Jim Giordano is president and CEO of CareTech Solutions.
What are the biggest problems hospital IT departments are having these days, and what are their greatest opportunities?
I think there are three areas that hospitals are challenged with from an IT perspective. The first is the complexity of the required systems that are now needed. The second is the return on investment focus. The third would be the timeframe for putting in this complex technology to meet the funding deadlines for the ARRA, the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.
I think the opportunities for the hospitals’ provider networks are borne in these same challenges. They have the opportunity now to begin practicing medicine electronically, which would mean more patient data is available. There would be more patient data shared; it would reduce medical errors in that.
I also believe there’s an opportunity to show the ROI of these systems. I also believe one of the opportunities is for hospitals to take the meaningful use definition that exists and be able to put their plans together so that they can receive these payments that should start paying out in 2011.
What trends are you seeing in IT outsourcing?
We’re seeing a trend towards an interest in outsourcing discrete portions of what a CIO is responsible for in two areas — service desk and remote hosting. We’re seeing CIOs realize that no matter how bright and effective their staff is, they are in effect judged by how well the phone call goes when the user or clinician calls the service desk. The same with the implementation of these comprehensive EHRs and other high-availability systems, that the need for a service desk that operates 24/7 is essential for the user community, and frankly, for the CIO’s reputation.
On the remote hosting side, we’re seeing a lot of hospitals looking at the requirements for meaningful use. Looking at their data center and coming to the realization that it’s going to take a large capital investment to have their data center meet the needs for a comprehensive high-availability system, and they’re looking at other options for that. Moving some of those hosting opportunities to a firm that specializes in healthcare data center outsourcing.
To avoid the capital investment and to have their systems be part of a network that has all the redundancies and business continuity built into it, we’re seeing many CIOs now choosing that as an option.
How does the 24-hour help desk service benefit hospitals?
It provides consistency for the clinicians. Whether they’re working at the hospital at 3:00 in the afternoon or 3:00 in the morning, when they have an issue with the technology or with the application, they have a place to call to get their problems resolved.
The second thing is that it provides a better experience for the end user. They tend to be happier. They even tend to evaluate the CIO in a better perspective. It creates a better experience for the clinician. The 24-hour availability ensures that medicine can be practiced now, not only from a number of times, but from a number of different places. That they’re going to receive the consistent, excellent support that they need to do their jobs.
CareTech supports many Web sites. Are hospitals doing anything creative with them?
They are. It starts with the realization on the hospital’s side that the Web presence is a very important strategy for attracting patients and organizations. It seems that hospitals are understanding what the Secretary of Health and Human Services is saying — that 60% of the Internet traffic is healthcare-related.
What we’re seeing, especially in competitive environments, is that hospitals that understand that a Web strategy and a Web outreach in their community are essential to getting patients into their system. We’re seeing more budget and marketing moving towards a Web presence and some of the interactive Web strategies that are being applied to differentiate the hospital in their community.
What factors make a hospital ready for a successful CPOE implementation?
We approach CPOE assessment from a comprehensive point of view. It starts with the belief that if your processes aren’t well defined and very good, that automating that processes are going to get you an automated bad process. So we start with, first of all, a comprehensive look. We start the comprehensive look at the hospital’s processes. We will do interviews with the department heads, the applicable clinicians, and we’ll actually even survey a number of the end-users to find out where they are from a process standpoint.
We then prepare a gap analysis between what processes needs to be fixed, or we’ll suggest a process that needs to be fixed, and what the automation would look like given the system that they’ve selected. We go about working with the hospital teams to close those process gaps, and then put the technology in to ensure a successful CPOE implementation.
We’ve done this many times across the country, and we found that this upfront work is critical for a successful implementation. We’re also able to have our clients that are moving towards CPOE talk to our other clients that have been there and done that and it helps them smooth out the corners that they are struggling with right now. It helps for a better implementation once they understand all that’s involved in it.
What about the company’s recent “Best in KLAS” award for extensive IT outsourcing?
Well, first and foremost, we recognize that we won this award due to the dedication of the men and women of CareTech Solutions who really, truly, have embodied our motto. Our motto is “Whatever It Takes”, and we believe the results of the “Best in KLAS” designation is a result of the focus and the attention provided by all of our team members who are intensely focused on ensuring that our customer has the best IT experience.
We do a lot of things to ensure that our team members are informed in the direction that the company is heading. We do a lot to share the “Best in KLAS” experiences — or the “Whatever It Takes” experiences, as we call them — and ensure that they understand that in the service business it is critically important that the customer needs to be well taken care of.
What makes your company a good place to work?
The fact is we’ve made CareTech one of the best places to work. First, I would say that we’re in an exciting industry in an exciting time right now. For us, it starts with recruiting. We try to recruit the top people in our industry so that we’re assuring all of our team members that they’re working with well-educated, highly motivated people.
We think that creates a good environment for information technology professionals who really kind of enter into this industry wanting to do a good job. They realize at the end of the day that they’re serving patients and hospitals, and that is a noble mission for an IT professional. The people that are attracted to our industry, I think, and our profession are aware of that. We try to get the top 10% of those folks.
The other thing that we do is we try to provide a very competitive benefits package. Even though the economy right now is very difficult, we look to provide the best for our employees. We have been able to maintain a lot of our benefits and even increase some of those benefits; and make available training opportunities, educational opportunities, and retirement investment opportunities for our people.
Any other thoughts that you’d care to share about the company and industry?
I think this is a great time to be in this profession, in this industry. The public mandates in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act have provided the funding for our industry to move forward. We’re seeing a mandate on the healthcare reform that has all roads leading to more technology to assist with the practice of medicine.
In fact, we like to say that line between the practice of medicine and technology is starting to blur. For information technology professionals that want to apply their trade in an industry that is helping move the healthcare agenda along, there’s no better time and no better opportunities right now for people in this business.