Welcome back to Optimum Healthcare IT’s “4 Questions with…” series, where we interview top executives in the Healthcare IT space. We search for the leaders with track records of service excellence, who are passionate about their work and make patient safety their top priority. In this installment, we talk with James F. Feen, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer at Southcoast Health.
James Feen: Our primary method for measuring value begins with our IT governance model. Our approach has been to engage and allow key stakeholders and care center groups across the organization to take control of their IT project work. The governance process is centered around guiding principles that reinforce a patient-centered and a value-centered approach.
This is easier said than done. The process is facilitated by our IT PMO and our Application teams with a goal to work collaboratively with each functional group to understand where our delivery focus should be while also serving in an advisory role. One constant is the fact that the total volume of requested work exceeds our ability to deliver (sound familiar?). You hear the saying you cannot squeeze 50 pounds of sand into a 25-pound bag. Routinely meeting with stakeholders to review shifts in priorities really matters.
While this can be a tedious task, delivering on the IT work helps reinforce why this collaboration is critical. This matters, not only for strategic alignment but also for the morale and engagement by the IT employees who are reinforced and supported by having clear priorities.
In 2017, our teams delivered on 63% of requested new projects - our goal was 60%. This is on top of “must-have” system-level projects like EMR upgrades, ERP conversions, and data center/network upgrades. Goals have been set to drive the delivery number up. We are never perfect in this process, and view the effort as a continuous process improvement obligation while maintaining lower level metrics to ensure we’re delivering on support, system performance, and cyber threat monitoring. These metrics get exposed to various board and governance groups on a routine basis. When we are delivering on key priorities that start out of the gate with proper alignment to value and improving outcomes, this has taken much of the guess-work out of our IT value function helps solidify our position as a business partner in the process.
James Feen: This figure is hovering around 3.5% of the operating budget. For repeatable tasks where the work output is relatively consistent, we pick areas where we can concretely show a decrease in the cost per unit of work effort for an outsourced or managed service. This approach has helped us keep our most skilled labor focused on the most important work for our organization while reducing some cost. Of course, it’s not always this easy, and technical skill set deficiencies or position vacancies always get solved by this bucket as well.
James Feen: We are coming off of five years of considerable investment in our next generation clinical and business platforms. During these major conversion projects, investment in peripheral systems and hardware had been deferred. We are playing catch-up on several of these items. We are in the midst of upgrading our Telecom VOIP platform, defining analytics platform strategies, catching up on the refresh of our PC fleet, adding investment in cyber tools, and efficiency tools like Single Sign-On for clinicians.
James Feen: I’ve really been fortunate to have a number of strong advisors and influencers in my career. As an IT Exec, my biggest influence has been my (now retired) former boss, Linda Bodenmann. Linda is a brilliant mind, a motivator, a strategist, and a doer. She influenced and pushed me, and many around me, to simply be better and achieve things both for our patients and the greater good in everything we do. She is now taking these tactics to the golf course!