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One-on-One with Greenwich Hospital CIO Jimmy Weeks

December 31, 2009
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Whether it's through face time, attending workshops or Tweeting, Weeks says there's always something CIOs can learn

Jimmy Weeks

Jimmy Weeks

Greenwich Hospital is a 174-bed community hospital serving residents in Fairfield County, Connecticut, and West Chester County, New York. A member of the Yale New Haven Health System, Greenwich is a teaching hospital that is affiliated with the Yale University School of Medicine. In 2009, the hospital was awarded Stage 6 EMR designation by HIMSS Analytics. Recently, HCI Associate Managing Editor Kate Gamble spoke with CIO Jimmy Weeks about the importance of establishing solid relationships with other C-suite executives, the benefits of rolling out wireless in newer buildings, and the value of social media.

KG: What is the relationship between you and Mark Anderson, CIO at Yale New Haven? Are you in contact fairly often?

JW: Mark and I have been talking even before the affiliation was inked (in 1998). My thought was, if we're going to be going down this road, I'd rather know who my peer is up there and talk about where we think things are going, sooner rather than later. So Mark and I actually reached out to each other and had lunch about 10 years ago. And we meet pretty often. Some days we'll talk on the phone two or three times. I have a solid line to the CFO and the CEO, and I have a dotted line to him. Whatever he needs, I provide him with, and vice versa. He's very supportive.

KG: So establishing that relationship right off the bat has definitely had its benefits?

JW: I think so. There are always opportunities to find out what worked for one person and what didn't, and what challenges we can both learn from. So we have formal meetings every two weeks, and that's not including any specific project meetings.

Not a day goes by where we don't talk or e-mail, and that's because there's so much going on. For a while, the focus at Greenwich was on making sure we have our EMR up and running, and on expanding our network. We've been on a tear for the last 10 years - we built an entire new facility. But now the focus, especially with the changes brought on by HITECH, is on things like health information exchanges. Who are we going to collaborate with? Are we going to go in with eHealth Connecticut or are we going to do our own thing, and which physician offices are we going to speak to first? There are just huge challenges right now. And it's for the betterment of the patient, but still, these are technical and resource challenges.

And the most value resource of all is the staff. You can buy the best system out there, you can buy the best infrastructure and you can have the funding, but if you don't have people that are seasoned professionals who know healthcare and IT and can put the two together, you're just going to flounder. Because the vendors, at least the ones we've worked with, are also lean right now and don't have much depth.

KG: How much has Greenwich been impacted by the economy? Have you had to put plans on the backburner?

JW: The hospital has gone through some downsizing, but it's been mostly through attrition, and mostly in areas other than IT. But we did recently lose all three LIS people (to organizations located closer to their homes). We've found that recruiting and retaining people is really tough, especially in an area like Greenwich. Even though the real estate market took a beating, this town is still hugely expensive to live in, so most of the staff commutes from further out.

And it's hard because the hours are long. Even when you go home, the nature of this facility is that people have dinner and logging in from home. We recently came on board with CPOE, so we have two or three of the nurses going online to see if the orders are okay, if the clinicians are having any issues, and if they are in fact logging on and using it. And they all do it in their off-time. I don't have expectations that they do it; they're just an amazing team.

KG: The building you're now in is fairly new. How much of an advantage has that been in terms of being able to roll out wireless technologies?

JW: The old building had issues with energy efficiency and brickwork that needed help and constant maintenance. With the new building, my team was lucky enough to be brought to the table with the architects and the electrical engineers to design a brand new infrastructure. We put in Category 6E and 10-Gigabit fiber solutions and decent-sized IDF (Intermediate Distribution Frame) closets, brand new Cisco switches, and a brand new wireless network (from Cisco). We had the opportunity that many of my peers didn't have.

“We're a small, community hospital; we're not Columbia Presbyterian or Yale New Haven where we have huge needs. Go out and find something that does 80 percent of what we need.”

We have about 300 wireless devices, and that includes everything from wireless computers on wheels and laptops to SpectraLink wireless phones and Vocera badges. We'll be adding between 250 and 280 wireless IV pumps shortly. The idea is, first we'll get them up on wireless so they can be managed by biomed and pharmacy, and then our goal is to integrate the IV pumps with the Meditech system so that the start and stop times flow over and the orders are verified. Our goal - and the vendor warns us that we'll be an early adopter - will be to integrate that so the nurse or the IV technician doesn't have to document everything manually.
Greenwich Hospital