Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, a 673-bed regional care teaching hospital established in 1901, is a major referral and treatment center for patients throughout the northern New Jersey metropolitan area. Newark Beth Israel is home to a robotic surgery center, the state's first accredited sleep disorder center, The Saint Barnabas Heart Center, and the Children's Hospital of New Jersey. Healthcare Informatics Associate Editor Kate Huvane Gamble spoke with Tomas Gregorio, vice president and CIO at NBIMC, about his organization's efforts to drive innovation - both inside and outside of the hospital - and to grow tomorrow's IT leaders.
KG: How long have you been CIO at Newark Beth Israel?
TG: For three years.
KG: Where were you before that?
TG: I was at St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center in Patterson, N.J. I was an IS director there for three years, and I was with PricewaterhouseCoopers for seven years before that.
KG: Newark Beth Israel is an affiliate of Saint Barnabas Health Care System. How does this work in terms of the leadership structure? Who do you report to?
TG: For the system, I report to Joe Sullivan, who is the senior vice president and corporate CIO for all six hospitals, as well as the CFO here locally.
KG: You've previously referred to Newark Beth Israel's IT and support department as a “technology incubator” for Saint Barnabas. What exactly is meant by that?
TG: We have a relationship with the New Jersey Institute of Technology, where I got my master's, and we rotate students through the hospital in order to come up with innovative ways to deal with many of the day-to-day operational issues that happen in the medical center. It's a low-cost, effective way of not only building the next healthcare IT people of the future, but also alleviating some of that pressure on my current staff, and not moving them away from the clinical or billing responsibilities that they have with the systems we have in house.
For example, we worked on a project with NJIT on voice recognition. We had a physician who had some issues with his handwriting, as many of them do, and it was resulting in some liabilities for us in terms of being able to understand what he was trying to communicate. So I got a group of students together and they analyzed the doctor's patterns in terms of how he did business in the hospital, when he came in, and how he wrote his notes, and we came up with an application set of templates where the doctor could document his progress notes using his voice, clean them up, print it out, and put it in the chart. It was extremely successful, so much so that we have over 60 doctors using the same technology now. We try to do innovative things to try to solve our clinical and business issues here at the medical center.
KG: Very interesting, sounds like a win for both physicians and the IT staff.
TG: That's right. It's actually been very good for the IT staff. The hospital IT staff tends to be around for a long time; there's low turnover in most cases. So it was a mentoring type of relationship that we built with the university and the students, and it's been great for my people to be able to mentor younger staff. The other thing is that they come with no baggage. A lot of the people who have been here forever are kind of set in their ways. Well, these folks are like sponges - they're able to assimilate anything and do anything we ask them to do.
In today's world, it's really easy to do anything with technology as long as you have one of three factors: time, money or people. We've been successful at doing that, and also mentoring these students. I teach a health IT course (at NJIT) in the fall, and we stand to get at least another 25 students into our system to help continue the building of that next generation IT staff.
KG: We're starting to see a lot more health IT classes pop up around the country, where students can obtain valuable information and experience that they otherwise might not have gotten.
TG: And it's real-world experience, it's not classroom training. So my hope is to have that balance between the course I teach and some internship work here at the hospital.
KG: So in terms of your strategy at NBIMC, does clinician input as far as what technologies are implemented weigh heavily?
TG: Of course. I'm in an urban, inner city setting. My job is to make the physicians' experience as friendly as possible; so that they want to come here, and so that they want their patients to come here. And not only to be clinically taken care of, but so it's easy for them to practice here. If you go on YouTube and look up “tomhealthtech,” you'll see the physician expo that we had last year. At that expo, we presented all the technologies that we had developed in-house, and we had a show for the physicians where they could sign up for voice recognition, remote signature, putting consoles in over our hospital information system.
We even have a concierge service where they walk up to the counter and we hand them a tablet PC and tell them to go do their work and bring it back later. So being innovative with the doctors definitely makes them happier practicing medicine here.
KG: Is the expo something you plan to have on a regular basis?
TG: Yeah. As a matter of fact, we had a small one (in March) in our lobby. It was doctor's day, and we presented them with a much smaller scope in terms of the things that they can do here at Newark Beth Israel. Absolutely.
KG: It sounds like a great opportunity for them to see how the technologies work, especially ones that they might not be that familiar with.
TG: That's right.