OSF Healthcare System: Jim Mormann, Chief Information Officer

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Jim-Mormann-thumbHealthcare is rapidly changing these days, and information technology is the fastest growing sector of healthcare delivery. What once was left in the capable hands of the “technical people” is now an integral part of delivering care at the bedside and in business decision making.

Likewise, the role of chief information officer has evolved from a manager of different software and hardware systems to a leader involved in the organization’s strategic planning and in understanding the day-to-day needs of care providers.

“Information technology now touches every aspect of a healthcare organization,” said Jim Mormann, chief information officer of OSF Healthcare System. “In healthcare, we are just beginning to scratch the surface of what business intelligence really means. CIOs now have to consider the personal interaction between patients and caregivers, operational issues, and strategic investments. You have to speak to the organizational side in a non-IT fashion and communicate organizational goals to IT staff.”

Growing IT connectivity and efficiency

OSF Healthcare System, based in Peoria, Ill., is a Catholic-based integrated healthcare network consisting of eight medical centers and two colleges of nursing. The system also includes a home health network and OSF Medical Group with more than 600 primary-care and specialist physicians and nearly 300 advance-practice providers. To align more closely its care-delivery system with physicians, OSF developed clinical service lines in cardiovascular services, neurosciences, and pediatrics.

Mormann said during the past three years the hospital has been deploying a new electronic health records system, moving toward an integrated record across hospitals, primary-care settings, specialty care, and home care using the Epic suite of products. Re-educating staff to use one consolidated system as opposed to several systems for different service lines has been a major component of the deployment, along with handling the state’s telecommunications services, which are behind those of many other communities.

“Having a common system platform allows us to produce better quality outcomes, making us more efficient in what we do,” Mormann said.

He added that consolidation of IT systems is the current trend, as everyone wants to share information and have quick access to records.

Planning for IT implementation

With most healthcare organizations strapped for resources, technology investments must be made on long-term planning and with the goal of efficiency in mind. Strategic planning within the IT department as well as on an executive level is key to successfully implementing any new electronic records or other system. Mormann said ensuring that the appropriate components of the organization, including physicians and clinical staff, are on board from the start is essential to keeping a project from becoming “just another IT-based project.”

“With the technology that’s available today, we have to transform our services through process change for any IT project to be successful,” he said. “If the organization doesn’t invest time in process change, three or four years down the road that investment gets replaced because it doesn’t do what everyone expected it to do.”

One pitfall he sees happening often is when the software company sells an organization on the business strategy, only to find the product doesn’t fit within the company’s structure. It is more ideal for the organization to decide on its own strategy and search for a product that meets those needs.

Mormann said OSF has been successful at letting the appropriate components of the organization drive the project, rather than IT leading. With the deployment of the Epic suite, the organization spent a lot of time upfront on process change and allowed the product to support those changes.

Future growth and accessibility

For now, most organizations are making sure that  they have a common electronic health record to meet Meaningful Use standards.

“We are seeing everyone jump on board with Meaningful Use,” he said. “The stimulus is a significant aspect of that, but it’s really about using systems to produce data that are meaningful to the delivery side.”

Most organizations are now looking at ways to share those records across EHR systems and through smartphones or tablets, allowing providers more access to patient information at the bedside.

Mormann said he is excited to see this future. Finding ways to work through the challenges presented by such open access is a concern, however, especially when it comes to protecting patient privacy on secure networks.

Another area that is rapidly expanding is telemedicine, which has been floating around the market for about 15 years, but recently has become more common.

“Telemedicine is an area of great opportunity as we have products that do what we need them to do, and we are finding that consumers are no longer afraid of them,” he said. “I think that will cause a new look and feel toward our world, as we have been talking about telemedicine for some time.”

All of this proves that healthcare must be more adaptable in today’s environment than it has typically been in the past.

As Mormann said, “Unless government puts out a mandate, we are slow to change.”

But increasing efficiency and consumer demand for more access are big drivers in today’s marketplace, and the role of CIO is steadily becoming more influential in major strategic planning for the long-term viability of an organization.

-by Patricia Chaney

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