One CIO's Answer for Improving Healthcare IT

How Yale New Haven Health's CIO tackled integrating three IT systems into one while keeping customer care front and center.

As senior VP and CIO of Yale New Haven Health System and Yale School of Medicine, Daniel Barchi had the formidable task of integrating three separate IT teams while lowering healthcare costs and providing tools that facilitate quality services for patients.

The Health System generates $2.2 billion in annual revenue, has more than 5,100 medical staff plus another 13,000 employees, and in one year handles 90,000 patient discharges and 1.2 million outpatient visits. CIO magazine caught up with this accomplished healthcare CIO (he previously served as CIO of Carilion Health System) to learn how he managed the transition.

What do you find to be the biggest challenge with healthcare IT? It's critical to know your customer. When CIOs make a change to the system--implement a new tool, for example--it impacts the end user. In the case of a healthcare system, the end user may be a patient who is logging in to see an important lab test result or it could be a surgeon in the middle of an emergency operation. In all cases, we know our services are being used to care for sick people. It makes the concepts of customer service, response times, and even planned maintenance very challenging.

When you came on board last year, you inherited a structure that included three hospital CIOs. What did you change and why? There were three separate teams maintaining three different electronic medical records (EMR) systems, which did not communicate. To maximize our strengths and develop a single, integrated EMR, we combined into a single IT team. One of the CIOs is now VP of information services--he owns the help desk and field services, and has a team walking the hospital, making sure the tools we provide meet people's needs. Another is now VP of IT, with responsibility for all LAN, wireless and network operations, and for plans to consolidate several legacy data centers.

What are the business drivers behind your organizational strategy? Healthcare is by far the most complex industry that I know. It's highly fragmented. Most health systems are made up of independent hospitals with independent physician practices. To succeed under the new reforms, we are focused on integration [with the hope that] we can provide more standard care, attain better patient outcomes and reduce cost.

What approach did you take to staffing such a large initiative? To staff this new project and roll out the EMR, we needed an additional 150 people. We decided to use our own people, very few consultants, and brought together the best and the brightest from the Health System and School of Medicine. These talented people already knew healthcare and its practices. This is in keeping with our theme of how important it is to know your customer.

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