3 key areas that Centura Health's IT budget is focused on: CIO Ken Lee

Ken Lee, senior vice president and CIO at Centura Health in Centennial, Colo., discusses the focus behind the health system's IT budget and how it aligns with the organization's future goals.

Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Question: What does your health IT budget look like this year? Is it trending up or down over previous years?

Ken Lee: Most recently, our Centura Health IT budget has been trending downward as we have focused on driving cost efficiency as well as restructuring the IT team to align with our 2025 strategy. My goal is to maintain a flat-to-slightly-increased annual budget as we reinvest savings from operational efficiency to build digital capabilities that will create an 'easy button' for healthcare. We're on a mission to make healthcare more accessible and effective for our customers and increase the efficiency of our providers and clinicians to do more with their patients.

Q: How are you allocating the budget? What difference is there this year compared to previous years?

KL: Our budgeting process focuses on three areas: keep the lights on, enhancements and strategic projects. As we continually drive efficiencies in our KLO spend, we allow increased investments in enhancements and strategic projects. The focus is on return on investment and alignment to our Centura Health 2025 corporate strategy and annual business goals. Bottom line, our success in IT depends on our alignment to business goals and metrics.

Q: What projects are you most excited about for 2019?

KL: There are a few initiatives that I'm excited about in 2019.

First, our focus to create an 'easy button' for healthcare starts with our physicians. Our physicians have varying levels of efficiency using Epic, and anything we can do to help them be more productive equates to improved patient care and reduced physician burnout. We have a program to provide every physician a personal coach to improve his or her use of our digital tools like Epic. This bi-directional relationship helps us through the change management related to the implementation of new technologies.

Centura Health is also building our foundation for predictive analytics. We've assembled a team of associates with experience outside of healthcare around machine learning and artificial intelligence. Recently, this group completed an effort to review and analyze all of our physician contract payment terms. Since the contracts were on paper, they used optical character recognition to digitize the contracts and then used machine learning to pull out the terms of the contract to compare payments against the contract terms. This group completed the bulk of this task in a week. We're leveraging those same capabilities on our initiatives to improve patient satisfaction, safety and quality.

Another example is our initiative to provide an end-to-end digital customer journey. Imagine a web or mobile app experience that provides a technology platform for vendors to help us deliver a comprehensive healthcare experience — much like Amazon provides an exceptional retail experience by providing the foundation for vendors to deliver their products through the Amazon ecosystem. The first step to improve the experience is scheduling a visit to any primary care or specialty doctor. This helps both the patient and the physician. Therefore, we are building the foundation to provide a healthcare experience that delivers the same ease and convenience people are accustomed to receiving with other industries, like booking a hotel room on Travelocity or shopping on Amazon. Healthcare is ready for digital transformation and Centura Health is working with our health partners to meet our patient's needs.

To learn more about clinical and IT leadership, register for the Becker's Hospital Review 2nd Annual Health IT + Clinical Leadership Conference May 2-4, 2019 in Chicago. Click here to learn more and register.

To participate in future Becker's Q&As, contact Jackie Drees at jdrees@beckershealthcare.com.

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