5 questions with Marshfield Clinic CIO Denise Webb

After she finished her Air Force career in 2000, Denise Webb, CIO of Marshfield (Wis.) Clinic Health System and CEO of Marshfield Clinic Information Systems, moved to Wisconsin and joined the state's Department of Health Services.

As lead on Wisconsin's eHealth program, Ms. Webb worked with all the state's health systems and providers on EHR adoption and health information exchange development. In this role, she was introduced to MCHS.

"My passion for improving the health and well-being of the people of Wisconsin and the opportunity to work with and support a group of premier healthcare providers who are enriching the lives of the patients they care for every day is what brought me to Marshfield Clinic," Ms. Webb says.

She has been CIO of MCHS since June 2016. The health system encompasses four hospitals, four ambulatory surgery centers, the 700-physician Marshfield Clinic medical group, more than 55 clinic sites, a family health center, Marshfield Clinic Lab, a health plan, a research institute and the Marshfield Clinic Health System Foundation.

In August, Ms. Webb was one of 15 appointed to the Health IT Advisory Committee, which was established by the ONC as part of the 21st Century Cures Act.

Ms. Webb recently spoke with Becker's Hospital Review about her hopes for the committee, MCHS's IT goals and the prospect of interoperability.

Editor's Note: Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

Question: What do you hope to accomplish while serving on the Health IT Advisory Committee?

Denise Webb: I expect to work with my fellow committee members and advise the ONC head, Don Rucker, MD, on how we can remove barriers impeding nationwide interoperability and create the environment for seamless and frictionless flow of health information for patients and their caregivers. My own personal experiences with electronic HIE as a patient and a caregiver for my family members has not been positive. I have been diligently working on this since 2006. We need our health IT systems to be interoperable, so our health information is available electronically when and where we need it.

Q: Marshfield has quite the history when it comes to health IT innovation. Can you tell me about the Marshfield Clinic's EHR?

DW: Over the last 30 years, the clinic custom developed all of its health IT solutions, including integrating the EHR with the prescription drug monitoring system for opioid prescriptions. The most important benefit of this integration with the PDMP is we are proactively able to address and prevent opioid misuse or overuse and ultimately save lives. Across the system, MCHS has reduced its opioid prescribing by 29 percent since 2012 and by 14 percent from 2015 to 2016.

Q: What is one of your main IT goals for MCHS this year?

We have some major health IT initiatives underway. In July, we acquired Saint Joseph's Hospital [in Marshfield], now called Marshfield Medical Center, and we are building a hospital in Eau Claire (Wis.), which is due to open next summer. One of my main goals is to align these hospital EHRs and convert our revenue cycle management for patient billing. These are substantial projects. We are also in the process of re-platforming our homegrown EHR, CattailsMD. I want to ensure we successfully integrate these systems to support our patients, no matter where they are in the care delivery spectrum.

Q: How have you seen the health IT landscape change over the past five years and how do you imagine it will change over the next five years?

DW: I have seen tremendous growth in digital healthcare and an uptick in EHR adoption and use brought about by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act and the Medicare and Medicaid meaningful use incentive program. We have not solved the interoperability issues in healthcare, and I think we will see improvements and progress over the next five years or more. The other aspect that is prevalent and will become more so is healthcare consumerism. Consumers are demanding transparency on costs and are beginning to demand electronic access to all their healthcare data. I think we will see more emphasis and traction on technical capabilities and policies to support the consumer-directed exchange of health information. 

Q: What is the most important piece of advice you could give to other CIOs about IT or health technology?

DW: It is important to have an effective, integrated digital strategy to support and manage healthcare delivery. Health IT is a tool to assist our providers in delivering safe, effective healthcare to our patients. What is really important at the end of the day as a healthcare CIO is making a positive impact on the lives of the patients and communities your health system or organization serves.

Editor's Note: This article was updated Oct. 18 at 12:13 p.m.

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