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Advisory Panel: Surprise Projects for 2013

April 29, 2013 Advisory Panel No Comments

The HIStalk Advisory Panel is a group of hospital CIOs, hospital CMIOs, practicing physicians, and a few vendor executives who have volunteered to provide their thoughts on topical industry issues. I’ll seek their input every month or so on an important news developments and also ask the non-vendor members about their recent experience with vendors. E-mail me to suggest an issue for their consideration.

If you work for a hospital or practice, you are welcome to join the panel. I am grateful to the HIStalk Advisory Panel members for their help in making HIStalk better.

This question this time:  What "surprise" IT or informatics projects have come up recently that you didn’t expect to have to deal with in 2013?


We’re about four months away from a pretty big EHR rip-and-replace go-live. The surprise for me has been the steady drumbeat of “business as usual” requests: a new POC lab system, new offices, clinics and moves, interfaces to the legacy system that will be replaced 30 days after go-live, etc. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised — just a little freaked out.


When we began the fiscal year in October, we had not planned on applying for a CMS Shared Savings ACO. The learning curve was steep on this, and now that we were awarded one in January, we are being cautious to make the right decision on an IT platform to support the ACO.


Not sure that it’s a surprise, but the increased focus on meeting regulatory demands have shifted the focus of IS. Even though the organization focuses well on our EHR and Meaningful Use progress, it is difficult to find the funds to refresh our infrastructure and deliver the smaller application needs of the organization (food management and employee health are recent examples that come to mind). Our average age of infrastructure continues to creep upwards while our MU efforts monopolize most of the IS capital. On top of that, there is renewed focus on patient access and experience that have impact to the IS "pot o’ gold" (and for my organization it’s not really much of a pot to begin with – maybe a cup is more accurate). I have had to redirect money away from the non-regulatory projects and leave organizational needs unmet. Old equipment and unhappy customers create uncomfortable CIOs. Not a complaint really, just a reality of the job. These demands on capital make it more critical for IS to be able to tell the story on how we are
going to decrease costs, increase revenues, avoid penalties, etc.


The surprise projects are currently getting planned for 2014 in our organization. Many of them are focused on Meaningful Use – both for 2014 Stage 1 and Stage 2. From our organization’s perspective, it will probably late 2014 or 2015 before we can focus on any significant IT project that isn’t driven by a regulation or a dependency for a project that is.


Multiple instances in my organization where a doctor or department had spent time and money to build out an application for their use and want to now commercialize it. Who knew there would be so much entrepreneurial spirit going on under our hood? Begs the question – should we better create an atmosphere and infrastructure to support these projects, and what is the best way to support them moving forward (e.g. do we help to spin them off into new companies to help create a way to sustain them?) And of course we
have to work through the IP issues as well.


A couple of large HR system and outpatient business analytics projects competing for resources with ICD-10 and Meaningful Use Stage 2 prep projects.


Replace our software for calculating month end reserves. Replacing software for electronic claims submission.


I’m not sure I would call these a complete surprise, but what has surprised me is the volume of good, value-added ideas that are coming up related to using our EMR to further improve quality, safety, efficiency. Multiple IT-enabled optimizations using our EMR and analytic tools to help further reduce readmissions, provide an early warning on septic patients, reduce catheter -associated urinary track infections, and the like. In addition to ensuring readiness for Stage 2 Meaningful Use, we are spending much effort and energy on optimizing our EMR.


No real surprise projects. What is creating unrest is BI, ACO support, and keeping up after we cut our staff by 20 percent.


Interestingly, most surprises here are due to our operational need to jettison existing partners, in my case, in rad onc and imaging. This was primarily due to the relationships going south fairly quickly. Standing up linear accelerators et al, as well as a new PACS, was definitely not even on the radar. Both are significant projects.


HIMSS Healthcare Transformation Project.


Major modifications to our revenue cycle system and the interfaces to our insurance companies, based upon changes to reimbursement policies, particularly capitated payments. Still reeling.


We have a solid strategic plan that’s updated each year. We also have an engaged IT Governance group. I can’t think of any surprises, but we are only halfway through the fiscal year. My mindset is that IS should expect them and not overreact. This is where you can see what your team is made of. Also, surprises provide teaching and growth opportunities.


We have to go through three major code upgrades before February 2014, rather than just two. And we have to implement our EHR vendor’s HIM module upgrade, to our surprise, because none of the vendor’s new functionality works with our current HIM module. That turns out to be a major project, and a prerequisite that has set several other projects (such as physician documentation) back by nearly a year. Lastly, our pharmacy had been trying to "skate by" the MU Stage 2 regs by only implementing bar-coding for IV meds, but we realized after some calculations and CMS FAQs that still wouldn’t hit our required 10 percent. We’re going to have to do a full medication barcode implementation under very tight time frames.


Most surprises have been in the realm of infrastructure upgrades (additional storage and additional wireless capability). Under the heading of wireless capability, the organization chose many years ago to implement a guest wireless network. Our administration wanted to bring their own devices — they balked at having to give permission to sign on to the guest network even with something as simple as an acknowledgement. Because of this, our guest network is regularly exceeding its connection limit. We are working to create a third network for employees and their devices.


New hospital process reengineering projects that will have IT implications.


There is possibility of squeezing in (at least the beginnings of) more inpatient EHR implementations during the latter part of the year than anticipated as we get ever closer to Stage 2 requirements kicking in.


Not a total surprise, but our physicians and our key ambulatory vendor are very rapidly moving toward multiple mobile solutions as well as patient centric solutions. More quickly than we had anticipated, we are learning to support the iPad EMR version, iPhone  apps, and patient portal.  The vendor is providing new cloud computing solutions and we’re learning how to implement and support these very rapidly.


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