Before she joined the staff of Edward Hospital in late 2009, Bobbie Byrne had never once thought about becoming a CIO. But when she was approached by a recruiter who told her that the organization wanted a physician, she was immediately intrigued. The move turned out to be fortuitous; just a year into her tenure, she led the way as the organization migrated to a new platform that would provide an integrated patient record. In this interview, Byrne talks about the process of selecting a major IT system, what it takes for an organization to make IT its top priority, and how her experiences as in the clinical and vendor worlds have shaped her role. She also discusses the state of HIE in Indiana, what she really thought of the ICD-10 delay, and her concerns about the IT workforce shortage.
- Competing for talent in the Chicago area
- Encouraging staff to get Epic-certified
- Keeping morale high — “It’s our job to keep them wanting to work here”
- Finding the right mobile device management strategy
- “You are the sum of your experiences”
- Dealing with multiple vendors
- “I love my job. This is the best gig.”
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The whole thing around guaranteeing jobs for people to go back to — that was really important. It’s more work on our side to make sure we do have places for everybody to go back to, but I wouldn’t want come to the project if I couldn’t be guaranteed a job when it was over.
It’s our job to keep them wanting to work here, and I’m open to anything that we can do within the capabilities of our budget and the fact that we’re still running a business; I’m willing to do anything to keep the team morale high.
If we have a physician who says, ‘I really want to be able to go on an Edward computer and access my EMR in my office,’ we’ve been able to set that up. I know that this is a stopgap. I know that we’re not going to be able to do this forever, and at some point we’re going to have to figure out a strategy around bring-your-own-device.
I think you are the sum of your experiences. Vendor management is something I feel really comfortable doing because I was on the other side for so long, and that’s really helpful. I also was able to make really good contacts in the industry.
I understand how hard it is to develop software. I know that it’s incredibly challenging. It’s an incredibly creative process and I think I just have a whole lot more respect for the entire effort to develop software. I think there are some physicians out there who think, ‘It would be so easy. If I did it, it would be perfect.’
Gamble: It seems like being in the Chicago area there certainly is a lot of competition just with the number of hospitals and health systems that it’s a pretty heavy area for that.
Byrne: It is, and we hear all sorts of shenanigans. Some of these I think are just rumors, but I heard yesterday that some other hospitals don’t allow their people to actually get Epic-certified — they allow them to take the classes because then their value on the job market is less. And I’m like, that is ridiculous. The whole thing around guaranteeing jobs for people to go back to — that was really important. It’s more work on our side to make sure we do have places for everybody to go back to, but I wouldn’t want come to the project if I couldn’t be guaranteed I would have a job when the project was over.
Gamble: And helping people to develop their careers and build their skills does seem like a really good way to keep people interested and keep them invested.
Byrne: I think so. In the end, it’s our job to keep them wanting to work here, and I’m open to anything that we can do within the capabilities of our budget and the fact that we’re still running a business; I’m willing to do anything to keep the team morale high.
Gamble: Yeah, that’s very important. So another thing I wanted to touch on is mobile devices. We’re hearing a lot about organizations that adopt a bring-your-own-device policy. I wanted to see where you stand on that and whether the clinicians are accessing EMRs and things like that from their personal devices.
Byrne: We don’t have a great answer on this yet although I know we have to talk about it a fair amount. Right now, we’ve always been able to accommodate everyone who’s expressed an interest on an Edward device so that we keep our network pure of only Edward devices. And if it means that we do laptop loaners to physicians, that’s not a problem. We issued iPads actually to our Board members because we run the Board portal and all of their Board documentation is actually accessed on an iPad through a SharePoint site.
We have been able to issue Edward devices to everybody who needs one, or we put links on our network. So if we have a physician who says, ‘I really want to be able to go on an Edward computer and access my EMR in my office,’ we’ve been able to set that up as well. I know that this is a stopgap. I know that we’re not going to be able to do this forever, and at some point we’re going to have to figure out a strategy around bring-your-own-device and what we will tolerate and what we won’t; what risks we are willing to accept and what risks we aren’t, and that I just don’t have my arms wrapped around that yet.
