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One-on-One with HUMC's CIO Lex Ferrauiola & CTO Ben Bordonaro

July 22, 2008
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Hackensack University Medical Center’s IT chiefs are taking on the ultimate task — a big to big conversion.

Playing it safe doesn’t seem to be the most important concern for Hackensack University Medical Center’s CIO Lex Ferrauiola (left) and CTO Ben Bordonaro. If that was the case, they’d almost certainly leave well enough alone, and Siemens and GE in place. But the duo has other plans — turning HUMC from a medical center held together with interfaces to a truly integrated organization, promoting data transfer across the continuum of care, from inpatient services to ambulatory physician practices. To make that dream a reality, the organization has settled on Epic. And while its vendor of choice comes with a high price tag, Ferrauiola and Bordonaro say you get what you pay for.

AG: Give me an idea of your IT environment, your core clinicals. I think you’re with Siemens now.

LF: Well, actually we’re mixed. We’ve been on GE LastWord. It’s now being sunset. GE’s trying to get everybody to move to the Centricity product. But that’s really our clinical information system. We’ve been on it since 2000 for nursing documentation and CPOE and pharmacy, etc. and so forth. We’ve been on SMS or Siemens Invision since 1990 to do all outpatient accounting.

We had the vision about seven or eight years ago that we really wanted to move to integration, including not just the hospital facility, but also the community physicians. We really wanted to do a model that would be able to host practice management, EMRs for the community physicians as much as we could within the constraints of the law.

We were going to go in one direction but we had to change paths. We are very close to finalizing a contract with Epic. The plan is to go full-force with Epic for everything, the inpatient, the outpatient, host the community physicians, give them the service to ambulatory and EMR practice management. That’s pretty much what our plan is.

We have a certain degree of integration now between SMS and GE, and some of the environmental systems. We really want to have full integration.

AG: So just to be clear, the Epic implementation would be a replacement of Siemens’ products?

LF: It would be a replacement of GE, which is our clinical system now, and it would also be a replacement of Siemens for the patient accounting system. It would be replacement for different vendor systems for different applications. For radiology, we have GE. For the ER, we have LogiCare. All that would be part of the Epic system.

AG: The two main systems that you would be replacing would be Siemens and GE, plus a lot of ancillary systems, so you're going to be an Epic shop.

LF: Yes, that’s the vision. It will happen in phases, it won’t happen in one big bang. We have to do the inpatient clinicals first. We have to replace the GE system, because that product is being sunset by GE.

AG: Can you tell me a little bit about what that takes to move from one large vendor to another?

LF: You have to have a clear vision of what it is you want, what the end is going to look like. In our case, it’s full integration so that the community physician will have access to the same information; the patient would have access to their information from home. It would really be a foundation of one patient, one record that would be accessible all the way around. First of all, it takes a lot of money to move in that direction. When you make a decision that the platform that you’re currently on is either going away or needs to go away, you have to do the assessment.

One of the vehicles that was valuable to us was the KLAS report. We looked at the KLAS report heavily. You’re very familiar with it, the marks that Epic received are much higher than anybody else. That was helpful. But we really needed to have a collaborative, interdisciplinary team from the medical center, with heavy physician chairs on it, nursing people, operational people to look at different products and different systems, site visits. Then there’s the support and for the money, Epic is very, very expensive.

AG: So you had to make a case to the board?

LF: Sure, of course. It wasn't necessary to make a case that we need to move in a direction that will be fully integrated, because people are aware of that. They know the product base in healthcare has evolved over the last 10 years. But most of the clinical systems that are out there are second-generation systems, like the GE system, the Siemens’ system, and the vendors are moving towards products that have integration. For instance, Siemens is moving towards Soarian, Epic has that integration already. Eclipsys is buying a lot of companies and creating a sort of pseudo–integration. They’re trying to put those systems that they’re acquiring around a central database, but they’re still separate systems, but it is a form of pseudo-integration.

Even our board members understand that the future is integration and the present situation is that most systems are not integrated. Healthcare has a very heavy dependence on interface engines and interface technology. Interfaces are resource consuming. They’re error prone and that’s not the real world anymore. The technology has moved.