The Life of a Healthcare CIO: Mt. San Rafael Hospital's Michael John Archuleta

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 Michael John Archuleta, director of IT at Mt. San Rafael Hospital in Trinidad, Colo. (Interview has been edited for length and clarity.)

Question: How long have you been director of IT?

Michael John Archuleta: I've been with this organization for six years now. We're a small, 25-bed critical access hospital. Working in a critical access hospital has been interesting — I really think you wear more hats here than you would in a metropolitan hospital, reason being we're limited on staff. So one day I'll be working fully with IT and the next I'll be helping with billing issues. Working for a critical access hospital has been a great challenge and opportunity, because in a metropolitan hospital you're focused on the one thing your department is focused on, and here you're focusing on several different items at once, often simultaneously.

Q: How has your job changed in the past six years?111513archuleta

MJA: Back then, IT meant the individual who fixed your computer. IT was "the computer guys." Now healthcare IT has evolved, and my job has moved from the tech side of things to now being more of a business leader. The technologist side has combined with overall project management and creating an overall better workflow, especially within our electronic medical record systems. With all of these new processes we're facing, the meaningful use process and EMR systems, we're all just trying to create better patient care within these new processes. In a way, it's being a leader of healthcare's new wave of technology.

Q: In your time with the hospital, what has been your biggest accomplishment?

MJA: My biggest accomplishment has been implementing the EMR system successfully [at the hospital's clinics throughout the area], creating better workflows for clinicians and stepping up to the plate in improving the infrastructure to accommodate the EMR system. Also, really stepping up to the plate and being the main project leader, especially when it comes to meaningful use and verifying everything from registration to the checkout process is being completed as it should [to aid in attestation]. It's been a challenge, but we've been successful.

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

MJA: Honestly, [staffing] is the hardest thing about healthcare IT — I like using "healthcare" in front of "IT" because there are a lot of technologists out there, but there's a limited number of healthcare IT individuals that really understand both healthcare and IT. It's really unfortunate, but because of limited resources, I've had to bring in individuals before that don't have the healthcare background, just the technology background. And they really need a combined healthcare and IT background to be part of a successful team.

Q: Looking back over the past month, what has taken up the majority of your time?

MJA: We have successfully implemented the EMR system at our several clinic locations, and we're now in the process of implementing it at the hospital. That's what's taking up the bulk of my time.

Q: What is the biggest challenge you're facing right now?

MJA: I think a big challenge for everyone right now is making sure the EMR is working right and capturing all the meaningful use data, and making sure you're all aligned with items coming down the pipeline like ICD-10, meaningful use stage 2 and meaningful use stage 3. Years ago, we would be scared as IT individuals that Y2K was happening, but now it's like several Y2K's happening all at the same time. It's been about trying to figure out how to balance priorities with all the individual items coming at us.

Also, living in a rural community, it has been challenging to hire individuals with a healthcare IT background to fill positions — recruiting has definitely been a big challenge.

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

MJA: Going forward, I think we are facing many challenging items coming down the pipeline, and, I love to say this — we need to develop a strong team. With a strong team comes great communication, great processes and then comes great success. For any project implementation, make sure you have that strong team. It's challenging at times, but make sure every individual coming in is qualified and understands healthcare.

More Articles on Healthcare CIOs:

The Life of a Healthcare CIO: Lutheran Health Network's Keith Neuman
Valley Presbyterian Hospital Names Jeff Allport CIO
AHA Launches Health IT Survey

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