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Health System CIO: Channel Must Develop Expertise Around Specific EMRs, Complementary Products

The CIO of HonorHealth says solution providers need to master a specific electronic medical records system and focus on products that bolt on effectively.

The CIO of a 10,500-employee health-care organization said solution providers need to master a specific electronic medical records (EMR) system and focus on products that bolt on effectively.

Solution providers in the health-care space simply aren't effective when they attempt to sell the same product to every hospital regardless of its current EMR system, vendor partners or other existing investments, according to Chuck Scully, CIO of Scottsdale, Ariz.-based HonorHealth.

"These things don't bolt on and integrate easily today to all EMRs. That's not the way health care works," Scully told CRN during the Tech Data (formerly Avnet) Technology Solutions HealthPath internship program at HonorHealth. "When you pitch, put your focus and energy on like organizations."

[RELATED: Partners Are Better Able to Diagnose Hospitals' IT Needs With Weeklong Tech Data Healthcare Internship]

Solution providers looking to service large, multi-hospital systems should become experts around the Epic, Cerner or McKesson EMR systems, Scully said, while smaller community hospitals are more likely to opt for systems like Meditech. HonorHealth has five acute-care hospitals and switched its entire system over to Epic in October after bringing two hospital systems with different EMR providers together, Scully said.

"The industry is consolidating around these players," Scully said.

It would also behoove the channel to be skeptical of "the next big thing" in health care since many innovations don't have reasonably near-term market viability, Scully said. Instead, Scully said developments in areas such as genomics often remain in a refinement or research phase for an extended period.

"That [genomics] is one where there's a high likelihood of inflated expectation about the speed with which it will come to community hospitals," Scully said. "There are some things we get excited about that aren't going to come to full-market viability as quickly as we think."

Another instance where Scully said solution providers might have put the cart in front of the horse is around accountable care organizations, which tie payment to quality metrics and the cost of care rather than services rendered. Many solution providers were trying to stake a claim in the expected accountable care land rush two years ago but pushing highly tailored solutions, Scully said.

These pitches, however, often didn't consider how a health-care system's existing vendor relationships impact its decision-making process, Scully said. Hospitals are unable to make the decision to adopt an accountable care solution is isolation since their data feeds depend on existing vendor relationships, resulting in a slower-than-anticipated rate of adoption, according to Scully.

Areas where the actual level of end-user interest is in line with the hype include staying relevant with the evolving security situation and identifying ways IT can mitigate the cost pressure hospitals face, Scully said. Health-care organizations are receptive to add-on services or managed services that offer speed to value and a rapid return on investment, according to Scully.

HonorHealth is most likely to turn to solution providers when working on a large and complex project such as the October go-live with Epic, which Scully required bringing 50 different workstreams together.

"It's not like you're starting with a greenfield and building a new enterprise," Scully said.

Solution providers can bring a level of expertise to this type of implementation that HonorHealth wouldn't have on its own thanks to having work on EMR installations at other client sites, Scully said. Outside migration, Scully said HonorHealth also uses solution providers in more of a consulting role around navigating through the options and pricing around server, storage and network devices.

HonorHealth uses multiple solution providers, Scully said, with some focused on the broader organization and others focused on a specific area such as the network.

The size of a health-care organization has a big impact on who the solution provider should target, Scully said. In systems with annual sales of less than $750 million, the CIO might be more involved with the details of the IT operation.

But in organizations with yearly revenue of at least $1 billion, Scully said the CIO is typically more focused on the company's strategic direction and making sure the needs of the physician partners are satisfied. As a result, the CIOs -- who are increasingly coming from a medical rather than a technical background -- are generally not influencing or driving purchasing decisions, Scully said.

The CIO can occasionally be the right person if a solution provider is pitching an offering that addresses clinical or business operations, Scully said. But for the most part, Scully said solution providers pitching large health-care organizations will get more bang for their buck pitching the CTO or someone else in the IT department.

"At our scale or larger, calling the CIO if you're technology-centric is a waste of time," Scully said.

After hearing during the HealthPath internship program about the number of major breaches impacting health-care providers, Software Information Systems (SIS) account executive Bob Ruiz said he plans to redouble his efforts around helping lines of business protect key data and records.

Another key focus area for Ruiz is around the use of all-flash storage in health-care settings. Although hospital data is growing rapidly, Ruiz said all-flash only makes sense in certain environments since it costs more than traditional spinning disk storage.

One area where Ruiz believes flash storage would make sense is around the essential data and records that feed into the EMR interface to maximize the performance of the EMR system.

"It's an ever-growing market," Ruiz said.

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