The life of a healthcare CIO: Truman Medical Center's Mitzi Cardenas

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In collaboration with CHIME, Becker's Hospital Review's "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.

To recommend a CIO to be featured in this series, please contact Helen Gregg (hgregg@beckershealthcare.com).

An interview with Mitzi Cardenas, senior vice president of strategy, business development and technology at Truman Medical Centers in Kansas City, Mo. (Interview has been edited for length and clarity.)

Question: You've been in the CIO role at Truman Medical Centers for about six years, but took on the strategy and business development roles about three years ago. Can you talk a bit about your new responsibilities?

Mitzi Cardenas: I was hired as a CIO just over six years ago. Our CEO always looked at technology as a strategic asset, and I was involved in most of our strategic efforts. With the departure of the previous incumbent in the strategy and business development role about three years ago, the CEO asked if I would take [it] on in addition to my then current role as CIO. I have a background in business development and in marketing and public relations, so it was a perfect fit. So I now have responsibility for those areas along with facilities, construction [and] real estate as well as marketing and PR [in addition to CIO and strategy duties].

Q: In your time with Truman Medical Centers, what has been your biggest accomplishment? 

MC: I would say my biggest accomplishment would be the rollout of our EMR in 2009 and 2010. We have received tremendous recognition for how the organization has adopted the EMR and uses it to continue to improve the quality of care and ensure patient safety as well as to and support our work.

I think the greatest part of this initiative was the opportunity to work across the organization towards this one common goal, with everyone fully engaged and working together to implement something that impacted the whole organization. We also worked well with our vendor to get over hurdles and do what we needed to do to achieve significant benefits.

We're now a HIMSS stage 7 hospital on both the acute and ambulatory sides and were just recognized as a "Most Wired" hospital, and were one of the 20 organizations named "advanced." That's really significant to us. We've also been tracking the benefits we've seen from the EMR starting in late 2009. We've seen $19 million in financial benefits, both in cost avoidance and true savings from the things we have been tracking. There have been clinical benefits, like a reduction of [patient] falls, reduction of pressure ulcers, all things important to us. The technology has helped support clinicians in these efforts. It's also gotten rid of a lot of paper — we are now virtually paperless, which has allowed us to do such things as turn former filing room space into clinical space.

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

MC: Over my career there have been some instances where we've gone through initiatives but lost connectivity with the end users. When that happens, and you don't have the alignment of IT and the user community, the project is destined to fail. As the CIO you have to be able to say, "stop," and reset before you continue.

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

MC: Right now, it's a lack of capital and continued demand for more technology to take the best advantage of all that it brings. One of the things I always say is that technology is the gift that keeps on giving — the more you offer, the greater the demand and the more you need to continue to support it. The data from our EHR is extremely valuable to the organization as we continue on a performance improvement journey. We're looking at ways to improve our use of analytics. There's a huge organizational demand for that and we're always looking to do things [that don't require] a huge investment. That's a big focus for us.

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

MC: It's important to be transparent, and to work with the user community and the clinical and business leadership to build trust. It's also about always driving value and ensuring people know what you're doing and can do for the organization, and building relationships so there is a understanding of how we can support and sometimes drive the strategy of the organization. We should always be seen as an integral part of the [organization].

More articles in the "Life of a Healthcare CIO" series:

The Life of a Healthcare CIO: Legacy Health's Dr. John Kenagy
The Life of a Healthcare CIO: St. Bernards Healthcare's Mark Odom
The Life of a Healthcare CIO: Dignity Health's Deanna Wise

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