How IT Creates Lasting Health Benefits

Cedars-Sinai Health Systems' CEO and CIO work together to coordinate healthcare services and gain a competitive advantage

An interview with Tom Priselac, president and CEO of Cedars-Sinai Health Systems, and Darren Dworkin, CIO.

Tom Priselac: The Cedars-Sinai Health System's mission spans patient care, medical education, clinical research, community services for the uninsured, and improving health status. There's no way for us to deliver high-quality care in a cost-effective way without using IT as a strategic differentiator. In 2007, we embarked on an electronic medical records (EMR) initiative called CS-Link.

Darren Dworkin: As CIO, I looked at the processes that EMR would affect and how improvements across all divisions of this $2.5 billion organization would enable business growth and enhance the patient experience. The tagline for the project, now in its second-to-last phase, was "One Patient, One Record," stressing collaboration. We spent time convincing stakeholders to view EMR as an opportunity to redesign how they work and improve business processes. One of the most visible outcomes of CS-Link for patients and caregivers will be a portal that bridges the silos in the healthcare network. This portal will eventually be available to all our patients. (For more on Cedars-Sinai, see "Can Watson, IBM's Supercomputer, Cure Cancer?")

Priselac: The data and information requirements in healthcare are enormous, especially with healthcare reform. The executive team identified EMR as a key objective in the strategic plan and communicated this focus to staff, helping them understand the project's importance to Cedars' short-term and long-term success.

Dworkin: By classifying EMR as a multi-year priority, we were able to maintain momentum and collaboration through peaks and valleys. Demonstrating small wins was important, and so was keeping an organizational eye on the end goal. I don't think people wake up in the morning and decide they want to work separately. They would like to work together; it's just hard to do. If you give people the right tools that are easy to use, they will step out of their silos.

Priselac: When you think about the benefits of a project of this magnitude, it stimulates staff to think creatively about other ways to use technology. We'll have a quantity and quality of data that we've not had before. Optimizing data for research purposes will help develop services like personalized drug treatments and screening of large populations to determine the most effective public health approach. Merging clinical and financial information will only enhance our ability for strategic planning.

Dworkin: Since EMR was so high-profile, staff began to see IT as more than a service provider. Today, people understand our capability to partner and drive clinical initiatives, and soon we'll move to provide predictive analytics as well as efficiencies. I tell my team that we're never done.

As told to CIO Executive Council Manager of CIO Programs Carrie Mathews. For more on the CIO Executive Council, visit council.cio.com.

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