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The 2011 Healthcare Informatics Innovator Awards: Honoring Leaders in Healthcare IT Innovation

February 4, 2011
by Mark Hagland, Editor-in-Chief
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What Makes for an Innovator Organization? Read on and Find Out

What does it mean to be an innovator in healthcare today? Just ask the folks at Children's Hospital and Medical Center in Omaha, at Southeast Texas Medical Associates (SETMA), and at HealthInfoNet, Maine's statewide health information exchange (HIE). The leaders at these three organizations exemplify leadership across a broad range of dimensions. Most importantly, in the face of a daunting array of policy, reimbursement, operational, staffing, and other challenges, leaders at Children's of Omaha, SETMA, and HealthInfoNet are moving forward boldly to create healthcare of the future, strategically leveraging information technology to improve care quality, patient safety, efficiency, and data exchange.

As a result, the leadership teams from those three organizations have been named Healthcare Informatics Innovator Award winners, following in the footsteps of two previous groups of outstanding patient care organizations. In 2009, this magazine recognized Detroit Medical Center, Johns Hopkins Medicine, and BayCare Health System; in 2010, we paid tribute to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, and Chester County Hospital. What do the current three winners of our award program have in common with the previous six? In every case, senior leaders in all nine of these organizations have taken personal leadership risks in order to compel their organizations forward towards a set of clearly defined strategic goals that span a spectrum of care quality, patient safety, efficiency, and effectiveness areas. What's more, they have helped, in a team-based, multidisciplinary fashion, to drive organized, measurable improvements in care delivery or operations (or both). And all nine organizations have much to show for their efforts.

In the case of Children's of Omaha, George Reynolds, M.D., who serves both as that organization's CIO and its CMIO, has helped lead a veritable cultural revolution, helping his colleagues to infuse care delivery, financial administration, and just about every other kind of operational activity in that pediatric facility, with a passion for data-driven performance improvement. The result, in a period of just a few years, has been massive reductions in medication and prescribing errors; an end to physician alert fatigue; healthy increases in important screenings and examinations across a variety of areas; and improvements in emergency department wait times and a reduction in transcription costs, all while also achieving a 5-percent reduction in the organization's overall operating budget. All of these changes have been facilitated by the proliferating use of dashboards to support continuous performance improvement.

At SETMA, physician leaders have been aggressively engaged in leveraging that organization's electronic health record (EHR) to transform care delivery and individual physician performance. Under the direction of CEO James L. Holly, M.D., the SETMA Model of Care has emerged-a model that is helping every doctor in the 22-physician practice track his or her patient outcomes, as well as analyze his or her patient panel. The result? A level of continuous performance measurement and improvement that has led to a massive reduction in unnecessary variations in care, and vastly improved the care management of patients with chronic illnesses.

And in Maine, Devore Culver, executive director of HealthInfoNet, and his colleagues, have been busy creating an HIE model that is both sustainable and is producing meaningful clinical data exchange statewide, while bringing that state's providers together in meaningful ways to improve care delivery for Maine's widely scattered residents.

We at Healthcare Informatics are honored and delighted to bring to you these accounts of innovation, in the hope that they will inspire the leaders of healthcare organizations nationwide. From our team to yours, please enjoy the case studies that follow. And heartfelt congratulations to the winners of this year's Innovator Awards program!

Healthcare Informatics 2011 February;28(2):10