The Life of a Healthcare CIO: Barnabas Health's Dr. Luis Taveras

In collaboration with CHIMEBecker's Hospital Review's new "Life of a Healthcare CIO" series features leading hospital and health system CIOs from across the country who are sharing their experiences, best practices and challenges.

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An interview with Luis Taveras, PhD, senior vice president and CIO of Barnabas Health in West Orange, N.J. (Interview has been edited for length and clarity.)

Question: You've been CIO of Barnabas Health for about three months. How well has the reality of the job's requirements and demands aligned with your expectations?

Luis Taveras: I was the CIO at a similar-sized system in Hartford, Conn., and in terms of the two jobs, the systems were at two different stages of development from an IT perspective. At Hartford, I had played a major role on migrating from a myriad of systems to a single, integrated solution using Epic. At Barnabas Health, we have already rolled out the core of the Cerner solution but we still have a few more ancillaries to implement. So it was a move from an implementation phase in Hartford to more of a focus on optimization at Barnabas Health. A little different, but the objective is the same — I'm here to play a major role in the execution of our strategy by providing the best solutions that will allow us to coordinate care across the system, improve the health status of all the populations we serve and deliver high quality, consistent patient care regardless of the care setting.

Q: Since you've started at Barnabas Health, what project or challenge has taken up the majority of your time?

LT: The first three months have been spent working on a strategic plan which was recently unanimously approved by the senior leadership team. The plan calls for major restructuring of the organization that will improve the efficiency of the team and deliver more value per person to the organization. We are going to transform our organization into a delivery excellence team that will be much more focused on providing systemwide solutions that enhance our ability to consistently provide high quality care to our patients and their families.

I have also been working on understanding the culture of Barnabas Health, including learning the values and leadership principles that guide our actions and strategies. Our industry is changing extremely fast and we need to keep up with those changes in order to maintain our leadership position in the markets that we serve. IT will play a major role in enabling us to make the necessary changes to population health management and the value-based reimbursement systems.

Q: What are your goals for your first year as CIO?

LT: We have a number of operational imperatives for 2014. At the top of the list is ICD-10 — we have to stay focused on ICD-10 and make sure we stay well ahead of the Oct. 1, 2014 mandate. Number two is meaningful use. We have a significant number of dollars associated with meaningful use, and from a business development standpoint, we need to meet it, and we will. Third is enabling population health solutions and supporting our accountable care organizations. We have two ACOs, and we need to make sure we have the right solutions, including data warehouses and analytics, that are required to know everything about every individual patient as well any cohort of patients. We also have a very significant presence in behavioral health in the state of New Jersey. This will become a service line that requires the best solution possible to allow it to function as a single organization.

We're also doing several major security initiatives including a single sign-on system. We will also be launching our own health information exchange in the first half of the year.

We have a couple major lab systems running throughout the organization right now. We can't have that — we need an integrated solution. I am a big believer that integration trumps functionality. We're a Cerner shop, so if there's a Cerner solution we'll take it as long as the functionality if better than or comparable to alternative solutions.

Q: Looking back over your career as a hospital CIO, what has been your biggest accomplishment? 

LT: I'll try not to go into major system implementations because that's something we all do and feel great about it when done. I think my biggest accomplishment has been being taking an organization on a journey that will help it to transform into the new world of large healthcare providers. Taking it to a new world of healthcare where we're focused on coordinating care and providing IT systems to achieve business objectives. I'm proud to have contributed towards the positioning of Hartford HealthCare into an organizational that will not only survive thee major upheavals but that will actually thrive in the new environment. Now, my job is to do exactly the same at Barnabas Health.

Q: What do you see as your biggest misstep or mistake?

LT: Not having a clear and great understanding of the culture, and expecting too much to happen too quickly. What happens when you don't understand the culture is that people feel you're not doing something with them, but to them. The result of that situation is that people will be less engage and the end results will be less than optimal. I needed to step back and ask myself how I contributed to this situation and the answer was that was expecting too much in too short of a time frame. I have learned to tame my expectations by better understanding the culture and the separate realities of all the people around me.

Q: What is one lesson you've learned during your career that you'd like to share with other CIOs?

LT: The thing that I do that has worked well for me is that by 7:30 a.m., I know everything that is going on throughout the organization from an IT perspective. I can run into any executive in any part of our organization and not be surprised by them saying a system or application is down. I know that well before they do. This is critical for me.

More Articles in the "Life of a Healthcare CIO" Series:

The Life of a Healthcare CIO: Intermountain's Marc Probst
The Life of a Healthcare CIO: Mass General's Keith Jennings
The Life of a Healthcare CIO: CIO of the Year Ed Marx

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