do.

Campbell: Can you discuss community affiliate practices, the organization’s relationship with them, and how you interoperate with them. The hospital deals with high acuity, but what about the pediatric clinics and practices that surround the area?

Sarnecki: It’s a very different model here than when I worked at other hospitals, where many primary and specialty practices were acquired and owned by the hospital.   At Children’s of Alabama there are some owned primary care practices, but overall, the Hospital favors working with independent practices. We have our own primary care physicians, a small group of about thirteen practices. We also have an affiliation with University of Alabama Birmingham in their practice groups for providing acute pediatric care.

The practices use both a variety of EMRs and fax machines to connect to other providers or hospitals. In their world there’s a lot of moving back and forth between fax machines and EMRs.  One of the focuses that we’ve been working on with the independent physicians is tying them in by communicating directly back to their electronic medical record. Typically, if you’re an Epic health system or a Cerner health system, you have a strong vertical organization where all data is transmitted within a single-database EMR application used enterprise-wide. The challenge with independent practices is that they have disparate EHR systems; we’re actively working with these practices to deliver information about their patients directly into their EMR so they’re only managing the patient in one place.

It has been challenging, but very well received out in the community. They like to know that that their affiliated hospital is aggressively pursuing making that available to them. That’s been a big chunk of our work with the community practices right now. We’re also trying to begin to open the data stores a little bit so that they can understand a little bit more about the populations that they’re responsible for providing care for. Population health management with big data is really a problem that exists for bigger organizations, but it’s the practices that are at the very base level that are providing the care and need to know it as well.

Campbell: It must be challenging trying to interoperate, harmonize and normalize data between different systems and care settings. It seems like you’ve given the practices relative independence and autonomy to choose their own EMRs, but has there been discussion or evaluation of moving the practices to an EMR the hospital would host for them?

Sarnecki: We have talked to a couple of places about it, and the reception level is mixed. In some cases, they’re concerned that they’re going to give up data. Right now, the bigger focus is on collaboration and integration in the hope that we get to the point where we can pull the data together and make it more useful and meaningful.

We focus on providing bi-directional communication, and eliminating manual faxes and scanning into their record.  But we recognize “it’s a trust thing”. I think we’re at that point where people are becoming more interested in a community-based shared hosted model when they trust that you can provide the technology needs that they need to run their practice through the EMR of their choice, and that you’re going to be able to cover the bases for them from a support standpoint. There are a couple practices where we host their EMR in their data center.

Campbell: It must be tough in that in most cases, you are beholden to the source system vendor to get access to the data and stand up integration to the practices. That said, as someone shared about you via LinkedIn, “Bob is the type who measures twice and cuts once.” It seems like you are exhibiting patience and thoughtfully crafting a plan to do what is right for everyone involved. If we can shift gears a bit, I’d like to touch on your use of Medical Logic Modules, or MLMs in Sunrise Clinical Manager (SCM). How do you make use of those within the hospital?

Sarnecki: It’s something that we are working to take clinical decision making to the next level at Children’s. You get some basic MLMs out of the box with SCM. What we are working on is the best of two worlds – Developing Medical Library Modules (MLMs) for our system that are clinically useful and engineered for reusability and further development.  We’ve teamed our developers with a group of clinicians to build a reusable and powerful library that we can extensively build on.

Campbell: That’s fantastic and the fact that you’ve been able to broker the relationship like that between IT and clinicians is just outstanding. It’s great to hear your harnessing and leveraging advanced capabilities within the EMR. Could you tell me a bit about the state of population health management initiatives underway at the hospital? I understand the hospital purchased DbMotion. Are you using it today for that purpose?

Sarnecki: DbMotion was purchased about a year and a half prior to my arrival. I’ve kind of left it on the shelf for the time being until we got some of the basics covered. Starting in Q2 of this year, the goal is to charter a more formalized big data strategy.  Once we have that further defined, we will consider DbMotion further.

