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An HIT Moment with … Patricia Stewart, Principal, Innovative Healthcare Solutions

November 30, 2012 Interviews No Comments

An HIT Moment with ... is a quick interview with someone we find interesting. Pat Stewart is a principal with Innovative Healthcare Solutions of Punta Gorda, FL.

11-30-2012 4-03-08 PM

What kinds of projects are clients looking for help to complete these days?

Many clients are struggling simply to meet such basic IT objectives as maintaining and increasing IT services to support the organization’s business and clinical strategic goals, optimizing investments in IT so the organization receives maximum value for their investments, and mitigating risks to business processes and patient care associated with IT. All while pushing to meet Meaningful Use requirements, dealing with the impact of healthcare reform, and understanding the developments in the purchaser and payer arena. These are broad initiatives and there is pressure to move forward in all of them concurrently.

Organizations are being bombarded with a host of industry changes — accountable care and medical home models, Meaningful Use and health information exchanges, ICD-10, and the call for business intelligence. Now more than ever, healthcare organizations need solid IT strategies. Typically, however, there are limited IT resources to support these strategies. This has created many opportunities for our consulting services.

The majority of our engagements fall into three main categories. Engagements to help clients implement one or more of McKesson’s Horizon suite of products with the goal of reaching MU. Engagements to help clients implement a new system, such as Epic or Paragon. Engagements to help clients transition and support their legacy McKesson applications while they convert to a new vendor, such as Epic or Paragon. We are also seeing more requests for assistance in system and workflow optimization and analytics projects.

What are some innovative implementation ideas you’ve used or seen?

It’s still not common to manage a project from start to finish according to an overall business strategy. Or for IT groups to collaborate with stakeholders to understand their needs and challenges. These practices create innovation and success.

One of our clients created co-management arrangements with each physician service line that included quality of care, patient satisfaction, value analysis studies, and EMR adoption. They established strong teams with lean experts to develop implementation approaches for issues that affect physicians directly, such as CPOE, bedside barcoding, and medication reconciliation. The teams design the implementation approach, success factors, and metric-driven financial rewards for physicians.

Clients have created dedicated teams for testing and identifying build and process issues. They have pulled operations people into a workflow and process team to identify gaps between current and future state, to make decisions about process changes, and to provide go-live support. Some clients have cut back on classroom training and instead allocated those resources for "at the elbow" user support during go-live, which also makes financial sense since these resources can be cheaper than the cost of implementation specialists. 

The company has been around for several years. During that time, the Epic business has taken a big swing up and lots of people have formed small consulting companies to take advantage of the demand. How do you see that market and your competition changing in the next few years?

Our management team has been working in the HIT environment for many years and we have never seen the kind of market growth we’re seeing now. This demand has led to a rush of people entering the consulting profession, and — as you mentioned — a lot of new consulting companies. While we’ve seen more people choosing to become consultants, we haven’t seen a corresponding increase in the experience and skill levels these individuals bring to the table.

Unfortunately, financial opportunities instead of missions, goals, and aptitude are leading people to the market. We think it is inevitable that the market will slow down, and when it does, there will be consulting companies that drop out of the market. Few are built for long-term survival.

We credit our success to a corporate mission, culture, and identity based on simple core values: do the right thing for our clients, do the right thing for our consultants, and never forget there is a patient at the end of what we do. 

What are the best jobs in healthcare IT right now, and which ones would you advise industry newcomers to prepare for?

System and process optimization. Implementations over the last few years have occurred under stressful conditions with short timelines and limited resources. System implementations have not aligned with an organizational strategy. For organizations to be successful, they must understand how their systems impact business operations. Organizations must answer the questions: what value are we getting from the systems and how are they supporting our strategic goals? What processes must change to maximize our investments and achieve our goals?

One way facilities can meet system optimization resource needs is by creating transitional programs that take strong clinical experts and train them in application support roles. With shrinking inpatient census and greater focus on clinical quality and readmission initiatives, organizations can put clinical experts with IT aptitude on a path to IT knowledge. Facilities can grow bench strength from within. It is a long-term strategy and requires investment, but we believe it’s better than searching for talent – expensive talent – that isn’t part of the organization’s culture.

Jobs that leverage data to manage patient populations and outcomes. These jobs require an understanding of the system design so the right information is captured. Their roles and responsibilities will include using predictive analytics to proactively manage outcomes and maintain reimbursement.

What subtle industry trends are you seeing now that will become important down the road?

Systems and IT resources must support initiatives that allow healthcare to transition into community settings. We must focus on managing population health and creating effective support systems to transition patients into community care settings

The emergence of the Chief Clinical Information Officer. The melding of CMIO and CNIO for a less siloed approach.

Increased ability to adopt and manage change. With the implementation of so many complex systems, healthcare organizations and providers now have a wealth of data. With it comes a greater responsibility to respond quickly to conditions that affect patient outcomes, positively or negatively. To meet that responsibility, healthcare organizations and providers must be more nimble than ever. They must adapt efficiently and effectively to changing conditions. Having years or even months to implement changes and gain adoption will not be an option.

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