Gamble: It’s seems like the type of thing where if you can hold off on that, maybe that’s not a bad idea, because it seems like a lot of people are struggling to find the right formula with this. From the security aspect alone, it’s such a huge risk.
Byrne: And I’ll get the tech guys and physician liaisons in a room and they’re just really on opposite ends. Some of our tech guys are like ‘No, never, never,’ and some of the physician liaisons are like ‘today, tomorrow and always.’ We’ve got to find the middle ground there; I just don’t know what it is.
Gamble: I don’t think anybody does right now. We’ll see what happens a couple of months down the road; maybe a couple of organizations will come up with a good model, but it will be interesting to see. So now you talked a little bit about your background as a pediatrician, and you were also on vendor side. You said you were with Eclipsys for a few years?
Byrne: Yes, five years with Eclipsys.
Gamble: How have you been able to draw from that experience; from being on that side and now being in the CIO position?
Byrne: Well, I think you are the sum of your experiences. Vendor management is something I feel really comfortable doing because I was on the other side for so long, and that’s really helpful. I also was able to make really good contacts in the industry in a much quicker way as far as even knowing CIOs at other providers or people at other companies. So I made a lot of connections in the industry and just ended up being able to build up a list of people to call or somebody who is an expert on this or who can give your opinion on this very quickly. Very few people are still at Allscripts that I worked with, but they’ve gone on to this consulting company or to this provider or to this organization, and I’m able to have that nice wide circle.
I also understand how hard it is to develop software. I know that it’s incredibly challenging. It’s an incredibly creative process and I think I just have a whole lot more respect for the entire effort to develop software. I think there are some physicians out there who think, ‘It would be so easy. If I did it, it would be perfect. It would be so usable and it would be so great.’ And I say, ‘man, you get in there and it’s hard. It is hard work.’ I respect the job that Epic has done because I do know how hard it is.
Gamble: Having that experience with vendor management is also valuable, I’m sure, because you’re always going to be working with different vendors. Even though you have Epic, you’re also dealing with Lawson and other vendors.
Byrne: Oh sure. We’re still using Meditech for our lab and we’re still using Allscripts for case management, and so even though you may be moving away from them in one particular area, these vendors are also big. You have to maintain relationships for all of the other things that you use them for.
Gamble: Right. So you said before that you never really thought that you’d be a CIO or you don’t really give it much thought. But then you joined on at what has been a really interesting time for the industry. So are you glad that you’ve had this experience?
Byrne: Oh yeah, I love my job. This is the best gig. I could not be happier. It’s the perfect thing for me; I love the technology even though I am not that technical. I love the people. I love my boss; I love my colleagues. It really is a good job. I’m very happy.
Gamble: When exactly did you come on board — that was 2009?
Byrne: It’s been like two-and-a-half years, so yes, December of 2009.
Gamble: Yeah I don’t think you could have picked a more interesting time to take on this kind of role.
Byrne: That is for sure.
Gamble: Even though it is crazy with everything going on, it is such an interesting time because there’s just so much going on in the industry and I’ve heard people say that we’re going to look back in 20 years and just be in awe of everything that went on at one time.
Byrne: It’s interesting. I agree with that mostly. But I just wonder the phase hasn’t just accelerated so quickly anyway that we’ll say, ‘This was the time that it started to really get crazy and then it kind of continued’ — like it doesn’t really calm down again. I don’t know; we’ll see.
Gamble: Yeah, that could be true. That could very well be the case. Well we’ve talked about a lot. I wanted to make sure there isn’t anything else that you want to touch on that we didn’t get around to.
Byrne: No, I think this was pretty comprehensive.
Gamble: Well, I’ve really enjoyed this. Thank you so much for your time. It’s been great to hear about everything that you’re going on
Byrne: Thank you, I appreciate the good questions and making me think.
Gamble: Alright, thanks again, and I hope to be able to touch base maybe in a little bit to see how things have progressed, especially with the big rollout.
Byrne: Sure, I’d love that. Thanks so much and have a good afternoon.