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One-on-One with Atlantic Health CIO Linda Reed

May 14, 2008
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Linda Reed says that working with core clinical vendors can be like a marriage — you take the good with the bad.

Atlantic Health is a New Jersey-based care delivery system comprised of Morristown Memorial Hospital, Overlook Hospital, Goryeb Children's Hospital, Gagnon Heart Hospital, Carol G. Simon Cancer Center, and Atlantic Neuroscience Institute. With thousands of beds under her purview, system vice president and CIO Linda Reed has quite a bit on her plate. Recently, she talked with HCI Editor-in-Chief Anthony Guerra about her plans for the health system, and the evolving role of the CIO.

AG: Let’s start off with your reflections of HIMSS, any impressions you had that come to mind?

LR: I think the thing about HIMSS is it is getting so, so large that it’s so hard to get to anything that’s relevant. I don’t know if anybody else has noticed that, but it’s almost like a smattering of things, and you can only get a flavor. You have to try and take a look at where the trends are going to be. It almost reminds me of the Gartner Hype Curve, where you start getting a look, it’s like the electronic superstore, you get to take a look at what’s going to be on the hype curve, knowing that, at some point, you’re going to end up in that trough of disillusionment. I think the other thing that always hits me is exactly how many small companies are there that may not be there in the future, so you should use it as a barometer versus something that’s real.

AG: How do you evaluate those small companies to see if it’s worth taking a risk on them?

LR: I think it depends on the need and how burning the need is, and sometimes we’re willing to take a chance on a smaller company. Some of the things that we found, when we have done that, sometimes they’re not large enough to scale to an organization our size. So, we have to be always very careful. And then the other thing that happens is that they wind up getting bought, which is a lot of the reason sometimes they’re there. It’s not just courting customers. I think they court larger companies to see if they’re a viable candidate for a portfolio somewhere, but I think it really depends on the need of the moment and exactly how much of an industrial strength solution you need.

AG: Tell me about how you’ve dealt with M&A taking place regarding your vendors.

LR: I think sometimes it depends on what the application is; it depends on the company that acquires them. I think what we find — and I’m a large McKesson customer — we’ve looked at some smaller companies, and you bring them in and do a few things with them and, what we find is, once they get into a larger company, it depends on where they fall in the company. As an example, we’ve got lots of boards — patient care boards — so you’ve got a bed board, we’ve got a bed board, we’ve got a board that shows orders for CPOE, we’ve got something called Care Organizer, so there’s lots of patient boards; they bring in another product that has another board; how may boards can you put up?

Just as an example, how do they integrate the new product that they bring in? Where are the redundancies? That’s what really hits us sometimes — now they’ve bought a new product because it does function X, but it whacks us because now there’s just such a redundancy of functionality.

We work with McKesson on a couple of programs and each one of them has its own scheduling solution.

AG: So, do you decide which one you want to use?

LR: Sometimes you can’t. Sometimes it’s so siloed, so I think that's one of the things, and it’s not just McKesson, it’s everything that we work with. Large vendors bring a new product in, and they haven’t really fully thought through exactly where the product is going to sit and where the redundancies are. So, it’s not bad if you’re a customer that’s just got one product or you’re a new customer, but those that are existing long-term customers really get hit with it.

AG: When it comes to M&A among your vendors, I imagine you’ve seen different levels in their communication to you regarding what’s going on. What are the CIO’s needs in that situation?