Thibodaux Regional Medical Center's 'winning strategy' for physician engagement: Q&A with CIO Bernie Clement

Bernie Clement, CIO at Thibodaux (La.) Regional Medical Center, discusses how the hospital has set out to improve physician engagement and the healthcare convictions he thinks need to be challenged.

Responses are lightly edited for clarity and length.

Question: How does your organization gain physician buy-in when it is implementing a new technology or solution?

Bernie Clement: Physicians are no different than anyone else — they want to be involved in the decisions that impact them. We involve physicians at the start of the design process while avoid wasting their time on aspects that are more operational than clinical. We make it a point to meet them halfway: arrange meetings around their schedule, allow flexibility in design, even though it may mean more work for [the information systems team], etc. Our Care Transformation initiative leveraging Health Catalyst has been a great success because of its high degree of physician engagement in achieving improved quality, lower cost and greater patient engagement. These teams all have physician leaders who are trained at the start of the project in performance improvement methodologies. It has been a winning strategy for us.

Q: What is one thing you've learned about your patient population that's really surprised you?

BC: If you make healthy solutions accessible, they will utilize them. Our community is relatively small — 14,000 in Thibodaux — but our wellness center, which opened two years ago, has more than 5,000 members. We need to make healthy choices as easy as unhealthy ones.

Q: What is the No. 1 thing you wish you knew before taking a leadership post at your organization?

BC: I don't think I realized before coming to Thibodaux Regional how much passion for one's community and hospital makes a difference in a hospital's success. I always valued smarts above everything else. I am not saying we lack smarts at Thibodaux Regional, but I am saying that it's really the caring nature of everyone here that makes the difference. You have a willingness here by everyone to go above and beyond their job duties to make sure we deliver great care. You have a grit here to persevere that you don't see at other places. Those factors trump intellect any day. I should have valued that more in my other leadership stints.

Q: What's one conviction in healthcare that needs to be challenged?

BC: I believe people don't like to talk about waste and cost in healthcare and that people still think great care should cost more. After all, the Mercedes costs more than the Kia, right? However, if great care is getting to the right condition and delivering the right intervention, that should really cost less because time equals money. I think there is still a hesitancy to accept that there is a common solution to both lowering cost, improving clinical outcomes and getting greater patient engagement. It comes from what I just described. Too many people are just thinking one aim at a time instead of the triple aim and avoiding the waste-cost discussion.

To learn more about clinical and IT leadership, register for the Becker's Hospital Review 2nd Annual Health IT + Clinical Leadership Conference May 2-4, 2019 in Chicago. Click here to learn more and register.

To participate in future Becker's Q&As, contact Jackie Drees at jdrees@beckershealthcare.com.

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