Cooper University Hospital is a 542-bed teaching hospital located in Camden, N.J. It is Southern New Jersey’s major tertiary-care referral hospital for specialized services, and includes the Level I Southern New Jersey Regional Trauma Center; the Cooper Cancer Institute, the Cooper Heart Institute, the Cooper Bone & Joint Institute, the Cooper Neurosciences Institute and critical care medicine. In June, Cooper University Hospital announced it was partnering with Rowan University to form a new, four-year allopathic medical school in Camden (it will be known as Cooper Medical School of Rowan University). Recently, HCI Associate Editor Kate Gamble spoke with Mike Sinno about his rise from network manager to CIO, the importance of the CIO-CTO relationship, and his plans for the organization.
KG: In terms of the biomed integration piece, is that something you see happening soon?
MS: I do. I think it’s part of our advanced clinical documentation. We’ll be getting the flow sheets in from the IT monitors, and that’s on target for 2010. And then really developing a strategy of what biomed devices we integrate beyond the patient monitors and the ICU; what sequence, what value — part of that is still in strategic development.
KG: In what other ways are you looking to stretch the value of your systems?
MS: There’s a lot to do in terms of building out the EHR to its full maturity, and everything can’t be accomplished at once. So my focus has been getting those things in sequences, making sure they’re budgeted properly, making sure that they’re positioning us well for e-HIT in terms of meaningful use, that it’s aligned with the matrix, and really putting together a strategic roadmap of how the EHR will advance over the next three to five years. That also means determining what the deliverables are for each of those phases.
KG: How well positioned is your organization as far as qualifying for meaningful use? Are you in relatively good shape?
MS: As it’s defined right now, yes. I know it’s still open for comment. But from what we’ve seen in terms of the matrix of what the expectations are in terms of timelines per year, I think we’re very well positioned. We’re either live with that functionality, or it’s on our roadmap to go live prior to when it needs to be.
KG: That’s really important. Now as far as the economic situation, how has it impacted the projects at Cooper? Are there implementations that were placed on the back burner?
MS: I don’t know if it’s impacted from the perspective of having to put projects on the back burner, but it certainly requires more justification to carry forth projects that don’t have a true measurable ROI.
It’s actually forced us to do things that we should do, and were doing all along, and demonstrating the business value of carrying forth an IT project; doing a lot of additional homework upfront before committing any resources to it. So from an IT perspective, it’s actually helping us — we’re not being pulled in every direction. The focus is where it needs to be, as opposed to being diluted onto a lot of departmental or smaller projects that really don’t have enterprise applicability and have very little ROI.
KG: Along the lines of meaningful use, where are you on CPOE?
MS: We’re live on CPOE, and we have been since 1999. For our migration over our old system, which was the Eclipsys, we had physician order entry installed in 1999. That was before my time. So our migration over to Epic’s inpatient module was actually a little bit easier. There was less of a learning curve for the physicians and nurses.
KG: Are there any other technologies that you’re looking to roll out?
MS: We’re doing a true ERP implementation. We’re in the selection process for that. And that’s more than what I would consider just a legacy, lifecycle replacement of our old GL system and our old AP system, and the adoption and the strategic value of a true ERP.
From a pure technology standpoint, I’d say we’re pretty far along in the virtualization space, so much so that we use it as a competitive advantage and a strategic asset for when we’re dealing with vendors. Software vendors in the healthcare area are slow to adopt technology, so we’re positioning ourselves to say, ‘Hey, if you want to sell an application to Cooper or you want Cooper to participate with you, it will be virtualized, but here’s the benefit of doing so.’ We can do a repeatable that they can use to sell to other customers, and at a lower cost.
KG: So it’s really more of a partnership with the vendors.
MS: Correct. It is indeed a partnership where, if successful, Cooper will equally participate in being a showcase for other clients. And then the trade-off for us is we get the use the technology that we put in place versus having it being driven by the software vendors.
KG: You seem pretty business-savvy, and I’m guessing that can be attributed to your background. What advice would you give to hospital CIOs coming from a business or IT backgrounds as opposed to healthcare?
MS: I don’t know much advice I can provide to other CIOs, having been one now for a few months. But certainly for someone coming into IT with a non-healthcare background, I think one of the things that has made me successful here at Cooper is never accepting that we benchmark ourselves against other hospitals or other healthcare providers form an IT perspective, knowing that they’re traditionally behind the times relative to technology. And that was actually one of the differentiators of why I was hired — that I didn’t have healthcare experience. So when I benchmark the organization from a technology adoption standpoint, I go broader than the healthcare vertical, and compare us to the financial, retail or any other vertical. Because from an infrastructure standpoint, infrastructure is infrastructure, and the goal is to provide availability to the business and demonstrate value. I don’t see where healthcare has specific requirements that would drive that.
I guess I would say, don’t pigeon-hole yourself and benchmark against what everyone else is doing in healthcare; go broader. And specifically to myself, I had the technical background, but being at Cooper now for seven and a half years, I haven’t ignored the business side of healthcare. So seven-plus years of healthcare experience is definitely lending itself well to the CIO role; I understand the business.