Like many CIOs, Steve Stanic has a love-hate relationship with Meaningful Use. While he takes issue with patient engagement requirements and the lack of an identifier, he still believes “it was what needed to be done.” In this interview, Stanic shares his honest thoughts about the program that has helped revolutionize the industry, and discusses the biggest projects on his plate, including the migration to McKesson Paragon, and a statewide effort to create a clinical integrated organization. He also discusses his team’s five-point engagement strategy, the valuable lesson he learned during his time in consulting, and what drew him to Mississippi Baptist.
- Career path — From CIO to Perot to CIO
- “I like to figure out the problem and be part of working to get it resolved.”
- MBHS’ “strong commitment to technology”
- Recruiting challenges
- Rapidly changing HIT industry
- Thoughts on MU — “I like the spirit of the law.”
- Weighing the pros and cons
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I’m much more of a guy that likes to figure out the problem and then be part of working to get it resolved. That gives me a greater sense of professional satisfaction as opposed to, ‘here’s what you need to do. We’ll check back on you in a month.’
You find folks that are very dedicated or committed to the area and you’re able to invest some training and education and they tend to stay loyal, as opposed to if you were in Atlanta, where there’s a lot of healthcare IT talent around, but there’s also a lot of healthcare IT opportunities.
I like the spirit of the law. I think they did it right by saying, ‘We’re going to offer you a carrot first. For organizations that are going to have issues getting there, we’re going to prime the pump a little bit with some stimulus dollars. And then we’re going to put a stick afterwards if you don’t continue doing this.’
The problem I had is the government did not get involved in one aspect that they should have that would have made everything a whole heck of a lot easier. They should have come up with a standard patient identifier.
I think it is eventually going to be re-addressed, but it sure would have been great if it was addressed three or four years ago.
Gamble: You said you’ve been at the organization about five years?
Gamble: And where were you prior to that?
Stanic: I did a year and a half at Perot Systems as a consultant managing the Triad contract, which actually was acquired by Community Health Systems. Before that for about eight years I was the VP and CIO at Memorial Health in Savannah, Georgia.
Gamble: Having that time at Memorial Health and then in consulting, I’m sure there were some interesting perspectives.
Stanic: I learned I didn’t want to be a consultant.
Gamble: That’s a tough life, right?
Stanic: Well, the way I guess people would look at it is in the consulting world, there are folks who just love it because you go in, you tell them what the problem is, and you tell them what they need to do to fix it, and then you move on to your next deal. I’m much more of a guy that likes to figure out the problem and then be part of working to get it resolved. That gives me a greater sense of professional satisfaction as opposed to, ‘okay, here’s your issue. Here’s what you need to do. We’ll check back on you in a month. Bye.’ That’s just a personal thing more than anything.
Gamble: Is something though where you’re glad that you did it and you wanted to know for sure that was something that you could or couldn’t see yourself doing?
Stanic: I’m glad I did it. I enjoyed the people I met, obviously. When you work with somebody like Perot Systems, which is now Dell — Dell acquired them — you have resources that you never dreamed you have. As a large organization, there was much more resources available to you than sometimes when you’re in a CIO setting. That was a lesson that I learned.
Gamble: And what size organization was Memorial Health? Was that comparative to Baptist?
Stanic: It was about the same as Baptist. Probably one of the big differences is that Memorial was just the main acute center in Savannah. They didn’t have any critical access hospitals or any other affiliated entities.
Gamble: When you did come onboard at Mississippi Baptist, what was most appealing about taking on this particular role?
Stanic: I think that the organization is very progressive. They were doing a lot of the right things looking to grow. Also, I tend to migrate back to faith-based entities. I like to work for faith-based organizations — Baptist is faith-based, so that was appealing to me. Also the people here, and the young leadership. I liked that. There’s a strong commitment to technology too. I knew they were going to continue to make investments at IT.
Gamble: Right. It sounds like there’s a lot of movement with the critical access hospitals and probably on the other ambulatory side as well.
Stanic: Sure is.
Gamble: For where you’re located, as far as being able to recruit and retain staff, has that been a challenge?
Stanic: That’s probably one of the bigger challenges. Here’s the way I look at it. If you’re in a place like Jackson, even though we’re the state capital, there’s not a lot of healthcare IT talent. You find folks that are very dedicated or committed to the area and you’re able to invest some training and education and they tend to stay loyal, as opposed to if you were in Atlanta, where there’s a lot of healthcare IT talent around, but there’s also a lot of healthcare IT opportunities, and so retention becomes an issue. Everybody’s in competition for the same talent pool.
