What it's like for a health system to outsource IT

One health system wanted to aim its technology focus on digital innovation and patient care. So it outsourced its IT department.

Providence, R.I.-based Care New England moved nearly 160 IT staffers to an IBM spinoff last year.

"This wasn't about saving money," CIO Tom Gregorio told Becker's. "It was about having the muscle to reach the next level as a health system."

He said Care New England has since increased its IT spending and grown its IT "department" by about 40 people.

The three-hospital system had been on different EHRs for inpatient and ambulatory care but couldn't afford a consolidation to a systemwide Epic EHR on its own, Mr. Gregorio said. So it contracted with Kyndryl, an IT services company spun off from IBM in 2021, for the transition to Epic and the Amazon Web Services cloud.

For now, Care New England is still on Oracle Health (formerly known as Cerner) for its inpatient EHR but plans to be fully Epic around October 2025.

"I have 30 years experience. I've been on the other side of trying to build that yourself. And I can do it," Mr. Gregorio said. "But it's a different situation when you have a partner where that's all they do versus the fire that's brewing for the day in a hospital environment. So for us, it was about upscaling to meet the future of our digitization as a health system, and also to find a partner that can work with us to get us there as safely as possible."

And he said the partnership could open up the opportunity for more of them, as this is Kyndryl's first time converting a health system to Epic.

Mr. Gregorio said it has been a "great decision from an infrastructure perspective" as Kyndryl has staff "all over the world." He said the company quickly finds him specialists, saving him days to weeks on projects.

With roughly 90,000 employees, Kyndryl is the largest IT services firm on Earth.

Most of Care New England's 160-plus IT employees made the jump, with a handful either retiring or resigning. They can still come to the office at Care New England; they're just on Kyndryl's payroll (most work remotely anyway). About a dozen senior IT staffers stayed on with the health system.

The decision to farm out IT will help Care New England focus more on its digital innovation strategy, including virtual care, Mr. Gregorio said.

"It's been a real good partnership," Mr. Gregorio said. "They're big enough to be able to afford all of the processes, maintenance, all of the watching of all the systems to make sure they're up and running, trying to reduce cycle times."

Kyndryl has been able to cut Care New England's system backup time in half, he said.

Mr. Gregorio expects more small health systems to outsource IT. Several already have, namely to Optum. "I think it works for organizations my size, maybe up to five hospitals," he said. "The trend is there."

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