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Making your way in health IT takes everything you got

September 10, 2008
by kate
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Last Friday, I had the opportunity to visit CentraState Health System, a 271-bed networked based in Freehold, N.J. (the full gallery of the tour will be posted in the next few weeks). It was my second hospital tour with HCI, and while my first trip to Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, Mich. was a great experience, the traveling part reminded me of the classic film, The Out-of-Towners. This time, there were no worries about cancelled flights and Detroit airport motels, as I merely had to drive about 15-20 minutes to reach my destination. At CentraState, I was lucky enough to get a guided tour of a facility that is making huge strides in health IT implementations — a facility that I will be visiting in the near future (my sister, who also lives in the area, plans to deliver her child there in December) and possibly checking into one day as a patient.

Right off the bat, I was impressed with CentraState; not just because of the aesthetics — the design features high ceilings, stone floors, skylights and coffee shop-style cafés — but also with how effectively the health system has captured the community hospital atmosphere. When Vice President and CIO Neal Ganguly walked me through the main medical center, it was straight out of an episode of Cheers — everyone knew his name, and more impressively, he knew theirs. And it wasn’t just a matter of addressing people by name; there was a familiarity and a level of trust that various clinicians and IT staffers had with Neal that spoke volumes as to how the organization has evolved so quickly and successful over the past few years.

When I sat down with Neal and Peg Kauth, director of information systems, to talk about current implementations and future plans at the CentraState, I was amazed at how optimistic, yet honest they were when discussing what it will take to prepare for CPOE, the challenges in catering to clinician preferences, and how they are dealing with workflow issues. There was an infectious energy — infused with a healthy dose of caution — in the discussion that couldn’t be detected through a phone interview, and gave me a great deal of insight into just how important working relationships are in hospitals that are highly invested in health IT.

It’s one thing to read or hear about successful leadership and governance, but it’s quite another to see it in action. At Centrastate, it is clear that the partnership the CIO has developed with every member of the staff has been a crucial component to the health system’s growth, and will likely to play a key role as it continues to evolve and expand.

After all, you want to go where everyone knows your name.

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