During the last week of July, Joey Sudomir began his tenure as the new senior vice president and CIO at Texas Health Resources, the 25-hospital integrated health system based in Arlington, Texas. Sudomir, who has been at THR since January 2008, the previous 18 months as deputy CIO, and from January 2008 until early 2014 as vice president of IT for Texas Health Partners the THR division that operates joint-venture hospitals for the health system, takes over for Ed Marx, who left THR this spring to head up IT at the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation. Sudomir heads up an IT team with about 670 IT professionals, one whose efforts are augmented by the 30-some-member clinical informatics team headed by Ferdinand Velasco, M.D., chief health information officer at Texas Health Resources.
Recently, Sudomir spoke with HCI Editor-in-Chief Mark Hagland about his transition into the top job at THR, and his ambitions for the future. Below are excerpts from that interview.
Can you share with me your vision for your position and for health IT strategy for Texas Health Resources in the next few years?
I’m coming in here with the benefit of a tremendous foundation. We’ve been so very blessed to have such tremendous IT leadership and management here. We’ve been so blessed over the past 10-15 years with such great leadership and such great team members. So my goal is to continue to help all those individuals be in a position to succeed as previously. And there are four tenets I’d like to see us live by in the IT organization going forward: increasing our transparency; continuing to evolve as a data-driven organization; being less prescriptive and more adaptive to changing times in healthcare; and putting a risk-based lens on all our initiatives.
So you’re speaking of the potential risks that the IT organization may be taking on?
Yes, the risk presented involved in doing something or not doing something. So for example, we are about to invest in a data center migration. And we recently visited with our executive leadership team about the options for that migration. Led by our CISO and CTO, we took the approach of describing the risk that exists at various states of data center readiness. And we assigned costs to the various risks. So from that perspective, the executive leadership team was able to assess the different risk levels involved, and proceed forward with a decision. We are currently, in both of our larger hospitals, having data centers, and we are going to be pursuing a co-location strategy with high reliability and availability.
When will you be going live with the transition?
We’ve already begun building the architecture for it. We’ll enter the blueprinting phase, the next month or two, and the migrations will begin in mid-to-late 2016, and be completed by the end of 2017. We haven’t yet developed the detailed plan for priority and timing of the migration, but we have the structure and strategy in place for what’s needed to support the business.
As work to move population health management forward and to move forward in the context of risk-based contracts, there will be an accelerating need for analytics and informatics support, of course. What are your thoughts in that area?
Yes, the new world of healthcare is definitely steeped in the need for analytics. We’ve been blessed with analytics—and Ferdie Velasco [Ferdinand Velasco, M.D., THR’s chief health information officer] and his team have really put us onto a great path around clinical informatics. So we were already on a good path. And we’re focusing on, what is the right set of data to present to the right people at the right time. And we’re trying to shift away from primarily relying on retroactively based dashboards and towards trying to get closer to real-time analysis—when you think about population health, the ability to detect and correct any gaps in care, the better chance you have for positive outcomes. So you’ll see us continuing to build that foundation, but also the traditional dashboard, retroactive look-back reporting, but also on bringing some semblance of real-time analytics to the elements involved in a patient’s care.
What do you see as your biggest challenges in the next few years?
First and foremost, our biggest challenge in IT right now is, it’s security. We’re in a fast-changing landscape in relation to the number and types of threats facing us, and it’s picking up steam, in terms of the number of healthcare institutions being targeted; it’s really growing. For a while there, the hack community was focusing on retail and financial services industries, but healthcare is now become a prime target. So we need to keep pace with this. We currently invest about 6-7 percent of our hard dollars in IT on security, and if you were to layer onto that the human time invested, it would be closer to 10-11 percent.
And what do you see as your greatest opportunities in the next few years?
The greatest opportunity, in my opinion, and we’re blessed to have this challenge, and that is, what does the new-age IT department look like in a reformed healthcare world? There was the data center and back-end processing age; and we’re coming out of the EHR and beginnings-of-analytics age, and the question is, what’s the next revolution. And if you look at any reform-driven delivery model, whether bundled payments or accountable care or any other type, and look at new digital technologies emerging, there will obviously be a shift in what an IT department looks like. So we’re determining what that will look like to determine how best to serve our patients and our communities.
How do you see your own role evolving in the next few years?
Well, that shift is obviously closely aligned with the shift I just talked about in terms of what healthcare IT departments look like. Most recently, you’re seeing the IT leader of the organization step more out of an IT-direct role and into the position of a trusted business leader. I think that will continue, though as IT leaders, we can’t lose our connection to an understanding of the technology, because it will be crucial, as dollars for investment become more constrained in the coming years, you’ll have to be able to articulate very well the possibilities, and a given philosophy. And definitely, to support goals of being innovative and patient-centered and making sure we’re a high-reliability organization. And there are quite a few … there’s a definite intersection between technology and business processes, so a leader who can understand both sides of those equations is what I believe this organization and the industry need.
Are you optimistic going forward, as you look at the challenges and opportunities for THR?
I am bullishly optimistic, especially in this organization. We at Texas Health have had such a wonderful culture of putting individual performers into the right position to succeed, and achieving some pretty consistent goals as individuals and as an organization, to move forward, and I am honored and blessed to be placed into this position, where my personality and leadership style are a very solid fit with the organization.