In this part of our interview, Hickman discusses the benefits of pursuing outside interests and the evolving role of the CIO.
Albany Medical Center encompasses the 631-bed Albany Medical Center Hospital, Albany Medical College and the Albany Medical Center Foundation, Inc. At the helm of this academic health sciences center is Senior Vice President and CIO George “Buddy” Hickman, who was recently named CHIME/HIMSS John E. Gall, Jr. CIO of the Year Award. HCI Associate Editor Kate Huvane, who was in attendance at HIMSS when Hickman delivered a presentation during a workshop entitled, “Introduction to Healthcare and IT Enabling Technologies,” recently had a chance to catch up with Hickman and chat about his work.
KH: What are some of the projects you currently working on at AMC? What projects are on your radar?
BH: Siemens’ Soarian Clinician is an evolving EHR deployment for the hospital organization. We’ve leveraged it somewhat for the practice as well, but it’s very hospital-centric in terms of what we’re doing, and if you’ve tracked that development over the last few years, you understand the newness of Soarian and the promise it brings to the market. We’re finally seeing some traction with Soarian and are very hopeful that we’ll see some additional modules and go-lives in the not-too-distant future.
The same goes for Allscripts’ TouchWorks for our practice, where we are positioning for our first go-lives of the full suite around the end of the summer.
We’ve been undergoing a build process there and we’re right on the cusp of some early deployments and really, a staging of two years of active roll-out activities. It’s like, how many times do you come to the starting line on these projects where you’re going through the next phase and then followed by a next phase, and so on. But we’re right at the cusp of a two-year drill to get it spread across all of our various clinics and our faculty practice.
The integration work for these and many other things are high-end and continual works in progress. We’re also replacing our Novell operating system and e-messaging infrastructure with Microsoft suites, which is kind of like pulling the foundation out from under your house along with the wiring and plumbing, and shoving it all back in.
While we’ve got all this application stuff going on, we’re at the front end of a legacy revenue cycle systems replacement. A number of the administrative systems for the college and otherwise will see improvements this year, having just completed replacing the fundamental package systems that support all the college administrative functions. There are numerous infrastructure projects and deployments underway that include additional waves of mobile and point-of-care devices, new security tools, intranet and extranet improvements, also having just replaced the innards of that. And also an upwards paradigm shift in how we’re looking at business recovery capabilities. So we’ve got a lot of stuff going on.
KH: It certainly sounds like it. So with all of these projects on your horizon, how do you meet the challenges with budgeting?
BH: The way that I think most people do — very courageously. I think that the way we process that here is, as a CIO, you have to get a sense around knowing what you have to get done as mission critical, and go to the table with that base in mind, but also appreciating that it really has to be defined from the top of the organization and working in concert with executive sponsors. In other words, the top comes from the floor, and the floor comes from the top.
For us, we have processes that respect that whether it’s capital-intensive, meaning annual cycle approval stuff, or routine operational requests. We in both cases have ways of creating organizational participation and priority-setting. So very little is done in a vacuum, I’ll say it that way. It’s very much a vetting and advocacy process, and that’s what we intend to continue to do.
KH: You serve on several boards and committees. Can you tell me about some of the initiatives that you are involved with?