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One-on-One with Johns Hopkins CIO Stephanie Reel

June 5, 2008
by root
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Stephanie Reel is working to ensure Johns Hopkins facilities of the future aren't stuck with IT from the past.

Johns Hopkins Health System is in the midst of a massive $950 million redevelopment project that will produce two tower-like facilities — one focused on cardiovascular and critical care, the other a children’s center. Slated to open in 2010, planning on the towers began years ago, and required close and continual partnership with IT. Recently, HCI Editor-in-Chief Anthony Guerra talked with CIO Stephanie Reel (also an HCI Editorial Board Member) about staying on top of such a massive undertaking.

AG: Were you involved in this project from its inception?

SR: Well, I’ve been here forever.

AG: How long is that?

SR: 18 years.

AG: Okay, so it didn’t start before you (laughing). Tell me about this from the beginning, this project?

SR: I think the institution recognized, probably 20 years ago, that this campus (the hospital opened in 1889) has many facilities that are older. Many of them are not appropriate for today’s technological environment; nor are they appropriate for the expectations of our patients. Those patients want to have their family member with them; want to be able to have a quiet environment when they’re recovering and dealing with difficult diseases. So I suspect it was 20 years ago when the institutions first began to talk seriously about reinventing the campus.

It was probably in about 1995 when a physical master plan was prepared, and a lot of people participated from the university, medicine school, public health school, nursing, as well as the hospital and health system leadership in deciding what this campus of the future really needed to look like. It included, not just this new clinical building, but it included the planning for and, ultimately, the construction of a new comprehensive cancer center that opened in the fall of 2002.

It opened in September of 2002, a new comprehensive cancer center, and also included in that plan were new buildings to support additional basic science research and clinical research. So, it was truly a campus master plan that had a lot of new development and new construction in it.

One of the driving forces for that master plan was preparing for the campus 50 years from now, as well. There was an appreciation that there’s very little green space at inner city academic medical center campuses. So the plan explained the need for moving the center of the campus to the south of the existing campus, which would allow us to demolish the oldest buildings, which are to the northern edge of the campus. We would use up available green space to build the new facilities. We would then demolish the oldest buildings on the northern edge of the campus, creating new green space, imagining that 50 or 75 years from now, you would repeat that.

You would then tear down the then 50-year-old buildings so that you could create green space while building new buildings on what will then be the existing green space, giving us the ability to flip-flop or swap green space for buildings over the next 50 or 100 years.

So, that was an important component of the plan, that we would consolidate new construction on one end of the campus, so that the older end of the campus could be demolished. That, really, is what has transpired in the course of the construction of these new clinical buildings, as well as the new research buildings.

The only other thing that I would say is that, also incorporated in the 10 year plan was a plan to build a biotech park that would be adjacent to the campus, and that is also underway. It’s a separate initiative; it’s not Johns Hopkins Hospital-dollars being used. It’s state, city and private money, but it is an industry partnership and a state partnership with Hopkins to redevelop some of the community around the academic medical center.

AG: So, these clinical towers, about how many beds are planned for them?

SR: About 500. They’re replacement beds, they’re not new beds because the old facility has a lot of semi-private rooms, and the new facility will have all private rooms.

AG: So, it’s two buildings, you mentioned towers?

SR: It’s an interesting model, and I don’t know if this is typical now in new construction, but several floors will be common to both towers, so that the infrastructure can be shared. Those infrastructure components that are expensive: radiology, laboratory equipment; those things will be shared between these two new towers. Then at a certain floor, I think it’s the fourth of fifth floor, they then go up as two separate, distinct towers; one being a children’s hospital and one being an adult facility.

AG: Tell me about the CIO’s role in this process. When are you brought in, and what is the dynamic of you interacting with the CEO and the designer and the architect, etc.?

SR: A little known fact in the readership of your journal is that my husband is responsible for building the building, so I probably have an added opportunity to participate in some of the conversations early on. My husband, Howard, serves as the senior director for design and construction for the Johns Hopkins Hospital, so he is under the auspices of the vice president for Facilities; he is leading the construction projects for the Johns Hopkins Hospital. So, it’s afforded me with an interesting opportunity, I guess one would say, and then also some challenges that go along with that. But, because of that, I’ve had an opportunity to at least learn a lot about what was being planned very early on in the initiative.