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One-on-One with CentraState CIO Neal Ganguly, Part II

March 26, 2008
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In this part of our interview, Ganguly talks more about switching from Meditech to Siemens, along with the importance of holding clinicians accountable for using IT.

CentraState Healthcare System
is a private, not-for-profit health organization headquartered in Freehold, N.J. The system consists of the

CentraState Medical Center, an acute-care medical center licensed for 271 beds; the

Star and Barry Tobias Ambulatory Campus, a 171,000-square-foot outpatient center opened in late 2007; and t

hree senior living communities. Recently, HCI Editor-in-Chief Anthony Guerra had a chance to chat with CIO Neal Ganguly (also head of the HIMSS New Jersey Chapter) about his accomplishments, challenges and goals.

AG: So until the desired action is taken, the rules engine will continue to alert people that something needs to be done?

NG: It will continue to alert people and continue to monitor for the desired outcome.

AG: I was speaking to Larry Stofko, CIO at St. Joseph’s Health System, and he talked about the fact that while you want to work with vendors that are flexible, you don’t want to work with those that have no limits to what they’ll do for each client. Does that sound right?

NG: I totally agree with him. That’s the opposite end of the spectrum where now you don’t have a product, you have a bunch of customized versions of a product and then the vendor can't roll out upgrades easily and things of that nature. So that is definitely an issue. I’d like to think as CIOs, we generally take more of a broad approach to say, ‘Listen vendor, this is something that doesn’t just impact CentraState, this impacts the industry as a whole, that’s why we want you to focus on this.’ And we’ve kind of taken that approach with Siemens, but you know, we all have selfish needs too, and we hope and lobby for our needs to be met. But I think we’re kind of working towards a realistic goal.

Siemens has set up an executive advisory council, and they constantly tweak the constituents of that group, as well as how the group functions. But it’s been an interesting feedback-providing mechanism where they're really surveying a nice diverse mix of their customer base to understand what are the needs going forward so they can prioritize their development pipeline.

AG: You went from Meditech, you hit the market, you wound up picking Siemens. Is there a reason that you didn’t go with a different vendor, such as Cerner, GE or McKesson? Those were all options for you, but you picked Siemens, tell me why.

NG: We did look at all of the above. I’ll tell you one by one a little bit. Epic didn’t want to play with us. We were too small for them. I don’t know if that’s still their model, but at the time, they were really focusing more on academic medical centers and large facilities. In terms of Cerner, we had looked at them, we looked at McKesson, we looked at Per Se, which has since sold the product to Misys. We also looked at QuadraMed.

One area we looked at was obviously functionality. We had a requirement for certain functionalities that we were going to rank. Price was another decision variable. And then we added a section criterion called relationship. Our relationship with Meditech has been one of very much this strict kind of — I don’t know what words to use — this very traditional customer/vendor relationship. ‘You bought something from me, if it’s broken, call me; otherwise do you what you need to do.’ Even when we approached them to say, ‘We’re not really that happy with some of this, can you help us?’ It wasn’t something that was part of their business model. They tried, and I want to give them credit for that. They did assign an executive who had tried to work with us, but really it wasn’t their corporate culture. Their culture was, ‘We have got this product, and people are buying it. So if you don’t like it, too bad.’ It wasn’t quite as blatant as that, but that was the overall message ultimately.