Saint Clare’s Health System — with four Northwestern New Jersey hospital campuses — is one of the largest employers in the area, with 3,500 total employees, over 700 volunteers and a medical staff of over 700. In April, the system began a major transition, as it was acquired by Denver-based Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI), the nation’s second largest Catholic health system. Recently, HCI Editor-in-Chief Anthony Guerra had a chance to chat with CIO Richard Temple about how the transfer will affect IT.
AG: You mentioned that you’ve got McKesson and you’ve got Cerner — it sounds like a best-of-suite approach. Tell me about the data flow between those two main systems.
RT: We’ve had McKesson for a very long time. We had McKesson way before we had a clinical information system. We went out to bid on the clinical information system and we solicited bids from a number of different vendors and we wound up going with Cerner. Cerner came to us with a very integrated-type solution. We wanted to have a best of suite, as opposed to a best of breed. We wanted to have a common look and feel to the extent possible for a clinical application, so that would really engender the kind of uptake by clinicians that we wanted. We figured the uptake would be stronger if you didn’t have to learn 10 different applications, if you didn’t have to have 10 different user IDs or passwords, things like that. So, the integrated nature of Cerner was a big plus. We didn’t try to move the financial systems over at that point.
We just figured that taking on the clinical system was big enough and, thank you very much, let’s just do that. Implementing a clinical system, as you can imagine, is one of the most complex and intense things a hospital can ever do and, in order to do it right, it truly has to be transformational in terms of how everybody in the organization approaches their jobs. To bite off a financial or patient accounting system at the same time just seemed like that would be more than we could handle.
The two systems, the McKesson side of the house and the Series side of Cerner, they are interfaced, but that interface works very well. I don’t like to have 90 zillion interfaces going in and out of places, but that interface happens to work very, very well.
AG: Did you look at McKesson for the clinicals?
RT: We did.
AG: So you went with Cerner there.
RT: There were a couple of drivers for that.
AG: Do you want to get into that?
RT: Is it getting published?
AG: All of it is getting published (laughing). We’re doing an interview, it all gets published.
RT: That’s okay. One of the key things we were looking at, as I mentioned earlier, was a truly integrated solution, and what Cerner was offering looked very, very integrated. It was actually priced more competitively than one might think, and I think they were able to clearly articulate the vision for how our clinical world would look.
AG: If you had such a strong focus on integration, why not just go with McKesson, as you were already working with them?
RT: But McKesson’s Horizon suite of products doesn’t necessarily integrate a whole lot better with McKesson Series on the patient accounting side, in point of fact. Even though McKesson has an awful lot of good solutions, not all those solutions sit on a common database.
AG: Is that because some of the large vendors have grown from acquisitions?
RT: A lot of them did. It wouldn’t be that much different in terms of the relative levels of integration on both sides of the fence. We still have to build those interfaces.
AG: How can you make sure, as a CIO, that products from one vendor are really integrated?
RT: Just by using McKesson as an example, McKesson’s made great strides in integrating their clinical suite. I think the financials are still somewhat of a different animal, but they’ve really come a long way, even since we were going through the RFP in terms of actually integrating the various components of their Horizon suite.
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