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Risk Taker

Gary Baldwin, for HealthLeaders News, October 16, 2007

I was invited to Kansas City last week to present on media relations at the Cerner user conference. It's a touchy subject with reporters who are deluged with media pitches, both on-target and off. I went expecting to bump shoulders with a few CIOs. What I saw, in the words of one attendee, was a "mini-HIMMS." Although the presentations were all around the topic of how to use Cerner's software, they were given predominately by hospital executives. If anything, the event is the software vendor's "soft sell" approach and thank-you to its customers.

One attendee, Sanjay Shah, described how his hospital is in the midst of a major, $20-million deployment of new clinical IT. Last August, Cabell Huntington (WV) Hospital turned on some 16 applications at once, replacing a mix of legacy systems and paper processes. They included a new pharmacy system, clinical documentation for physicians and nurses, and software for ICU documentation. Physician order entry is part of the mix to come. According to Shah, Cerner advised against the "Big Bang" approach. But he said the hospital asked the question, 'Why extend our misery?'

Part of Shah's strategy was an exhaustive communications plan to describe to staff what the hospital was doing and why. This was a major leap of the faith for the 300-bed community hospital, but Shah says, in retrospect, the rapid roll-out worked. By coincidence, Cabell Huntington was one of the winners of this year's Top Leadership Teams contest. Winning the contest, Shah says, was more about leadership than technology. But clearly, the leadership was in place for the Big Bang to work.

You can also hear portions of my interview with Shah, click here.


Gary Baldwin is technology editor of HealthLeaders magazine. He can be reached at gbaldwin@healthleadersmedia.com.