Hackensack Meridian Health's key to team innovation? Keeping lines of communication open, CMIO says

As vice president and chief medical information officer of the Northern Region at Hackensack (N.J.) Meridian Health, Lauren Koniaris, MD, considers open lines of communication the best asset to fostering innovation among her team members.

"Every day our team members have wonderful ideas on how to transform healthcare — and they want to see these come to fruition," Dr. Koniaris said. "For those ideas that impact the areas the CMIOs oversee, the key is to keep the lines of communication as open as possible."

Dr. Koniaris, a critical care and internal medicine physician, is board certified in clinical informatics. She joined HMH more than 10 years ago.

Here, Dr. Koniaris discusses some of her most memorable moments as CMIO at HMH as well as how the health system navigated a recent Epic EHR customization. 

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?

Dr. Lauren Koniaris: Hackensack Meridian Health worked with our EHR vendor Epic to customize some outpatient therapy plan settings. Even though Epic supports large hospital systems, we discovered that our available settings that regulated the expiration times of the therapy plans were not flexible enough to meet our needs. Therapy plans are used to order non-oncology medications longitudinally in outpatient settings, such as infusion centers. For safety reasons, our various stakeholders wanted different areas to have these plans expire on different timeframes. After meeting with the stakeholders and realizing the existing functionality could not support this need, HMH worked with Epic on custom development to achieve this.

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

LK: Do due diligence and explain to your vendor the need and why it cannot be achieved using existing functionality. Then be prepared to wait while it is discussed and circulated by the vendor in their home office. Finally, you must follow their existing processes regarding how to prioritize these change requests.

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

LK: I don't think we need to promote innovation; what we need to do is listen to and, when appropriate, act on the ideas presented to us. Every day our team members have wonderful ideas on how to transform healthcare — and they want to see these come to fruition. For those ideas that impact the areas the CMIOs oversee, the key is to keep the lines of communication as open as possible. We achieve this in multiple ways — feedback, email addresses, publishing our cell phones, hosting town halls and coffee talks.

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

LK: I truly get excited when a workflow I have helped implement directly improves patient care. One of the most memorable instances is when an HMH hospital leveraged EHR data from another health system which was interfaced to our EHR, and which provided critical information not available in any other way. This allowed the patient's care team to embark on a completely new plan of care, which dramatically sped up her recovery.

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

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