When you’re the new CIO, the first 90 days offer a unique opportunity to get to know an organization and help determine the strategic direction. What often happens, though, is you end up feeling like you’re behind, “even though you’re moving fast,” says Tanya Arthur, who took on the CIO role at Summa Health this past January. But no matter how much time it takes, it’s vital to observe, listen, and immerse yourself in the community.
In this interview, Arthur talks about her biggest priorities, including leading the Epic implementation (which is a shared instance with Mercy Health), establishing an IT governance structure, and strengthening the building blocks of population health. She also discusses what appealed to her about Summa, how she hopes to leverage her past experience with Catholic Health Initiatives to improve vendor management, and what she likes most about her team.
- About Summa Health
- Shared instance of Epic with Mercy Health
- Working through governance – “Changes need to be applied to both organizations”
- New Health Collaborative ACO
- “We’re starting to put analytics in place.”
- Opioid epidemic – “We need to do more than treat patients in the ED & release them.”
- Consumer engagement
It was about decreasing costs and increasing synergy. We saved about 25 to 30 percent on the implementation, and the process was much faster as a result of the shared instance.
We have an opioid crisis in Northeast Ohio, and the way we’re addressing that is by looking not just at sick care, but overall wellness. It’s connecting providers with community services to deliver the best possible care for the patient.
People who experience that type of crisis often end up in the emergency department. If we want to address it systemically, we need to do more than threat them in the ED and release them. We need to help them get the ongoing care they need.
We know that consumers expect the same experience in healthcare as they get in other industries. They want to schedule appointments online. They want to connect with providers more easily. They self-service capabilities. This is the experience that consumers expect.
Gamble: Hi Tanya, thanks so much for taking some time to speak with us. Can you start by providing a high-level overview of the organization?
Arthur: Sure. Summa Health System is located in Akron, Ohio. We have two main hospitals, Akron City Hospital and Barberton Hospital, several community health centers, a health plan (SummaCare), and an ACO, which is called New Health Collaborative.
Gamble: What does the EHR environment look like at Summa?
Arthur: We’re in the process of implementing Epic. And actually, we have a shared instance with Mercy Health in Cincinnati.
Gamble: That’s something we’re starting to see more in the industry. Was the primary goal to be able to leverage Mercy’s resources?
Arthur: Yes. It was about decreasing costs and increasing synergy. We saved about 25 to 30 percent on the implementation, and the process was much faster as a result of the shared instance. I know from speaking with Epic that there are about 200 affiliates across the United States — and that number is growing.
Gamble: Did you have any previous experience with being part of a shared instance?
Arthur: I did. When I was with Catholic Health Initiatives, we had a number of affiliates on that instance. In fact, when we acquired organizations, we brought them in under the affiliate model, and it was quite beneficial.
Gamble: I can imagine. With the arrangement between Summa and Mercy, what type of governance structure is in place?
Arthur: We have a shared governance model because, as you can imagine, changes that need to be made to the system have to be applied to both organizations. And so we get together and discuss what changes we feel are necessary, and how we can optimize the system together.
Gamble: How often are you in contact with the team with Mercy?
Arthur: Every week. And in fact, one thing I’m working on now is to establish an IT governance structure within Summa. They didn’t have one in place — neither did Mercy, which was surprising to me.
Summa had started to develop a structure several years ago, but given the changes the organization has gone through in the past five years — including in the leadership team — it’s understandable that it fell to the wayside. But it’s something I believe is critical, and so establishing that is a big priority.
Gamble: I imagine it’s a daunting task, particularly since you’re somewhat new to the organization.
Arthur: It is. But at the same time, it’s exciting. We’re looking at a number of different growth opportunities so that we can better serve our patients. It’s a very competitive environment in Northeast Ohio. We have Cleveland Clinic in our backyard, as well as University Hospitals, and a number of other health systems. I’m really excited to be here at this particular time and to be a part of that.
Gamble: Let’s talk about New Health Collaborative, which is the ACO. What’s the primary focus right now — are the analytics in place?
Arthur: Analytics is really a growing area. We’re starting to put that in place. I have a number of key initiatives that I’m driving with my business partners. Through the New Health Collaborative, we’re working to establish the technology foundation so that we can grow from a population health standpoint. That’s really the key focus and key strategy for Summa Health — we’re a population health management organization.
What that means is that we’re focused on improving wellness in our community through coordinated care. For example, we have an opioid crisis in Northeast Ohio, and the way we’re addressing that is by looking not just at sick care, but overall wellness. It’s connecting providers with community services to deliver the best possible care for the patient. And so where there are certain disease processes or wellness challenges, that’s where we focus our population health management strategies.
Gamble: I would think that includes working with entities that fall outside the traditional healthcare realm.
Arthur: That’s right. It’s looking at all community providers. With the opioid epidemic, one of the biggest challenges is that people who are experiencing that type of crisis often end up in the emergency department. If we want to address it systemically, we need to do more than threat them in the ED and release them. We need to help them get the ongoing care they need. Sometimes that has to do with transportation. Sometimes it’s counseling. Sometimes it’s getting enough food to eat. There may be a number of different services that have to come together to help that particular patient. We know that when you bring these services together, you get much better outcomes and you get people back to a state of wellness where they’re free of the addiction.
It’s exciting to see different entities come together around the disease processes that are affecting that community, and to see so many different services get involved, from entrepreneurs to United Way to small community service providers.
Gamble: Aside from population health, what are some of the other key priorities on your plate?
Arthur: We’re also looking at virtual health, particularly in the home care environment, where it can provide services to communities outside of the metropolitan area. We’re getting to a point where consumers expect to be able to use video to communicate with providers and receive care without having to travel to an office. And the last area I’m focusing on is consumer engagement and patient experience.
Gamble: That’s such an intriguing area. We’ve seen an evolution in the last couple of years in how patients want to engage with providers. How can leaders go about formulating a strategy when you’re dealing with so many different preferences?
Arthur: At Summa, we’re very much in our infancy in terms of moving beyond the traditional view of patient satisfaction and looking more at consumer engagement. It is a challenging area, because there are so many different organizations playing in this space, particularly from other industries. Retail companies like Amazon and health plans are become players. And so we’re trying to figure out the right mix of strategies to get patients and consumers of healthcare services engaged. It’s definitely a challenge.
But there are some things we know for sure. We know that consumers expect the same experience in healthcare as they get in other industries. They want to schedule appointments online. They want to connect with providers more easily. They self-service capabilities. This is the experience that consumers expect.
And so that serves as a foundation. I think some of the complexities of regulation and the payment/reimbursement models act as barriers to some of the things we know we should do, but trying to do that in a profitable way is a big challenge.