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European CIOs Share Successes and Challenges around Moving into the New Healthcare

November 22, 2016
by Mark Hagland
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At WoHIT 2016, healthcare IT leaders from across Europe shared diverse stories of initiatives

It could almost as easily have been in Boston, Bismarck, Billings or Berkeley, as Barcelona, for all that was being said. But it was Barcelona on Monday, and it was at the World of HIT 2016 (WoHIT2016) conference, sponsored by HIMSS Europe (a division of the Chicago-based Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society), being held at the Centre de Convenciones Internacional de Barcelona (CCIB), in Barcelona, Spain.

With about 1,000 attendees from across Europe and beyond, gathered to discuss important healthcare IT and healthcare industry topics, two sessions—“The CIO as Whole Systems Leader,” and “The CIO as Regional Leader”—were among those that put particular emphasis on the challenges and opportunities facing CIOs of both health systems, and of regional and national healthcare organizations, as they work to transform care delivery and community health across Europe.

So on Nov. 21, in the session entitled “The CIO as Whole Systems leader,” Olivier Boussekey, M.D., CIO of the Groupe Hospitalier Paris St. Joseph in Paris, France; Antonio Fumagalli, CIO of ASST Papa Giovanni XXIII in Bergamo, Italy; and Philippe Kolh, M.D., CIO of the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Liège (University Hospital of Liege), in Belgium, described their current strategies and operational intiatives at their hospital based organizations. Meanwhile, in the session immediately following that one, “The CIO as Regional Leader,” two individuals who are leaders of much bigger organizations spoke about regional and national healthcare IT leadership—Juan Lucas Retamar Gentil, CIO of the Sistema Sanitario Público y de Bienestar Social de Andalucía (Andalusian Health Service), a regional health authority that encompasses one of the largest regions of Spain, and Seamus MacSuibhne, chief clinical information officer and head of the Council of Clinical Information Officers, of eHealth Ireland, a national eHealth initiative for Ireland, spoke of their work on a broader scale.

Making it all patient-centric

What all three CIOs in the first session agreed on was this: moving forward strategically means putting the patient at the center. As Boussekey of St. Joseph Hospital in Paris said, “For us, creating a paperless record was about the patient. Medical information needed to be available for all professionals everywhere and in real time, and massively shared. And We also had to maintain and prepare for compliance with all regulatory changes in France. And,” he quickly added, “always with a patient focus. Our vision was that we needed to deploy something that was a win for the hospital, a win for the clinicians, and win for the patient. We started by digitizing 8 million pages; we extended the usage of the EMR to everyone, and we connected all the different devices, to avoid paper everywhere in the hospital.”

And “patient-centric” often means rigorous moves forward around clinician processes. For example, Boussekey noted, “All physicians are using voice recognition now; we no longer have secretaries to do any dictation.” Again, the focus here was patient-centric, in the sense that, given limited financial resources, it became clear to Boussekey and his colleagues that the cost of dictation simply had to be eliminated. “So how did we make this project successful? We deployed a strategy as a common project shared and built with all the physicians and nurses in the hospital,” he said. “We also really tried to explain tool usage—that all the tools being put in place were to add value. And of course, we’ve supported not only the project itself, but also the usage. I am using voice recognition every day as a physician,” he added. “I’d like to be able to share with fellow physicians, and when they complain that something doesn’t work, it’s important for me to be able to empathize and share that I understand.” Specifically in that case, Boussekey and his colleagues were able to help the hospital system to reduce staff by 30 FTEs’ worth of secretaries, while ensuring immediacy of data availability. What’s more, they also advanced the hospital towards a goal that is linked to a national mandate in France. “There is a nationwide objective in France to get 80 percent of discharge summaries to physicians on the day of discharge. Our hospital started out at 35 percent, but has been able to reach a level of 70 percent,” through the elimination of dictation.

In the region centered around Bergamo in northern Italy, Antonio Fumagalli has advanced his organization forward on several fronts in the past few years, again, with a strategic focus on patients. Among other things, his organization transitioned from an older facility into a completely new one, and went through that entire transition. What had formerly been the Odspedale Riunti became, in 2012, the Ospedale Papa Giovanni XXIII (named after Pope John the 23rd); the organization is a 1,000-bed public hospital, with 35,000 inpatient admissions a year, 3.75 million outpatient visits, and over 37,000 surgeries a year, along with some of the highest surgical and ICU volumes in the country. The organization moved into its new facility in 2015.


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