9 health IT executives on what it takes to be a Most Wired hospital

Nine health IT leaders weigh in on this prestigious award.

In July, Hospitals & Health Networks released its annual Health Care's Most Wired list, which measures the level of IT adoption in various U.S. hospitals and health systems.

Hospitals can win one of four awards: the Most Wired award, the Most Wired-Advanced award, the Most Improved award and the Most Wired-Small and Rural award. To receive the designation, hospitals must meet requirements in four areas — infrastructure, business and administrative management, clinical quality and safety and clinical integration.

But meeting those requirements only scratches the surface of what it means to make the list. Becker's Hospital Review checked in with nine IT executives of 2016 Most Wired hospitals to dive deeper into what it means to be a Most Wired hospital.

1. A drive for success. "One of the major things it takes is a team that's enthusiastic about improving itself, about moving forward and not being content to simply sustain the status quo or the current applications," says David Bensema, MD, CIO of Louisville, Ky.-based Baptist Health.

Baptist Health, a 2016 Most Improved award winner, has done just that. Although the health system didn't have an integrated EHR platform in 2014, it submitted a Most Wired survey that year but came up short. However, Baptist Health continued to strive to make considerable progress and has now implemented Epic in four of its seven — soon to be eight — hospitals. An Epic go-live will soon take place in a fifth hospital. Baptist Health's implementation of a disaster recovery site, which organizations use when the main data center is unavailable, also helped it receive a Most Improved award this year.

2. A skilled workforce. Ross Hurd, CIO of Chelan, Wash.-based Lake Chelan Community Hospital, which was one of this year's Most Wired-Small and Rural award winners, credits the hospital's employees with its success. "When a new program or workflow is presented to them, they quickly adopt utilizing the software," he says. "Recruiting the best staff possible and providing great healthcare with local and telehealth resources has been a characteristic feature of the hospital since I've been working with them."

3. A dedication to cybersecurity. With the high number of data breaches occurring at hospitals across the nation, Sajjad Yacoob, MD, CMIO of Children's Hospital Los Angeles, believes security is a key factor in CHLA making this year's Most Wired list.

"Since designations like Most Wired use constantly evolving benchmarks, making the list (and staying on it) requires a constant commitment to improving security, accuracy, speed and accessibility," he says. "Especially this year, cybersecurity has been top of mind for healthcare IT teams throughout the country. Here at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, we fortified our systems with new safeguards, including intrusion detection systems to monitor and prevent cybersecurity attacks."

4. A secure leadership team. Concord, Mass.-based Emerson Hospital made this year's Most Wired list. Emerson's CIO, Renee Fosberg, believes effective leadership is the foundation to its success. "A strong leadership team focuses on the big picture and works in concert with clinical and support teams to accomplish patient care goals," she says.

Emerson Hospital is a 179-bed community hospital, but Ms. Fosberg sees its small size as an asset. "There are advantages to being small: We don't have a lot of bureaucracy build into our governance structure like some larger organizations have," she says. "We are able to make decisions quickly and work together as a team across different disciplines and departments to overcome challenges. This has resulted in exciting IT programs, including being one of the first hospitals in Massachusetts to use iPad-enabled technology so our nurse managers can round on patients to assess their stay in real-time."

5. A focus on population health. "[Making the list requires] an IT strategy around population health and digital engagement, along with a commitment to deeper and more meaningful integration across hospitals, clinics and post-acute care settings," says David Bradshaw, executive vice president and chief strategy and information officer of Houston-based Memorial Hermann Health System.

Mr. Bradshaw highlighted Memorial Hermann's "deep investment in communitywide and population-based technology solutions," which helped it become one of this year's Most Wired hospitals.

6. A solid culture. "Earning and maintaining the Most Wired designation begins with fostering and committing to a culture that uses technology to achieve the strategic goals of the organization," says Steven Smith, CIO of Evanston, Ill.-based NorthShore University HealthSystem, one of this year's Most Wired hospitals. "This culture drives [NorthShore's] pursuit to be recognized as leaders in health information technology and implementing best practices for technology and patient care."

7. EHR usability for clinical staff. Brian Sterud, CIO of Norfolk, Neb.-based Faith Regional Health Services, says EHR accessibility for clinicians plays a key role in being a Most Wired hospital. Faith Regional Health Services, which is one of this year's Most Wired hospitals, has also been on the list three other times — once as a Most Wired facility and twice as a Most Improved hospital.

"We pay a lot of attention to making sure our clinicians have the tools they need within the confines of what we can do. We try to pay a lot of attention to usability and efficiency," Mr. Sterud says. "We look at workflows and make sure they work well for clinicians within the EMR. We also monitor certain benchmarks to ensure the system continues to function appropriately. These include standard metrics like login times, but we also benchmark against meaningful functions within the EMR, such as entering an order and other clinical functions. It's been eye-opening when we make changes to the environment."

8. A strong support system. "It is vital to have solid clinical and administrative support and commitment that anticipates needs and provides the backing needed across a multi-service line organization like Avera for the multiple platforms we utilize," says Jim Veline, senior vice president and CIO of Sioux Falls, S.D.-based Avera Health, a Most Wired hospital.

9. Technology unification and broad deployment. Although it's been on the Most Wired list for 13 consecutive years, Charlotte, N.C.-based Carolinas HealthCare System was recognized as one of the Most Wired-Advanced hospitals this year. Carolinas HealthCare System Senior Vice President and Chief Information and Analytics Officer Craig Richardville attributed the hospital's award to its drive to unify IT systems. "As new IT systems or services are planned, we seek to spread the solutions broadly across our organization and strive to maximize the benefits realization as we drive high levels of adoption," he says.

For example, Carolinas HealthCare System's patient identity system — which is based on palm-vein biometrics — was originally only deployed in its hospitals. However, it is now in Carolinas' physician practices and various other points of care. Through its spread throughout the system, Carolinas has seen "dramatically low duplicate medical records in [its] EMR, savings from resources that would otherwise be dedicated to managing down the duplicates, fewer medical errors, less fraud and many other ancillary benefits," according to Mr. Richardville.

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