Overlake Hospital Medical Center: Jody Albright, Vice President of Information Services and Chief Information Officer

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Located in Bellevue, Wash., Overlake Hospital Medical Center is a 349-bed, not-for-profit regional medical center and the first Level III Trauma Center on the Eastside of Washington. A rapidly growing organization, Overlake just increased its Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) by an additional 12 beds and is expanding its clinical environment to include primary, urgent, and specialty care.

With Overlake’s rapid expansion has come an increased demand on information services and infrastructure. Jody Albright, vice president of information services and chief information officer, said this has meant a complete upgrade of the hospital’s environment.

“We have a new wired and wireless network,” she said. “We built a new data center, and we’ve been moving all of our old servers and old architecture into a virtualized server environment in the new data center. We are implementing virtual desktops throughout the clinical areas in preparation for our move to electronic medical records.”

In the application areas, Albright said they have made significant investments in radiology, breast-health, and cardiology imaging systems, as well as implementing an ambulatory EMR and beginning to upgrade to a new inpatient EMR. The lack of integration and enterprise functionality in the two major vendors, in addition to other “best of breed” specialty systems, resulted in a change of course.

“We made the choice, instead of continuing down the path of implementing clinical documentation, CPOE, and physician documentation in our inpatient environment with the current vendor, that we would halt everything and perform a detailed due diligence, which resulted in the decision to implement Epic across the enterprise,” she explained.

She added that Overlake is implementing a healthcare information exchange for its community of physicians who may already have an EMR platform other than Epic. Overlake will also continue to maintain its long-term relationship with Philips in imaging.

Confronting a changing paradigm

With healthcare’s consistently changing paradigm, Albright said it is important that CIOs clearly understand the strategic direction and requirements of their hospital and where it is going, how it’s going to get there, and how IT can help define the achievement of those goals.

“Healthcare is an interesting environment where there are more niche applications than I think I’ve seen anywhere else without data-exchange standards to help them talk together,” she said. “There are so many different requirements, the question is how you get the infrastructure in place that is going to be nimble and stable enough to be able to support these activities as they’re defined.”

To this end, IT must be a part of the executive teams that identify which technologies will move them forward, Albright stated. For example, at Overlake, the Epic implementation will be directed by the vice president of quality under a new title, Systems Change Management. Richard Bryan, vice president of systems change management, is leading the implementation as an organizational change management program, not as an IT project. As CIO, Albright will serve as a consultant and a member of the executive steering committee.

“The implementation of a system is about the business,” Albright said. “How it is going to improve the business, and having it led by a business owner is a requirement for success.”

The trends of change

Albright sees virtualization as the next definite trend in healthcare IT. This is a drastic change from the past.

“It used to be that many of the applications couldn’t be virtualized and were created for one specific architecture and capability,” she said. “The vendors are waking up and doing a great job actually enabling their applications to be virtualized either on the server end or the front end.”

Then, there’s the increased involvement of the end user. Albright said the goal now is to make the clinician as skilled in the software and proficient on the technology as the IT specialist, simply because the clinician is reliant on the technologies from the time they arrive until the time they leave.

Finally, critical for healthcare’s future is the transfer of data from one system to another and having an overarching standard by which that transfer is conducted.

“If you look at manufacturing design, auto industry, airplane, shipbuilding, they not only have data exchange at a 2-D level or textual level, but they have data exchange at a three-dimensional level,” Albright said.

The ability to achieve this standard, not just on a localized level, but also on a national level in healthcare, should be easy, she added. But for some reason, it hasn’t been easy at all.

Changing the culture

When Albright came to Overlake three years ago, the infrastructure was old and had experienced minimal investments in the previous six years. The IT organization was also reactive and had relatively low morale and engagement. Then, on Albright’s thirtieth day as CIO, there was a network outage, and one of the hospital’s main routers caught on fire.

With only one back-up left in the system, she was able to maintain hospital operations, but she soon discovered that the entire hospital network was filled with equipment that had not been manufactured for the last six to eight years and had not been supported for four years.

As a result, components were being purchased from whoever had them, resulting in an infrastructure that was cobbled together with an “if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it” mentality.

“Overlake knew it had a problem and hired a consultant to put together a five-year plan for infrastructure replacements and upgrades and key information system implementations at the hospital that also included replacing the network,” she said. “The network outage just really lit the fire under the organization. It basically kick-started everything running at that point and we’ve been running ever since.”

Now, she said they have an organization filled with can-do people. Compared to the national level, this mid-sized regional hospital is significantly above the national benchmarks for IT engagement and below the Solucient benchmarks for costs.

“Everybody is engaged as we move forward and look to the future,” Albright said, adding, “It’s an exciting time in healthcare right now. It’s a time of incredible uncertainty and change and that opens so many opportunities.”

-by Pete Fernbaugh

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