Most people might shy away from an opportunity to lead an organization that was undergoing a major change in operations and had an IT structure that needed to be modernized. In fact, most wouldn’t view it an “opportunity,” but a risk that’s too great. Jennifer D’Angelo, however, had a different take. She viewed New Bridge Medical Center (which had just selected Care Plus Bergen, Inc. as its operator) as a “diamond in the rough,” and welcomed the task of stabilizing and enhancing the infrastructure to enable providers to more effectively care for patients.
In this interview, D’Angelo talks about why she “jumped” at the chance to help develop a new vision for New Bridge, the importance of involving stakeholders at every level to provide behavioral care throughout the continuum, and how they’re reaching out to the community to increase awareness of the services offered. She also discusses the shift the CIO has gone through, and why she believes being a hands-on leader is the way to go.
- New Bridge’s appeal – “It was a diamond in the rough.”
- From for-profit to not-for-profit
- Partnership with the VA – “It’s very exciting.”
- “A nice mix” of new & existing leaders
- Educational outreach on substance abuse & behavioral health
- “It’s looking at the entire patient.”
- “Big shift” in CIO role – “It’s not just technology & infrastructure.”
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That’s what made it all the more exciting — to see a facility that’s modernizing and taking it to that next level from a technology standpoint, in terms of infrastructure, application, and security. To me, it was like a diamond in the rough.
We’re learning as we go through the process. Every day we’re tweaking, but a fresh set of eyes is always a good thing in operations.
It’s not targeting a diagnosis — it’s not targeting one piece of the patient. It’s looking at the entire patient, and what we can do to help that patient be successful here, but also to set them up for success on discharge.
It’s not just based on technology. It’s based on how do we leverage technology for outcomes, and how do we leverage technology to support our strategic planning and our goals? Almost anything is doable now with technology, but how does it really fit into your day to day operations?
Gamble: It’s obvious that you have a passion for what you do, and that this organization seems like a really good landing place. Can you talk about what it was that made you interested in coming to New Bridge?
D’Angelo: This was a very unique opportunity. I had previously worked at a similar facility, but on a smaller scale. There were different service lines within one organization, which from a technical standpoint, can be somewhat challenging, because there are systems that are specific to particular programs. For example, long term care has its own system. And so my expertise and experience over the years really helped me get to this place. And an opportunity very interestingly presented itself as part of the process with the new management company coming on board.
Honestly, I was content in my previous facility having done a lot of these initiatives and rolled them out, but when this opportunity presented itself, I was very excited. I jumped on it, because I felt it would be the best career move for me, and it was also an opportunity to prove that we can we can flourish as a facility with the right technology, vision, and strategic plan.
I’ve also had support from my executive team — my CEO is a very big supporter of IT initiatives. And I’m thankful to the County for recognizing that and for giving us the support we need from a funding standpoint to be able to modernize from an IT perspective and really make this happen here. I’m thrilled working to be at a facility that provides such essential services. You can see that mission and vision in the people who work here day in and day out. It’s truly a wonderful place to be, and I’m very proud to be part of this organization.
Gamble: You mentioned earlier that it’s owned by the county, which is a unique situation. Does that come into play mostly when you’re talking about funding issues?
D’Angelo: It comes into play in several different ways. The building and facilities are county-owned, and we are the management company that runs the facility. So it’s definitely a different structure, but there’s full transparency there and we have such great support from the County and from our County Executive and County personnel.
It’s a little bit different in the fact that this facility was previously for-profit, and now we’re a not-for-profit facility, which is a very significant change from a hospital standpoint. I come from the not-for-profit space. So when we converted over with the name change and the new management company in October, the facility was then deemed not-for-profit, which is fantastic. So there’s a lot of great opportunity here.
Gamble: This is a bit of a tricky question, but did you have a good understanding that you were coming into a situation where there was a whole lot of change going on, and it was your job to guide the organization along?
D’Angelo: Yes. I had a crystal clear understanding of the current environment, the current team that was onsite, and the initiatives that were happening. It was very clear; I knew exactly what I was signing up for. That’s what made it all the more exciting — to see a facility that’s modernizing and taking it to that next level from a technology standpoint, in terms of infrastructure, application, and security. To me, it was like a diamond in the rough. I can’t wait to see in the next couple of years the great things that are happening here with our outreach efforts and our relationship with the community, as well as the other connections we’re creating. To be able to do that and have the infrastructure to support it is exhilarating and exciting. It really was a once in a lifetime opportunity to be a part of something from the ground up and build it how we think it needs to be built so that we can take it to that level.
And we all started at the same time, which was terrific. It was my CEO who interviewed me and hired me. We have a great relationship. She’s a phenomenal leader who has wonderful vision for this hospital. Everyone is super excited about where this facility can go and the opportunity that we have. In a short amount of time, we’ve accomplished so much — not only on the technology front, but from an operational standpoint in terms of our strategic vision and plans.
We recently launched an initiative where we’re now a Veterans Choice Program
Participating provider and will be providing radiology and other services to them. Our veterans have a choice of where they can go for services, and we’re now a provider of choice, which is fantastic. We did a big launch, and Sen. Cory Booker was part of it.
And so, some great things are happening in a very short amount of time. It’s bringing them into the fold not only from a clinical perspective, but in coordinating their care from a technology perspective to see the infrastructure that we’re building be able to sustain and grow the facility, and to have the ability to be partnered with a great organization like the VA.
