People, Process and Platforms: How Dignity Health Is Transforming Care And Positioning For The Future
It’s been a busy few years for Dignity Health. In 2012, the 39-hospital system embarked on major initiative to move all of its hospitals and clinics onto a single clinical platform. It was clear from the beginning that the $1.83 billion deployment — which included both clinical and business applications — would require a mammoth lift, and a whole lot of collaboration, to stay on track.
To say it was a tall order is putting it mildly.
But the deployment — one of Cerner’s largest to date — is right on schedule, largely due to strong clinician leadership, an engaged user community, and a heavy emphasis on training and support, all of which are critical in any major project. Perhaps the biggest factor, however, has been the strategic partnership between IT and business leadership that has broken down the typical siloes and created an environment where IT’s expertise is leveraged to help prioritize business needs and provide support, according to Deanna Wise, EVP and CIO at Dignity Health.
“That partnership is so critical to understanding what are the needs of the organization, what are the strategies, and how do we help deliver that in the most cost-effective, high-quality way for our patients,” said Wise.
And it’s that spirit of collaboration that she believes will help propel the organization forward as they turn their focus toward “the important part,” which is transforming information into actionable data that can improve the delivery of care. Of course, in order to get to the “importance,” Wise’s team must complete the Cerner implementation, while also devoting resources to patient engagement, security, telehealth, and countless other issues.
It’s no simple task, but for Wise, leading the IT team at the fifth largest health system in the country during such an “exciting” time in the industry is the chance of a lifetime. In this interview, she spoke with healthsystemCIO.com about how the organization was able to overcome early challenges with the EHR implementation by incorporating lessons learned; the tremendous opportunity her team has to push the envelope with innovation; the enormous value of having the right people in place; and where she believes the industry is headed in the next few years.
[Below is chapter 2 of healthsystemCIO.com’s interview with Deanna Wise. To read chapter 2, please click here.]
Q&A With Deanna Wise, EVP & CIO, Dignity Health, Chapter 2
Gamble: I’m sure that was quite eye-opening to get a perspective of what it’s like for physicians to document while interacting with patients. But as you pointed out, this is an ongoing process.
Wise: It is, and I think it’s critical to realize that there are learning curves with the use of these systems. The other piece is that it’s tough for us as an organization. These EHRs are not inexpensive to deploy, and to experience the amount of change that goes into it and then realize that it’s not your end-all — because the next step is population health and how do you leverage the information real-time — is challenging.
But it’s an exciting time too, because when you think about the improvements in quality and outcomes that we can get for our patients with this digital information, it’s astounding. I think that in the next five to seven years, we’re going to see some amazing things happen in healthcare.
Gamble: One area where we’re already seeing dramatic change is in patient engagement. Do you consider that to be a core part of your strategy?
Wise: It absolutely is. Putting the information in the hands of the patients is where we all need it to be. My father lives in Indiana — being an only child, how do you help provide that care and make sure that you’re participating? That’s where I think telehealth is going to play in big role in the coming years.
We’re just starting to go full force with digital consumer engagement. When you get into social media, you need to be very cautious with HIPAA and other agencies. I think with Meaningful Use, we pushed hard to get portals in place quickly that really are not what we want from a consumer standpoint, so now we’re trying to craft that in a way to meet those expectations. There are so many things at our fingertips and we have to figure out from a healthcare standpoint how do we leverage that relevant information to engage the consumer, whether it is to schedule an appointment, find a specialist, or explore telehealth options.
Gamble: One thing I’m noticing is that CIOs are taking on more of a digital leadership role. Is that where the industry seems to be going?
Wise: I do think it is. It’s such an important part of the role, and sometimes I think the word ‘digital’ is almost overused — it’s really just a new term for something that we’ve been doing for a very long time. I’ve always had a philosophy that IT needs to partner with the business. For example, with the EHR, I’m here to facilitate deploying strategies for the business, and that partnering is so critical to understanding what are the needs of the organization, what are the strategies, and how do we help deliver that in the most cost-effective, high-quality way for our patients. So I absolutely think it’s critical for the CIOs to play that role — that it’s not just about deploying technology. I’m fortunate to work with an amazing executive leadership team at Dignity Health where IT really has a trusting partnership with the business.
Gamble: Have you always viewed the role that way, or did you have to change your approach based on how the industry or the organization has evolved?
Wise: For me, it actually comes pretty easy, because my strength is in relationship building and surrounding myself with an amazing team. So I’ve always stressed customer service to the team and hired people that understand we’re a services department and we need to focus on meeting the needs of the organization — that we’re not just in the back putting up servers. I’ve hired a lot of team members from the business side who have then been taught the technology aspect. I think the hardest part is having people that understand lab and pharmacy and other components of the business side so that you really can get the most out of those systems.
At the same time, we also have a strong technical group. We have a very good mix. Because we tend to be laggards in healthcare with some of the consumer-based strategies, we’ve hired great talent from retail or the banking side to bring that knowledge base in to enable us to leapfrog from where we are today.
Gamble: I’m sure it’s beneficial having that outside perspective.
Wise: It is, because you can hire great people who have been at other facilities or other systems that are extremely knowledgeable on healthcare and how it functions, but it’s great to get someone who says, ‘this is how we did it in banking several years back.’ It’s helped us overcome some issues.
Gamble: Another key priority for you, I imagine, is innovation. And not just looking at the latest tools, but at ideas that can lead to improvements in care quality or even business processes. How do you work to foster innovation?
Wise: The fact that our corporate office is in Silicon Valley adds an interesting and exciting twist to our view on innovation because we’re right there in the thick of great ideas, and we have the opportunity to network with folks and pilot various projects and see how do we scale them. For example, we worked with a group called Augmedix on Google Glass when it first came out. We did a pilot program where they were able to demonstrate reduced time on patient charting by having clinicians wear the glasses and using a transcriptionist. We started with a group of five physicians, and we’re now in the process of rolling that out further.
Gamble: And have there been examples of technologies being leveraged to improve workflow or processes?
Wise: Absolutely. Within our IT department, we really focus on operational excellence and making sure we are continuously trying to lower costs while improving quality by deploying the innovative ideas that are brought about from various components of our organization.
Gamble: Finally, as you look into the next few years, what do you think are the biggest challenges that CIOs will face?
Wise: I think the biggest challenge is that there’s such a great demand on our services. An organization only has so many funds, and yet there are so many fantastic ideas. How do you make sure you’re helping the business prioritize needs when the demand is so great? If you look at any business unit that you’re standing up, 90 percent has an IT component to it. How do you make sure the business gets the biggest bang and that it’s the business prioritizing, not CIO prioritizing?
It happens so often where IT is expected to just figure that out, but honestly, it won’t work that way. I have a very strong IT executive steering committee, and having the business prioritize the needs, validate, and ask critical questions that maybe the IT people haven’t thought of as we’re getting ready to kick off a new initiative really does bring success.
So, it is a true partnership. It’s not just IT deciding what we’re going to do this year; it really is what does the business need and what’s most important to the business.
Gamble: Great. Thanks so much for taking some time to share the great work your organization is doing. Best of luck to you and your team!
Wise: Thank you.