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CIO Unplugged – 5/15/09

May 15, 2009 Ed Marx No Comments

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are mine personally, and are not necessarily representative of Texas Health Resources or its subsidiaries.

Accelerating Healthcare IT Adoption
By Ed Marx

To Teach, To Heal, To Discover—Six words that captured the essence of the mission of the academic medical health system where I served as CIO. Along with our affiliate Case, we consistently ranked in the top 10 of NIH grant awardees. We had the infrastructure, bench, and leadership to move quickly on opportunities and maximize value. Non-academic centers attempting to secure grant funding faced incredible odds against giants like us. We grew at their expense. Grant-funded organizations are well-oiled machines.

Today, I serve in a largely non-academic, community hospital based environment, but our vision is equally compelling. As ARRA/HITECH releases numerous incentives and billions in grants, academic centers are best prepared to apply for and secure those dollars. They have the infrastructure, primary investigators, and experience that granting organizations look for. But are they the venue best for accelerating innovation? I’d argue that community hospitals are the “new” best venue for taking ideas from bench to bedside.

Community hospitals don’t have costly infrastructure, professional staff overhead (whose sole focus is securing grants and conducting research), nor the incentive to keep applying for grants. Rather, community hospitals operate on the frontlines. They can accelerate the pace of change by bringing forth products based in the reality of where the majority of care is delivered—the non-academic settings. Am I saying that great contributions from academia are futile? Never! But, it is time to purposely expand grant opportunities to include community hospitals.

Shortcomings in the community hospital model are easily overcome by forming collaboratives with other members of the healthcare community. For instance, in our market, we have created joint applications with area universities, vendors, and governments. Where we are weak, our partners are strong, and vice versa. Our broad-based applications include multiple stakeholders. Grants pursued will lead to a practical application of technology that can be adopted universally, not just in one particular institution.

Community hospitals are leaders in the adoption of modern HIT. At Texas Health Resources, we have surpassed many academic contemporaries in areas such as CPOE and quality outcomes. Davies and Baldrige winners are largely non-academic. HIE leadership in our area is driven by community hospital management, not academia. While “rock star” CIO’s often come from academic institutions, they largely play symbolic, albeit, important roles. Traveling, speaking, and creating vision. Whereas community hospital CIO’s are typically close to the ground dealing with the practical realities and bringing translational research leadership to bear.

Both types of organizations have an important place. As government and non-government agencies begin the arduous process of selecting grant applications, my hope is that they will understand the importance of funneling some of the dollars towards community hospitals and accelerating HIT adoption.


Ed Marx is senior vice president and CIO at Texas Health Resources in Dallas-Fort Worth, TX. Ed encourages your interaction through this blog. (Use the “add a comment” function at the bottom of each post.) You can also connect with him directly through his profile pages on social networking sites LinkedIn and Facebook, and you can follow him via Twitter – User Name “marxists.”

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