How Beaumont Health reduced its IT budget after a hospital merger: Q&A with CIO Subra Sripada

Subra Sripada brings years of health IT leadership experience to his role as executive vice president and CIO of Southfield, Mich.-based Beaumont Health.

Mr. Sripada previously served as CIO and chief administrative officer at Beaumont Health System, Beaumont Health's previous organization before merging with Oakwood Healthcare in Dearborn, Mich., and Farmington Hills, Mich.-based Botsford Health Care in 2014.

Prior to joining Beaumont in 2008, Mr. Sripada gained business strategy experience after serving in a leadership role with PricewaterCoopers, a global management consulting firm. In the position, Mr. Sripada consulted on health IT and business strategy in both the U.S. and internationally. He is also a member of the College of Health Information Management Executives.

Mr. Sripada earned his Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Osmania University in Hyderabad, India, and his master's degree in industrial and systems engineering from Manhattan-based Kansas State University.

Here, he discusses how he allocates Beaumont Health's IT budget and the artificial intelligence project he's excited to explore in 2019.

Editor's note: 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?

Subra Sripada: As part of our merger, we consolidated our core systems and rationalized the application portfolio along with eliminating duplicative infrastructure. This resulted in reductions to our budget. Now that most of these efforts are behind us, our budget is at a reduced run rate. While the overall spend has flatlined, we budget synergies each year with which we accommodate year-over-year cost increases to the IT budget.

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

SS: We made significant investments in consolidating our core systems in the past three years along with cybersecurity. While we still have some consolidation activity underway, our investments are focused on those components that drive enhancements to our care model and help us on our journey of being the best at delivering patient and family-centered care.

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

SS: In 2018, we worked with an AI and machine learning startup company to automate discovery of savings opportunities in drug use. The pilot was successful beyond our expectations, and we are now gearing up for a full-scale deployment. Piloting the use of this AI/ML platform to our population health efforts for more effective pattern recognition, and thereby effective care management, is an exciting prospect we will be exploring in 2019.

Additionally, we launched a unified communications tool at our second largest hospital in 2018. The goal was to enable more real-time communications and collaboration among care teams. Our solution offers patient information, patient alarms, central telemetry monitoring unit alerts and texting and voice capabilities through shared smartphones.

We have also adopted the use of [bring your own devices] for communication devices that care givers use. Nurses also use these devices for selective documentation along with using the phones as scanners for bar code medication administration. I am excited to roll this out to the rest of our hospitals in 2019.

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