We held a job two fairs for veterans, which was a huge success, and actually offered 10 veterans jobs here, and so we’re able to have that as part of our outreach as well. There are so many moving parts, and so many things that are happening. It’s very exciting.
Gamble: Right. And as you alluded to, when you came in, you weren’t the only new person starting. I imagine that was different when several people come in, as opposed to there being one new leader who’s being asked to drive change.
D’Angelo: Correct, this was very much a team approach. We have probably six new executives on the team. It added a nice mix to existing executive members. We’re learning as we go through the process. Every day we’re tweaking, but a fresh set of eyes is always a good thing in operations, and in the vision and strategy, which is led by our CEO. Like I said, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to onboard with such a strong team and integrate into the operations that were currently here, and make changes and improvements across the board to bring the facility to a different level.
Gamble: Being part of the behavioral health community, I would think it’s gratifying to see that the industry is really starting to put more emphasis on treating the whole patient.
D’Angelo: It’s very gratifying to see that from behavioral standpoint, and actually we just did some outreach programs on substance abuse, behavioral health, NARCAN training and addiction treatment. The turnout we had was incredible. All sessions were filled to capacity, with approximately 100 attendees. And it’s not targeting a diagnosis — it’s not targeting one piece of the patient. It’s looking at the entire patient, and what we can do to help that patient be successful here, but also to set them up for success on discharge.
Gamble: Really interesting. It sounds like you’re doing a lot of work in the community, and that’s great. That speaks to where we need to go as an industry.
D’Angelo: Community awareness is so important, as is getting input from the community about the services we offer. People are still unclear of what this hospital really has to offer. And so we’re rebranding and really looking at innovative and creative ways for people to utilize the services that are offered here. We have some tremendous service lines that are really useful and helpful — not just to the people in this county, but people throughout the state of New Jersey.
Community outreach is critical, and so it’s an essential component from a nonprofit standpoint for us to be a part of the community; to understand what our community needs, and how are we meeting those needs, which is at the forefront of what we do.
Gamble: Right. Now, when you look at your role, what do you believe are the qualities that CIOs will need to have going forward?
D’Angelo: I think there’s been a very big shift in what a CIO was 20 years ago versus what it is today. CIOs are critical to day-to-day operations and strategic planning. It’s not just technology and infrastructure that needs to be created. Many people can do that. I think the transition from the old way of doing things, where you develop your network, you have your guidelines and your systems that sit on the network, and you push technology from that perspective — now it’s the complete opposite where you really need to be ingrained and be part of the strategic plan for the organization. You need to be at the table with those conversations from the beginning to craft what that looks like, and then developing an IT strategic plan for the hospital that supports those goals and initiatives.
I think the biggest shift is that from an operations standpoint, CIOs are part of processes across the facility, no matter where they are. One area is patient engagement — from admission to discharge, what does that process look like, and how do we educate? How are we handling our families and visitors that come into the facility? How do we engage our partners on discharge outside the facility? I feel that CIOs today really need to understand true operations of the organization and be included in the process as those strategic plans are developed to be able to support the organization’s strategic goals.
It’s not just based on technology. It’s based on how do we leverage technology for outcomes, and how do we leverage technology to support our strategic planning and our goals? Almost anything is doable now with technology, but how does it really fit into your day to day operations? I think that’s critical.
Gamble: Do you think that the shift the CIO role has taken is a good fit for your skill set?
D’Angelo: Absolutely. From a facility standpoint where you’re going to be building facilities and new programs and determining what are the needs, it’s being at the table to have those conversations. Having IT at the forefront of those conversations is critical to the overall success of all these processes and initiatives. There’s a very strong focus here on IT and support for my role. In reporting directly to the CEO and knowing what her vision is, we’re able to make that vision a reality through technology and support. And of course, it’s strategically planning creating the budgets to support those initiatives.
Gamble: So not too much, just that.
D’Angelo: Right. And I think that, for me, is a critical part of my role here. Not to minimize the IT infrastructure, but once you have that running and make sure there are people maintaining it, it’s taking a step outside the box to be engaged. It’s connecting with people in different communities. It’s being part of organizations like New Jersey Hospital Association so that we know what other facilities are doing. It’s being engaged in regulations and being a part of the operations. To me, that’s very exciting. Like I said, I’m a hands-on CIO. I like to walk the hospital’s units and departments. I like to see what the process looks like, and be part of an executive team that understands the need for, and importance of, having technology and CIO at the table. That engagement is 100 percent embraced here and is very highly regarded. It’s nice to work with a team that embraces my role as a critical player of the facility.
Gamble: It sounds like the organization has really done so much in a short time, and as you alluded to before, it looks to be an exciting few years.
D’Angelo: Absolutely. I can’t wait. What we’ve done in four months is really significant, from an operations standpoint and a technology standpoint. We have a wonderful team. No single person can do this alone. It’s a really collaborative team effort; all of us are moving forward to make change and to embrace it. As a team, we can do really great things here.
Gamble: It seems like a great culture, which can make a huge difference.
D’Angelo: It does.
Gamble: Okay. Well, I definitely want to catch up with you in a little while to see how everything is going.
D’Angelo: I would love that.
Gamble: Great. Thank you so much. It’s been really interesting to hear about the work that your organization is doing, and we’re glad to this great perspective of the behavioral health world.
D’Angelo: Perfect. Thank you so much, I appreciate it.