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A Chat with St. Joseph's New CIO Larry Stofko, Part II

February 24, 2008
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In this part of our interview with Stofko, he talks about his views on the CMIO role and his work implementing an enterprise master patient index.

In October, Larry Stofko took the IT helm at St. Joseph Health System. Stofko — promoted into the senior vice president and CIO job at the 14-hospital $3.7 billion not-for-profit Catholic health system — had been with the organization for seven years. Most recently, he served as vice president, IT strategy and innovation. So what’s it like to go from a supporting role to a true leadership position? Recently, HCI Editor-in-Chief Anthony Guerra chatted with Stofko about his new role, and what it takes to be a successful CIO in today’s environment.
Click here for Part I

AG: Sounds like it was very important to partner with the CMO. We hear this is becoming ever more critical to finding success as a CIO. What are your thoughts?

LS: Yes, absolutely. It’s interesting because right before Ben (Williams) left, we had started interviewing for a CMIO that reports to the CMO. So I’ll just give you a quick background. A couple of years ago, we were going to bring in a CMIO on a part-time basis within the IT department, and they were just focusing on doing our CPOE at one hospital at that point. The plan was that we would then take it across the organization. And what we had found is that it was more important to have local ownership since we were only doing one hospital. We ended up using that position for something more broad at that point. But now, as we have started to move our clinical systems across multiple hospitals, organizationally it was brought back up as a very important position to have. We thought that it made most sense to be under the CMO, so that we can balance that CMIO (Clyde Wesp, M.D.) working in partnership with the CIO to jointly take the solutions out to our hospitals.

So that’s a little background. Now I’ll go into my thought process today on how to make that most effective, and I think it is through partnership because we can jointly go to one of our hospitals that’s having a meeting with their physicians and talking about computerized physician order entry or our physician strategy with Stark relaxation. And he can very clearly talk and articulate, from the important of evidence-based medicine, the benefit of consistency in care. Especially when you’re talking to one hospital, they don’t necessarily, don’t take this the wrong way, it’s not as important to them that they’re part of a health system, (what’s important to them is) that they’re doing the right thing for their patients and their local market, where they’re dealing every day. But we also have to show them that just as evidence-based medicine and consistency are important, we don’t want to do waste and re-work, having to reinvent things at every hospital.

So he’s very good on that side. And I can talk from the consistency of implementation, of technology, of strength, of doing things in a consistent manner from a large scale of implementation process, and it’s interesting because of where we meet when talking about the infrastructure, the wireless and the wired, the carts, and everything that comes along with the clinical adoption. We meet when talking about workflow, redesign, and ultimately, real clinical transformation, where you can do things differently because of the technology. And there’s a piece of workflow that the IT group owns because it’s, ‘How do you need to change your workflow so that this new software package fits in.’ And then our CMIO looks at it more from a, ‘Well, how can you really deliver better care, different care than you may have in the past because of this technology being in place.’ And that’s where we kind of meet … in the middle. So that’s pretty exciting.

AG: Where do you stand on the argument between, on the one side, tailoring workflows to fit technology versus making sure technology is tailored to fit existing workflows?

LS: I think you have to have both parties at the table, or both parts at the table. Because we have found that one scenario is that you pull people together, you have them design future state and current state and you do the gap analysis and you try to find the software that will fill that gap. Or you’re kind of doing that at the same time you’re doing your selection process.