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The ACO Experimentation Begins

January 19, 2011
by David Raths
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Division CIO Jason DeSantis describes University Hospitals’ first steps

At 33, Jason DeSantis may be one of the youngest health IT executives in the country. But that hasn’t stopped the division chief information officer of University Hospitals (UH) in Shaker Heights, Ohio, from getting involved in some cutting-edge projects. For instance, DeSantis has been part of the team establishing the infrastructure for an accountable care organization (ACO) for 17,000 UH employees and 8,000 dependents, which went live Jan. 1.

“We are putting the enabling technology in place to make the ACO happen,” DeSantis says. “We are part of a collaborative of 19 health systems organized by Premier into various work groups to work on population health data management, system integration and legal issues.”
Premier’s ACO Implementation Collaborative is made up of health systems able to get to work immediately on ACOs, leveraging existing payer partnerships and a tightly aligned physician network.

DeSantis, who reports to Mary Alice Annecharico, R.N., senior vice president and CIO at UH, was recently named to a list of “Rising Stars—25 Healthcare Leaders Under Age 40” by Becker’s Hospital Review. That article noted that DeSantis serves on a CMS advisory board on the attestation and incentive payment processes of meaningful use, as well as on the Oracle Corp. (Redwood Shores, Calif.) Healthcare Industry Strategy Council.

For the ACO project, DeSantis says UH is working on better software integration with systems of insurer Anthem Blue Cross. “We are already actively managing the data,” he says. Employees take online health risk assessments and are stratified by risk and assigned to a care team. “We hope that will evolve beyond our employees to the larger community as CMS and HHS develop the ACO concept further from a regulatory standpoint.”

DeSantis says that within the UH system, the fact that he is a divisional CIO at 33 hasn’t drawn much notice. “I feel that I have earned the respect of my peers and have been encouraged to grow. The organization has invested in me,” he says. After several years working for Oracle Corp., he was hired as an application analyst by UH just as it was implementing an Oracle support department. He now is responsible for administrative and business applications in a shared-services setting for six hospitals, with two new hospitals set to open in 2011.

So does DeSantis think health IT leaders in his age group have a different perspective? “I think our generation may see things a little differently,” he says, “but every hospital CIO has to be prepared to move rapidly on getting their organization ready for meaningful use, health reform, and migrating to ICD-10. No one is standing still.”


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