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One-on-One With Norton Healthcare VP & CIO Joseph DeVenuto, Part I

July 15, 2009
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DeVenuto says sometimes upgrading with the same vendor can be almost as painful as implementing a new one.

Louisville, Ky.-based Norton Healthcare is composed of five acute care hospitals: Kosair Children's Hospital (263 licensed beds); Audubon Hospital (480 licensed beds); Norton Hospital & Norton Healthcare Pavilion (719 licensed beds); Norton Suburban Hospital (380 licensed beds); and Norton Brownsboro Hospital (a brand-new 127-bed facility). Additionally, Norton Healthcare provides service through 10 immediate care centers in the Louisville area. Recently HCI Editor-in-Chief Anthony Guerra had a chance to talk with VP and CIO Joseph DeVenuto about how he’s handling HITECH, among other challenges, at his sizeable health system.


GUERRA: I see you’ve been Tweeting. Tell me a little about why you got into that and what you’ve gotten out of it so far.

DEVENUTO: To be honest, I’m still trying to figure it out. I’m following, I’d say, an eclectic group of people just to see. How did I get into it? A friend of mine had been talking about it for awhile. But I went to a social media boot camp here in town recently, and Mark Ragan from Ragan Communications was talking about Tweeting, so I started out by just following him. And then I added you and HIMSS and Jack Welch and Suzy Welch and of course, being in Louisville, I’m following Rick Pitino and John Calipari. I’m following the governor because he’s Tweeting now. It’s just a combination of different things. Like I said, I’m still trying to figure what’s the deal or how to use it to get value.

GUERRA: Could it be useful to keep your IT staff and other members of the hospital team informed of what you’re up to?

DEVENUTO: I don’t know. Currently, I have a blog on our Intranet and I’ll write something every so often if the mood hits me. I try to put a Tweet out regularly, although the last couple of days have been out of control, but I try to Tweet at the start of the day about what’s going on or what I’ve been thinking or what I’m working on, those kinds of things. So I do that more often than I blog, because a blog tends to be more involved. I’m still trying to figure it out. Plus our organization is just trying to figure out how much access to Twitter or Facebook and all those kind of things that the organization should provide to the employee pool. And so between our HR department and communications department, they’re having an internal debate on how that should work.

GUERRA: I supposed you could get into HIPAA issues. We know of organizations that have Tweeted surgeries and such, but you must have to navigate those waters on patient privacy very carefully.

DEVENUTO: I only know of a handful of people internally in the organization that are actually Tweeting at all. And most of them don’t even Tweet, they’re just following a bunch of people. I mean, reading that Jack Welsh is at the Red Sox/Yankees game doesn’t do a whole lot for me, but then when he references a management theory or whatever, then that’s a different value proposition.

GUERRA: It can be confusing when people mix their professional and work lives in one Twitter account. One of our bloggers, Gwen Darling, has written that it’s best to keep those two elements separate with two separate accounts.

We’ve got the social media angle covered. Let’s get into a little bit more of the traditional CIO issues. I looked at the Norton Web site; it looked at first glance like you have five hospitals, is that correct?

DEVENUTO: We’re at 4.75 right now. We have a new hospital, our fifth hospital, opening on August 26 at 6 a.m.

GUERRA: If you rolled up all those beds, what are we talking about?

DEVENUTO: Well, I think we’re about 2,000 licensed, and we’re probably about 1,500 staffed right now.

GUERRA: Do you have five different core clinical systems or do you have one that’s in all five hospitals?

DEVENUTO: We have one that’s in all five hospitals.

GUERRA: And who do you use?

DEVENUTO: We use Meditech Client Server. That’s been deployed in the four facilities and day one will be turned on in the new hospital. We brought the first two hospitals live in 2003.

GUERRA: Were any of these hospitals acquired or were they all organic growth?

DEVENUTO: Two have always been Norton. One is Norton Hospital and the other one is Kosair Children’s Hospital. Two of our community hospitals, Suburban and Audubon, were acquired from Columbia HCA in about 1998. And then the new hospital is being built – Kentucky is a CON state, and so we have acquired a third hospital from Columbia called Southwest. And about two years ago or three years ago we closed it, but kept the beds to move to this new hospital.

GUERRA: The two that were acquired, were they on an information system?

DEVENUTO: They were on Meditech Magic.

GUERRA: Did that make it easy, or was it still difficult because we’re talking about two different Meditech systems?

DEVENUTO: It’s a different set of opportunities. The downtown hospitals, when we brought them live in 2003, they had an old system that was mostly order entry and a lot of best-of-breed standalone systems with minimal interfacing between them. So there was a whole challenge there around the basics, even “point-and-click” kind of stuff.