South Shore Health CIO implements new workflow tool while responding to COVID-19

Amid the coronavirus outbreak, South Shore Health CIO Cara Babachicos is still focused on integrating new solutions to improve clinician workflows. 

On March 15, she confirmed that the hospital had launched its Workday system for human resources. Next month, South Weymouth, Mass.-based South Shore Health plans to take the system live for the supply chain and finance departments. 

“A pandemic didn’t stop us, but it took a lot of creativity around a virtual command center,” Ms. Babachicos told Becker’s Hospital Review in an email. 

Below, Ms. Babachicos details how she is assisting in South Shore Health’s response to COVID-19 as well as a few of her tech initiatives and thoughts on being a woman in health IT. 

Question: From a tech perspective, how is South Shore Health preparing for the coronavirus outbreak? Is there anything specific that CIOs should know? 

Cara Babachicos: We are involved in operations in a pretty critical way. From a communications framework, we are working on how to deploy communications in and outside the organizations to reach people who are not always on email or our website. We've had to get creative when putting things into our Epic CareLink and other notifications to the community. We've had to create various 800 numbers and a call center for staff to answer commonly asked questions. Behind the scenes we are doing a lot of the stuff that helps us stay connected. 

I am part of a meeting that happens twice a day as part of the core group addressing coronavirus. We looked around the room and wondered even though we are running WebX meetings, why are we all meeting in the same room. If we are all meeting in the same room, and one of us ends up getting infected, we will all be quarantined for a few weeks and unable to run the hospital. 

We had to start thinking creatively about how to use remote tools and other web-based tools. This includes providing ways for our workforce to work from home. I would say that thankfully we've been down this path before, so it is relatively easy to transition to a remote model. However, it still really puts emphasis on business continuity planning and some of the same things that we as CIOs worry about all the time.  

Q: You had mentioned that you were supposed to be doing your HIMSS presentation virtually. Could you talk a little bit about what you planned to discuss? 

CB: Basically, I was discussing governance, identity access management and governance of identity, which falls under the security realm. It really focused on managing users holistically rather than in separate pockets. I liken it a lot to thinking about a medical record. Let's say a patient's name is John Brown. You want to make sure you have the right John Brown record when the patient shows up to the hospital. Similar to a credit report, you want to make sure your credit report is the correct John Brown. In terms of identity access management, you also want to make sure that you are giving the appropriate access to the correct people based on their roles. Then going one step further to automate the process more efficiently, so that the day an employee shows up to work they have all the necessary tools to care for patients. 

Q: At South Shore Health, what is your No. 1 priority as CIO? 

CB: I would say it's partnering with organizations to deliver the services that we need to make everyone successful when caring for patients. 

That can mean a whole bunch of different things. So, it's about using our systems as efficiently as possible, making sure we are deploying and managing patient flow appropriately, helping providers work remotely if they need to, looking at caregivers and any burnout issues. We are about to go live with a new enterprise resource planning system in about a week so that is also top of my mind. I'm trying to make sure we are rolling out tools that are very much designed to give us more transparency and accountability while also making sure people are trained and can be successful because it really changes the culture. 

A true CIO is not just putting the systems in. They are also managing the transformation and the change and really helping people understand how to reach a destination. The list goes on of why you need to address culture. 

For us, one example is the new phone system we are trying to put in. We are trying to put a new contact center in our medical center. The goal is to not just put in a new contact center but to really redesign how we take calls. While a lot of it may seem like customer service related, it can really affect staff workflows.

Q: Happy late International Women’s Day. How are you promoting equity between men and women in healthcare and more specifically health IT? 

CB: I bring my perspective to the table and am a big advocate for women, but I'm also an advocate for a lot of people who work with me. I really try to stress to my staff to be who you are. Managing emotional intelligence is a big part of what I think women are especially good at. So, it's making sure I am highlighting that. I also try to highlight women's abilities when it comes to project management. I also open the floor up for my staff to be honest about what kind of work they want to do and their career paths. It's not always about what is being delivered in a message, but how a message is delivered. Emotional intelligence is about building relationships so people know you have their best interest in mind. In my work, I always try to explain the "why," not the "what." 

Without sounding corny, I do a coffee with Cara once a month. During that, I bring 10 people in a room and we just talk about our jobs and backgrounds. I open the floor up to questions. I then try to find opportunities that fit their career objectives, including educational opportunities. 

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