Coming in at number five in this year’s HCI 100, Siemens Healthcare is clearly a powerhouse among the industry’s vendors. What’s more, the organization is one of only two vendors that offer core clinical functionality to hospitals, such as EMR and CPOE, while also playing heavily in the PACS, RIS and modality space (the other being GE Healthcare IT). Recently, HCI Editor-in-Chief Anthony Guerra had a chance to chat with CEO Janet Dillione about where the company stands – and is going – in the industry’s HITECH-fueled environment.
GUERRA: Let’s talk about HITECH a little bit. You have a representative on one of the workgroups, Charlene Underwood, correct?
DILLIONE: Yes, we do.
GUERRA: So, that’s nice to have somebody on the inside. Some of your competitors weren’t quite so fortunate. Was it important that you get someone involved?
DILLIONE: I think all the vendors probably wanted to be well-placed, and we were delighted when Charlene got the call. I think it’s more reflective of the respect the industry has for Charlene and what she’s done over the years and her reputation. She’s a smart lady with a tremendous amount of integrity.
GUERRA: Let’s talk a little bit about the current state of certification which obviously is going to have a huge impact on a company like Siemens. At the last Policy Committee meeting, there was a proposal from the certification workgroup in which they recommended moving the criteria creation portion out of CCHIT and onto HHS. So it would be HHS certification, with CCHIT one of many entities doing testing against those criteria. There was also discussion that there was going to be a gap analysis between the current CCHIT certification and what would become HHS certification, with CCHIT performing that gap analysis. As someone leading a major vendor, how do you handle all this uncertainty when you have a business to run, with many customers looking to you to make sure they’re on a certified product?
DILLIONE: That’s a great question. I have to say, I was a little bit surprised with some of the recent messages out of the workgroup, but what we have said and the message we have given R&D is, “Look, let’s not get overly analytical here. There are some top levels absolutely intractable, unavoidable musts, and they all have to do with patient safety, quality. So make sure that we have our tightly integrated, well-delivered, high quality medication reconciliation, e-prescribing, quality reporting. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t worry about the little teeny detail that might come out of meaningful use or whatever the final certification process is. Lean into the wind, hunt big game, make sure the big things are tackled and tackled well, and make sure our customers are well-positioned.”
We’re putting a lot of emphasis right now on the medication ordering process, CPOE. We’re very fortunate in that when we built Soarian, we embedded analytics into it. So we have a very sophisticated analytics engine right inside. We think we are extremely well-positioned on the quality reporting area in both Soarian and Invision because of our data warehousing. So, I’m trying to keep folks focused on the big game. Don’t get distracted by some of the smaller topics that could pop in or pop out of the final meaningful use requirements.
We’ve been having monthly webcasts for our customers. Everything we hear, we pass on. We’re pretty conscious of the fact that a lot of the material we produce we know our customers will use with their boards, and that’s fine. Every customer is getting a personal visit and a personal EHR assessment, and we’re giving them the same messages. “Here’s the big game. No matter what variation we see come out of Washington, these topics have never moved, and they’re going to be a part of it. So, let’s get going and make sure we have these things secured.”
GUERRA: If you could speak to the certification workgroup is there any message you would want to give them?
DILLIONE: They think the vendors are these for-profit, aggressive characters, and that we’ll survive and thrive no matter what. But when I talk to the folks in Washington, my message typically is for them to forget about us for a second and to think about the providers, the CIOs, CMOs and CNOs who are in the healthcare system trying to do patient care. It’s tough doing that while at the same time trying to figure out meaningful use and certification, not to mention that they also have 5010 and ICD-10 flying at them.
It’s important that the folks in Washington keep in mind just how much software will be flying into these health systems, because ICD-10 is not just a clinical system, it’s everything. Every system is going to get affected and get upgraded. So think of the extraordinary impact this is going to have, not just on the IT organization, but also the clinicians and the other end users that have to help support the roll out of those upgraded systems. So that’s pretty much my consistent message. “Take a step back, understand the environment into which we deliver, and don’t lose sight of what else is coming at them.”
GUERRA: You have three products that have ’07 CCHIT certification. There’s currently a total of only three companies and products that have ’08 certification. I would imagine that’s a dead deal at this point. Nobody’s going to be working through that process until they find out what’s going on with HHS Certification. Does that make sense?
DILLIONE: Yes and, again, our products are certified through 2010. So, there is no need for us to do anything.
GUERRA: Do you have any advice for our CIO readers on how they should be navigating these waters?
DILLIONE: One of the councils we’ve been giving to our CIOs is this cannot just be your topic. It’s a topic for the health system. Your boards have to be informed and understand the implications of what’s happening out here in the market. Again, don’t try to do this as a lone soldier. This is a health system initiative, and it has to be approach that way. It’s not just the CIO, it’s the CMO, the CNO, the COO, it’s important to have an executive team that understands they have this to do.
Another issue is that the industry will have to figure out how to solve the potential shortage of informatics analysts out there to support some of this clinical transformation.
GUERRA: Have you been getting a lot of calls from customers about certification who want to make sure you’re going to help them? Is that where the bulk of your energy is going to be spent or is there actually going to be a lot of new business?
DILLIONE: I think the good news is our customers expect it, they’re not asking it because they simply expect it. I mean, SMS and now Siemens always has had a strong heritage of being there for our customers with regulatory support and things that affect the industry, and we invest heavily in standards and regulatory council internally. That’s why we were fortunate enough to get people on the workgroups in Washington. I mean, our folks are expected to be industry participants.
I don’t see the volume of new business, necessarily. I see almost a little bit of waiting. I think the market is waiting for a little bit more clarity on exactly what’s going to happen. So, I think a lot of firms who stocked up are somewhat surprised that they potentially have some bench. I don’t think folks expected that. Whether or not that bubble bursts when Washington comes out and says, “This is it. This is final,” is anybody’s guess. We’ll see.