In addition, Children’s of Alabama has a great relationship with the University of Alabama, and we need to leverage that interaction. I’d like to see if there’s an opportunity to collaborate with UAB and other regional health care providers and bring our data together for the value of the state and the region. The competitive component in this market is not the same as it was in Phoenix. Phoenix Children’s is the real objective is to help a population.

Campbell: That speaks directly to something I really wanted to talk to you about. You clearly can have an appreciation for and articulate the business case, but also understand and appreciate the clinical case. Understanding that overlap, can you tell me a little bit about your approach to leadership as a healthcare CIO? The role has certainly evolved where you must broker with administration, a board, clinicians, and IT. How have you evolved in your career as the responsibilities of the role have increased?

Sarnecki: I go into all my conversations with four tenets we discussed previously. They’ve are principles that we developed in the Phoenix Children’s IT Department, and I’ve kept with me.  When I approach any conversations with the Board, physicians, administrators, staff, etc., I look for opportunities to reinforce the things that drive us to stronger collaboration. Typically, in a children’s hospital we can agree on these first two things – We are all “here for the kids, and the people who take care of them”. Technology is just the medium the IT Department works in.  I’m not here to press a technology agenda. I’m not here to press an agenda on big data. I’m not here to press this into the latest offerings by Vendor X, Y, or Z.  Our goal is to help the kids and to help the people who take care of them.

Campbell: That is so profound. A lot is at stake. You’ve got a tremendous amount of responsibility. With nearly 700,000 outpatient visits and 14,000 inpatient visits, and as you said it’s not like Phoenix where you have multiple competitors in the market. It’s the third largest pediatric medical facility in the U.S. That’s a lot of responsibility to the entire state. Bob, thank you for the good work that you’re doing, and thank you for sharing with us some of these insights and perspectives.

About Bob Sarnecki

Bob Sarnecki serves as the Chief Information Officer at The Children’s Hospital of Alabama. Bob has held technology roles in healthcare for several years, having most recently been general manager of professional services for ClearDATA Healthcare Cloud Computing in Tempe, Ariz. There, he was responsible for healthcare-specific security risk assessments, security remediation, professional consulting healthcare/cloud services and web development. Previously, Sarnecki was chief information officer of Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Kingman Regional Medical Center and Ernst & Young management consulting. He has also held several interim CIO roles in the healthcare provider field, aligning IT with clinical, business and technology needs. Bob’s background includes several IT leadership roles, project management, applications development, management consulting, data analytics and database design.

Sarnecki earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Mount Saint Mary’s College and a master’s degree in healthcare information technology from The Johns Hopkins University Carey Business School.

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


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.

Is Salesforce Ripe for Partnership with Health Cloud as a Patient Relationship Operating System?

Its human nature to draw analogies from past disruptors and apply to parallels in other industries. After all, we take experiences and lessons from the past to derive inspiration for future innovation. It’s in this regard that pundits have pointed to ATMs as a model to solve for healthcare’s interoperability woes, or present MINT.com and Kayak as a model for the healthcare’s move to retail and consumerization. It’s also in this regard that Salesforce is used as an example for patient engagement for healthcare. However, unlike the other industry-specific disruptors, Salesforce’s model fits healthcare as well. But just because it fits on-paper, that doesn’t mean that Salesforce is ripe to disrupt healthcare. There is certainly a lot of inertia to overcome in healthcare information technology, as Chilmark Research was quick to point out after Salesforce Health Cloud was announced

After several years of circling the healthcare market, Salesforce finally announced its intent to formally enter the market this week with the announcement of Salesforce Health Cloud. Unlike other enterprise vendors who have jumped into this market, with Blue Ribbon advisory panels (Google Health), or series of acquisitions (IBM Watson Health, Intuit) or a mixture of both (Microsoft), this announcement by Salesforce had little in the way of any of these attributes to bolster its announcement.

Salesforce is taking a much more tentative and low risk approach to entering the healthcare market and will look to its expansive ecosystem of partners who will leverage Salesforce’s existing tools to create healthcare specific solutions and services.

