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Achieving a Community-Wide Approach to M.D. Connectivity

September 7, 2010
by Mark Hagland
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Web-Exclusive Interview: George Brenckle, Ph.D., SVP and CIO, UMass Memorial Health Care

The issue of physician connectivity is one that is posing challenges—and offering opportunities—for CIOs nationwide. At the Worcester, Mass.-based UMass Memorial Health Care, a seven-campus integrated health system, Senior Vice President and CIO George Brenckle, Ph.D., has focused his efforts in that area and on the ongoing development of a dashboard that allows all types of physicians, whether from among the system’s 1,500 salaried physician organization, or from among about 1,000 community-based physicians, to view the entire patient record, across multiple systems that include the Malvern, Pa.-based Siemens Healthcare’s Soarian system (inpatient), and the Chicago-based Allscripts’ system (outpatient). Brenckle and his colleagues are using the Chicago-based Initiate Systems and the Pittsburgh-based dbMotion, which have developed a community-wide dashboard for patient information for physicians, for that capability. His approach is one of many diverse approaches to physician connectivity being pursued out in the field. Healthcare Informatics will provide a broader look at the subject in its upcoming October cover story.

Brenckle spoke recently on this topic to HCI Editor-in-Chief Mark Hagland. Below are excerpts from that interview.

Healthcare Informatics: Please tell me about your health system.

George Brenckle, Ph.D.: We have seven campuses in our integrated system. In Worcester, we have three campuses that make up UMass Memorial Medical Center. We’re affiliated with UMass Medical School. Our total bed size is about 1,100 beds. And our facilities vary in size from that of the medical center, with 780 beds, to a community hospital with two campuses and around 125 beds, as well as a 42-bed rural hospital.

We’re Allscripts for ambulatory, and are implementing Siemens Soarian for inpatient. And we have a multi-campus medical center in Worcester, and then four member hospitals across central Massachusetts, and a faculty practice that is salaried, and a community medical group that is salaried also.

HCI: How many physicians are in those two groups?

Brenckle: Altogether, we have about 1,500 salaried physicians in our system. We also have about 1,000 independent community physicians who are affiliated with us. They are located throughout central and western Massachusetts, reaching into southern Vermont and New Hampshire and northern Connecticut. And about 30 percent of inpatient admissions come through our affiliated physicians.

HCI: You’ve created a portal for the physicians?

Brenckle: Yes. A lot of places have tried to take a single-vendor approach, with one database, clinical data repository, EMR, etc. That approach has a lot of advantages, but also a lot of disadvantages. One of the things I was confronted with when I got here was, how much do I rip out? We already had a major commitment with Allscripts when I came in 2007. And the Allscripts implementation was well under way. And right when I got here, we were bringing our first pilot sites up live, and the idea of stopping that and reconfiguring; you had to rethink that. Another disadvantage of trying to go with one vendor is that, I don’t care how big you are, you can’t be good at everything. And so by saying, we’re going with one vendor, you have to make some compromises. And the third thing is, if you say, in the future, I’m going to reach out to the community, you’re in a multi-vendor situation inevitably anyway, as you try to integrate with hundreds of community physicians and some community medical centers.

HCI: Tell me about the interfacing between Allscripts and Siemens Soarian?