In Jackson and Savannah, you find folks that were dedicated to the area and willing to invest in learning a new skill set or learning the skills to stay in that area and keep with the organization. So I wouldn’t say it’s ‘pick your poison,’ but pick your path. There are challenges everywhere. I think that that also, regardless of what kind of situation you’re in, ebbs and flows with the economy and IT. A couple of years ago, there was an abundance of IT talent because the economy wasn’t there, but once that picks up, it’s hard to find talent anywhere.
Gamble: Definitely. I guess the other thing that might be tough is that with the pace of things right now and everything that needs to be done, I can imagine it’s a tough position to be in to keep people happy and keep them from being too overburdened.
Stanic: Well, yeah, but it also depends on what kind of person you are. I always like new challenges and new things to do, so I like healthcare because it’s always changing. And it’s really changing now — right now it’s at warp speed. I like that kind of environment, so if you can find those types of individuals, they’re always very happy in healthcare.
Gamble: Okay. So the last thing I wanted to do is touch a little bit on the industry. We’ve talked a little bit about some of the frustrations with Meaningful Use, but in general, what are your thoughts on Meaningful Use and whether it is taking things in the right direction or if there’s just too many issues.
Stanic: I actually think Meaningful Use is a good thing. I think it was something where the government got involved and they said, ‘look, we need to really get everybody in an electronic world. We need to make sure that patient information is available to multiple providers.’ And so I like the spirit of the law. I think they did it right by saying, ‘We’re going to offer you a carrot first. For organizations that are going to have issues getting there, we’re going to prime the pump a little bit with some stimulus dollars. And then we’re going to put a stick afterwards if you don’t continue doing this.’ Because the government is the largest spender of healthcare dollars, so they want to make sure that they’re getting value for what they’re spending. I get that. I think the spirit of the law was great.
The problem I had is the government did not get involved in one aspect that they should have that would have made everything a whole heck of a lot easier. They should have come up with a standard patient identifier so that it would have been a lot easier for organizations like myself and then vendors like the McKessons, Cerners and Epics of the world to make sure that patient information flows freely. If you have a simple patient identifier for patients and you tag that on everybody’s information, it would make the flow of healthcare information a lot easier. And so where the government should have gotten involved, which is from a regulatory standpoint, they don’t want to get involved, and I think that’s one area that they should have. I think it’s a very appropriate area for them to be involved in, and I think something’s going to eventually have to be done. Because as you move down the road with population health and wellness and preventive care, and as consumers are becoming more informed, my biggest challenge is to make sure that with Steve Stanic’s information — which is located in multiple systems amongst multiple providers — there’s a common way that we can identify it as, in fact, being my health information, and that’s hard to do today.
Gamble: It’s kind of hard to imagine how it wasn’t part of the original plan. Maybe I’m being a Monday morning quarterback, but it’s just kind of hard to fathom that it wasn’t a requirement right from the get-go.
Stanic: I know you’re familiar with CHIME and I’d like think I’m a pretty active member in CHIME. It’s our biggest initiative right now. Jeff Smith [former CHIME VP of Public Policy] explained to me once why the government thought that way, and I just think it was just a flawed way of thinking. They came out with Meaningful Use — it’s not a home run. It put a lot of work on us, but I think it was work that needed to be done to get the healthcare industry where it needed to be. But you’re right, in one major area, they fell. I think it is eventually going to be re-addressed, but boy, it sure would have been great if it was addressed three or four years ago as opposed to whenever it’s going to be in the future.
Gamble: I guess that’s why it makes it all the more important for CIOs to try to find that time to be involved and voice their opinions and try to get change happening quicker.
Stanic: It never was a big part of my job, but it’s becoming a bigger and bigger part.
Gamble: Yeah, and I can see why. Okay, well, we’ve touched on the things I wanted to address. But I definitely would like to follow up with you again soon and talk about everything you’re working on, especially the clinical integration organization, and just see how things have progressed.
Stanic: Kate, anytime. Just drop me an email and let me know.
Gamble: Great. Well, thanks so much for your time and I look forward to catching up with you again.
Stanic: Okay, have a great day.