Interior Health Authority: Malcolm Griffin, CIO for I.M.I.T.

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Malcolm Griffin is the Chief Information Officer for the Information Management & Information Technology (IMIT) Department of Interior Health Authority, one of six health authorities in British Columbia. It serves 265,000 square kilometers and a population of about 750,000. As a predominantly rural health authority–the largest city has a population of 175,000–the organization is wired for leading technology. It has garnered several awards regarding its information management and technology practices in recent years.

Turning Physicians from Skeptics to Supporters

“Most of our physicians were very skeptical when we started,” says Griffin. “But as we got through it [the initial pilot program] they became our biggest supporters. Our physicians now say they can’t imagine living without the system.”

In 2005, Interior Health began implementing a vision that would eventually mark them as leaders in integrating information technology into healthcare. Several initiatives were introduced, the major ones falling under the headings of an electronic health record, a tele-health program and patient safety systems.

“With the safe hospital project, our goal was to make sure we had all the technology support and business process support necessary to allow us to insure we were giving the safest, most effective care possible,” says Griffin. “Phlebotomist come to the bedside and scan the patient and then also scan the vial making sure they have the right match. Bar coded drugs and identification wrist bands are scanned by nursing staff at the bedside to make sure we have the right drug, dose, route and time for the right patient.”

They began working with physician order entry and began linking back to make sure the primary care physicians received the results via an electronic interface.

“We also wanted to have a medical summary of the information that is captured in the primary care clinics so that when a patient presented in an emergency, the physician would be able to access a summary of that patient and make sure they understood the needs of that patient better,” Griffin says. “From a holistic perspective, we are able to treat in a more effective manner, not only from a facility perspective but from a community perspective.”

All of this was done on an older information system platform, yet worked so well they were able to convince stakeholders to build a business case to do a wholesale upgrade of the platform to a more user-friendly application.

“We took about 500 of the clinicians and put them into 30 working groups and spent a year working on standards for nomenclature and process optimization,” says Griffin. “When we finished a year ago in September, we began building the process and the nomenclature in the new information system. It will be rolled out in six states, starting with one of fairly significant size with two cities and a number of rural communities. We’ll be rolling that out over the course of next 18 months.”

Partners in Technology

The primary partner in the technology platform upgrade is Medical Information Technology, Inc., more commonly known as Meditech. “The Meditech version is much more user friendly from a clinician perspective,” says Griffin.

They use Polycom equipment extensively in the tele-health program. Interior Health Authority is involved in about 10,000 tele-health consults per year in about 52 different clinical areas. In residential care settings, they work with Goldcare, the healthcare division of Campana Systems, Inc.

IBM and EMC are also large partners in terms of office and information technology.

From Technical Enabler to Business Partner

“I really believe that the CIO role has changed from a technical enabler—we still are responsible for enabling process through technology—but it’s really becoming more of a a business partner,” says Griffin. “The job now is more about understanding the core business of healthcare and sitting down with the folks who are actually responsible for delivering healthcare in an operational setting. It is to really understand what their needs are and to align our investments and our strategy with that of the organization.”

The Patient Also as Partner

“We’re seeing a new trend—which I think is a good one—which is to bring personal devices into the workplace,” says Griffin. “It’s very seldom now that we expect people to have separate work and home devices. As we see that evolve, we experience challenges regarding security. We have to be much more diligent in our care and how we protect information and secure information. That’s a big challenge moving forward.”

Griffin also sees this trend in technology changing the role of the patient in healthcare. “I think that what we’re going to see is the expectation that the patient is going to become a true partner in care,” he says. “They are going to expect to have the ability to provide, interact with, and access information. I believe that as we move into more of a community model of care where your primary care provider who is going to carry you through whatever needs you have as a patient, may or may not be a physician. It is going to become a different model than we see today.”

-by T.M. Simmons

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