The key to EHR customization? Listening to the end users, Inspira Health CIO says

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When it comes to EHR customization, Tom Pacek, vice president of information systems and CIO at Inspira Health in Mullica, N.J., considers end user feedback a critical component to validating how widespread a system issue really is.

Mr. Pacek joined Inspira Health's leadership team in 2008. In addition to leading the health system's IT network and information systems, Mr. Pacek also serves as president of NJSHINE, a public health information exchange in New Jersey.

Here, Mr. Pacek shares his advice for hospitals approaching an EHR customization and when to avoid implementing changes.

Editor's note: Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Question: What is one recent initiative you've taken to customize your EHR system? 

Tom Pacek: To reduce delays in care, we implemented an alert for physicians that sends a notification a few days in advance of a medication's expiration date. This has reduced the burden on our in-house pharmacy to contact physicians to renew medications and avoids the risk of a gap in treatment.

Q: What advice do you have for other hospitals looking to implement an EHR customization?

TP: Listen to users about what makes their day both easier and harder when using the EHR. It's important to use analytic data to help validate how broad an issue is. Then you can determine if customization is necessary. Whenever possible, it's best to target customizations that affect close to 50 percent of users and medical staff. Apart from small single-specialty areas, such as oncology or endocrinology, hospitals should avoid customizations for a single user or small groups. In addition, you'll want to make sure your organization is always monitoring any changes for desired outcomes.

Q: How do you promote innovation among your team members? 

TP: As CIO, it's easy to promote innovation among my departments. As the biggest change agents in the organization, my team is always looking for ways to modify software applications and/or acquire new equipment or technology in order to make people's workflow better and less burdensome. We evaluate every suggestion from the team and identify the value derived from each suggestion. We then prioritize these based on the total value it brings to the patient experience and engagement. We also evaluate the improved quality and safety, employee and physician satisfaction, and cost reduction or revenue enhancement that a new idea or technology could bring to the organization. 

While this is our main responsibility and focus in the information systems department, we are also actively building a culture of innovation throughout Inspira. Innovation does not start at our innovation center, but rather it starts with every employee, every physician and every leader. We encourage everyone to share ideas that bring value to the patient, employee, physician or the healthcare industry. We even encourage our community to innovate with us by submitting their ideas through our MyInspira App and website.

Q: What has been one of your most memorable moments as CIO?

TP: My very first information systems department meeting at Inspira. I introduced myself, shared my background, my commitment to value them and my vision for us to be a 'service department,' not a technology department.  I received a lot of blank stares and a lot of silence during the meeting. To my surprise, after the meeting many staff and management team members individually came to me and said how refreshing that was to hear. The team expressed how re-energized and optimistic they were for our future success together.

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