Maimonides Medical Center is among the largest independent teaching hospitals in the nation, training over 450 medical and surgical residents annually. Widely recognized for its major achievements in medical technology and patient safety, Maimonides has 705 beds and over 70 subspecialty programs. Recently, HCI Editor-in-Chief Anthony Guerra had a chance to talk with CIO Walter Fahey about his long list of projects, and what it takes to be an effective CIO in today’s HITECH-fueled world.
GUERRA: So you’ve gone from Eclipsys mainframe-based software to server-based; would the next step be true Web-based software?
FAHEY: They’re developing it as an SOA application, so they are doing a service-oriented architecture. That is probably the latest technology that you’re able to get because now you’ll have plug-ins where you didn’t have plug-ins before. In the past, you had to go in and really code a lot of things. So you have opportunities to make changes through the use of plug-ins.
GUERRA: And that’s true of the version you’re going on now, or the one they’re building for the future?
FAHEY: That’s where we’re headed, and that’s where Eclipsys is going as a corporation. NextGen is really a .NET application, so that’s all Microsoft based. A lot of the companies are going in one of those two directions at this point.
GUERRA: How do you feel about the level of technology being offered by the usual suspects?
FAHEY: It’s not as easy as they think it is to pull all these technologies together. A lot of these companies talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk. What I mean by that is they tell you they’re going to deliver certain capabilities, but they can’t. We do a lot of testing on these applications. We’ve had application folks come in and say, “This application has been running in multiple hospitals, 100 hospitals for several years, we have no bugs, we have this, that or the other thing.” But then we put it through very thorough testing and we find every bug within the application. Because, as I said, we take advantage of the technology as best we can. We push the vendors to really deliver what they say they’re delivering, and we also make sure it is compliant with all the rules, regs and everything.
We’ve had several conversations with senior management in many different companies to make sure they’re going to be there, and they’re going to ensure that this stuff is compliant. We write into every contract that they’re going to meet state and federal regulations. So where the state may supersede the feds or the feds supersede, they have to meet all of those regulations. It’s required in the contract.
GUERRA: How do you view vendor relationships? Do you think a CIO has to look at vendors somewhat adversarially or should they be viewed as partners?
FAHEY: It’s funny – the vendors want to be considered vendors in many instances, but we want them to be considered partners. There are two types of vendors out there. There are the guys that come in and deliver something and say, “This is what it is, this is how it works and goodbye, thank you very much.” Then there are the ones that are willing to work with you and develop the new technology, to help build technology. They look at it more as a visionary process in which we’re all working together for the same goal. Those are the ones we prefer to deal with.
GUERRA: I read that you have no problem bringing vendors to the hospital floor and into the patient rooms and saying, “This is how your software will be used so don’t play games.” I thought that was interesting. Can you just expand on that a little bit?
FAHEY: One of the things that we do with vendors – and we’ve done it with Cisco, Verizon, other vendors – is bring them to our ED. Or emergency department is very crowded, they can see up to 400+ patients a day, and when you have that kind of volume you need electronics. You need to be able to view what’s going on. You have the boards that are electronic to tell you when your radiology tests are done, when your lab tests as done, to see what’s being logged for the patient.
We take them into these areas and we’ll say, “How would you feel if you’re one of those people waiting to be helped and the system crashes and goes down and I can’t get at your information? Do you want to be in that scenario?” You want the information to be accurate, you want it to be timely and you want the network to be working. So we’ll take them on the floor to show them what it’s like.