A city partnering with the local health system. Two extremely influential parties teaming up to make each other better, whether it’s by sharing knowledge or sharing equipment. Sounds like a no-brainer, right?
It is — but there are many reasons why it’s not happening. Despite the potential these types of collaborations offer both to healthcare providers (particularly in terms of building a population health program) and municipalities (which can greatly benefit from cybersecurity guidance), there’s still a great deal of hesitancy, and for good reason. Navigating a political minefield and cutting through miles of red tape can be daunting.
“It’s not easy,” said Cletis Earle, CIO of Kaleida Health, who has been working with Dr. Luis Taveras, CIO of the City of Buffalo, to pool resources in an effort to improve efficiency and care throughout the region. “It takes true collaboration of our elected officials as well as our private business partners to work together.” The good news is that the value can be realized fairly quickly, and that it’s scalable, according to Earle and Taveras.
Recently, they spoke with healthsystemCIO.com about how this unique partnership came about, how they’re working together to overcome obstacles, the advice they offer to others, and what they hope to see down the road.
- Key goals as City CIO
- Meeting between mayor & health system CEO – “We saw it as an opportunity to be good neighbors.”
- Kaleida’s efforts to recruit a CIO
- “Technology is technology, no matter where you are.”
- Benefits of collaborating
- Sharing equipment, cybersecurity best practices
- Long-term plans: “We want this to be duplicated.”
Technology is technology, no matter where you are. What matters is the ability to understand the discipline of a new industry.
We are all connected in some shape or form. The ability, as an IT organization, to align our thought processes, models, and methodologies with our partners to create best practices, is extremely beneficial.
It’s a no-brainer when you think about it. There’s a need on that end for better tools, and we have the opportunity to share and assist our partners in the city.
We don’t want this model to be exclusive to our city — we want this to be duplicated. We’re hopeful that other cities will see the benefit of collaborating with the municipalities in unique ways, and we’re willing to share our experience.
Kate Gamble: Let’s start by getting some background information. Luis, what are your key priorities as CIO of the city of Buffalo?
Luis Taveras: The main focus is on how we can provide services to the people of Buffalo, as well as visitors, in the best and most efficient way possible. That means coordinating efforts within City Hall and all of its departments. We want to make it as seamless as possible when they interact with us, even if it’s something as simple as paying a parking ticket. We also provide support for public safety, which is critical.
Gamble: And this is your first role in government?
Taveras: Yes, this is all new to me.
Gamble: I’m sure it’s been interesting. Now, as far as the collaborative efforts between Kaleida Health and the City of Buffalo, how did this come about?
Cletis Earle: As you know, this is a very unique situation. We looked around quite a bit to understand what’s happening in municipalities throughout the country, and we believe this is the only scenario where a large city has partnered up with a private healthcare organization. About a year ago, Byron Brown, the mayor of the city of Buffalo, reached out to our CEO and asked if there was an opportunity for us to help provide technology support. And so our CEO, Jody Lomeo, charged me with seeing how we can partner with them in a robust manner.
We saw it as a great opportunity for us to be good neighbors. As one of the larger employers in the region, we have some leverage, and we believed we could help recruit a strong CIO. And so I introduced the mayor to Dr. Taveras, and explained that although he didn’t specifically have municipal experience, he’s an industry expert.
The bottom line is, technology is technology, no matter where you are. What matters is the ability to understand the discipline of a new industry; Dr. Taveras has been successful with these types of opportunities on a large scale, and he was available. That’s how it started — with us being able to connect the city with IT experts and talent like Dr. Taveras. The pieces were there; we just had to connect them.
Gamble: What are the biggest benefits from Kaleida’s standpoint in having this type of partnership?
Earle: There are huge benefits in that we know when it comes to digital footprint, we are all connected in some shape or form. The ability, as an IT organization and an IT business in this particular region, to align our thought processes, models, and methodologies with our partners to create best practices, is extremely beneficial. When one falls, we all fall. That’s basically what it boils down to.
Partnering with the city of Buffalo has been a great learning opportunity for us all, but more importantly, it positions us in ways that we’ve never imagined. For example, if you look at population health, being tied right into the logistics of the city uniquely positions us to help the constituents we serve in this area and understand how we can take care of our patients in a more robust manner. That’s just the low-hanging fruit in terms of opportunities; there are many more.
Taveras: At a high level, we have our citizens, to whom we have to provide great service, and then on Cletis’ side, our patients — they’re one and the same. How can we connect them to make it seamless? We’re thinking about things like smart cities and how we can move in that direction. We have a large medical campus where Kaleida and the other Great Lakes Health System facilities are located; we want all of them to be part of the smart city concept so that it’s smart health as well.
It’s amazing how similar some of the issues are between municipal offices and hospitals. We have interrogation rooms where there are bulky machines in between the interrogator and the person being question. It’s just not a good situation. Through our work with Kaleida, we’re able to put in laptops in those rooms, which is much safer for everybody involved. It’s the same thing we’re doing with patients and physicians — we don’t want all of this big equipment in the way.
Cybersecurity is another area. We’re looking at ways in which Kaleida can guide us and provide direct assistance in our cybersecurity efforts. We have a long way to go; there’s a lot of work to do there. But that’s a perfect example of how beneficial this partnership can be.
Earle: There are other opportunities as well. We have refresh rates with our equipment where we can either sell it or use it for other types of programs. Now, there’s another option. We can partner with the city to say, ‘hey, we have slightly used equipment — why don’t we give it to you and the constituents you serve?’ We’ve started that process already. It’s a no-brainer when you think about it. There’s a need on that end for better tools, and we have the opportunity to share and assist our partners in the city. As you know, I’m very big on anything that involves collaboration.
Gamble: Right. Would you say that at this point is really on putting the building blocks in place so that you can eventually move beyond the low-hanging fruit and work to drive change in the long-term?
Taveras: Definitely. I’ve only been here a few months, but the longer this partnership lasts, the more we can collaborate in different ways. I think it’s going to keep growing.
Earle: Luis and I work well together, and we believe that the more effort we put into this, the more opportunities that are going to present themselves as time goes on. We’re committed to this; we’ve put our foot forward when it comes to investing in this relationship, and we plan to continue to do so.
And we don’t want this model to be exclusive to our city — we want this to be duplicated. We’re hopeful that other cities will see the benefit of collaborating with the municipalities in unique ways, and we’re willing to share our experience. Although it’s been a relatively short time, as Luis pointed out, we’ve already seen the benefits.
It’s no surprise that healthcare as an industry is under attack. However, in the last few quarters, municipalities have risen as targets for security breaches. And so there really is a need to collaborate, particularly in the cybersecurity realm, where they can receive guidance.
Taveras: This is a first of its kind, but we certainly hope it’s not the only one in the next 6 to 12 months.
Earle: Exactly. We’re more than happy to look at how this models out throughout the country, if not the world.