It was a wonderful privilege to moderate on Wednesday the final panel discussion of the Health IT Summit in Seattle, sponsored by the Institute for Health Technology Transformation (iHT2, our sister organization, under our Vendome Group, LLC corporate umbrella), held at the Seattle Marriott Waterfront this week.
First of all, it was a real privilege to sit together with Todd Guenzburger, M.D., CMIO of Providence Health & Services, and Albert Marinez, director, information intelligence, MultiCare Health System. Both gentlemen are very accomplished, thoughtful leaders in their organizations. What’s more, there really was so much to discuss.
A key theme that emerged in our discussion was one that emerges so often these days: the overwhelm that is taking over the day-to-day lives of informaticist and IT leaders in healthcare these days. It comes from so many sources: federal and state policy mandates, such as the mandates to participate in value-based payment and readmissions reduction initiatives via the Affordable Care Act (ACA), participation in the development and operation of accountable care organizations (ACOs), population health management initiatives, and risk-bearing contracts—whether federally or private sponsored; and a host of other activities, including clinical performance improvement work and related clinical transformation efforts. And then of course, they’ve got to satisfy the meaningful use requirements under the HITECH (Health Information Technology for Clinical and Economic Health) Act, and expanded data privacy requirements under HIPAA (The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), and of course, preparations for the transition from the ICD-9 coding system to the ICD-10 coding system. And that list is for starters.
What is clear, Todd Guenzburger and Albert Marinez agreed, is that patient care organizations must be strategically driven at all levels: senior leaders and boards just achieve consensus on broad vision, mission, and goals for any organization, and then that consensus must be translated into prioritization for activity. Above all, IT managers and informaticists cannot be tasked with determining overall vision-level priorities. But what they can and do need to do is to help facilitate discussions among all their colleagues, with all stakeholder groups—clinical leadership, front-line clinicians, IT and informatics leaders and staff, senior administrative leaders and operational staff—all represented in those discussions.
What’s more, all this prioritization is taking place at a time when organizations like Providence and MultiCare are growing through expansion and acquisition, adding more necessary activity and tasks to those that IT and informatics staffs already have.
If anything emerged from our discussion, it was a consensus that clarity is the most important element in all this—clarity of goals and objectives, of priorities, and also clarity around governance and management structures—as key to success in all areas that are IT-related.
If not, IT and informatics leaders and their teams will simply become completely overwhelmed by the unsorted lists of tasks, lists being perpetually added to, in their organizations.
Given all the challenges and opportunities on the horizons of all patient care organizations these days, it was a fitting conclusion to the discussions at iHT2-Seattle, with clarity around the need for, well, clarity.