-Salesforce Enters the Fray: Will They Succeed Where Others Have Failed? CHILMARK BIGHT, September 2015, Brian Murphy and John Moore

Salesforce touts Health Cloud as a vehicle to acquire and manage patient data from multiple sources, from electronic health records, to patient generated data through wearable fitness trackers. Salesforce has also positioned the application as a communications platform for patient engagement and care coordination, as well as a dashboard for outcomes management and population health. Sound like every other vendor touting themselves as a PHM solution? Chilmark takes a deeper look into strengths and weaknesses:

Salesforce won’t compete with established transactional systems, but rather be a front end, as it’s not interested in being an electronic medical record provider like EPIC. As Salesforce CMO Dr. Joshua Newman told MedCity News, he sees competition from three places: electronic medical records vendors, startups and analytics firms.

EMR vendors may be entrenched, Newman said, but “they’re never going to be Internet-focused and multi-tenant.” A multi-tenant approach typical of a cloud service like Salesforce helps manage patients seen by physicians with privileges at multiple hospitals, according to Newman.

HISTalk also offered an optimistic assessment of Salesforce, declaring Health Cloud “the most interesting product I saw at HIMSS.” Mr. H from HIStalk noted the following advantages Salesforce Health Cloud offers:

  • Existing EHRs and other healthcare software products are way behind the times in meeting new requirements for health systems to treat patients and doctors as customers and to build relationships with them, including patient engagement.
  • It lets health systems that are willing to change their relationships with patients and doctors to do so effectively, with strong analytics and communications.
  • It’s cloud-based and is purchased on a relatively inexpensive per-user, per-month price with no capital outlay.
  • It’s built on the standard Salesforce CRM that has been battle-tested for years, with just those customizations needed to make it work for healthcare.
  • It integrates with the EHR and other patient and provider data sources.
  • The Salesforce open ecosystem allows using third-party apps when needed.
  • It Includes tools that allow users to build their own rules and apps.
  • Salesforce is a juggernaut that can force EHR vendors to open up their systems to obtain the data it needs.
  • Salesforce isn’t Oracle or Microsoft – they didn’t create a healthcare-specific product from scratch or acquire a questionable one, so they have no incentive to rebalance their product portfolio and walk away from healthcare and leave users hanging as big healthcare toe-dippers tend to do.

Given the optimistic outlook, what does this mean for healthcare startups and entrepreneurs Salesforce represents a good horse to attach your cart to. We’ve witnessed a plethora of companies go at patient engagement with their own custom solution. This approach lacks scale, established technology, and is crowded with competition. Not to mention, the path to monetization and profit is muddy at best. Further, Salesforce has built a rich ecosystem of extensibility via its app marketplace. Some could argue that this is exactly what healthcare needs.

The content presented in the Health Cloud Integration eBook suggests that Salesforce is still in the somewhat nascent stages, with limited adoption outside of pilots. Despite this, HCOs who have implemented the platform, such as Cancer Treatment Centers of American (CTCA) have demonstrated tangible benefits. CTCA now uses Salesforce to improve service in three different areas: physician referral intake; a 24/7 contact center; and, patient communities. The result is a 60% productivity boost for their technical team. One of the benefits to patients is their community platform, built on Salesforce Community Cloud, that empowers patients and families to support one another, join groups, participate in local events, find educational resources, and chat in real time. In turn, CTCA benefits from an enhanced referral process that improves customer loyalty and provides another way to communicate with patients.

There are clear gaps to fill. As the saying goes, “if the doctor doesn’t use it, it doesn’t matter.” Insights must reach the point of care and not be disruptive to existing workflows, but rather enhance it. It’s in this vein that partners are needed build the detailed workflows to support patient and care team communications. Salesforce represents a great candidate to partner instead of going at the crowded patient relationship management and patient engagement space alone.

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

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

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

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

Key Insights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Key Insights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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

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

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

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