If you are managing a merger, take a guess at how much time it will take to create a new culture. Then double it.
“With a merger, you’re creating a new culture and it’s difficult to do that without building trust and building a common vision,” he said. ” It’s a lot of work to build a new culture and it can’t be rushed.”
Wittman is a regional CIO for Catholic Health Initiatives, which is investing $320 million to merge two healthcare groups into one. KentuckyOne Health was created in January by the merger of Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s HealthCare Inc. in Louisville and Saint Joseph Health System in Lexington. The new nonprofit has nearly 200 locations, more than 2,325 beds, 13,600 employees and $1.8 billion in annual revenue.
Wittman is managing the IT aspects of the merger. He talked to MedCity News about the challenges of balancing centralization with a respect for existing best practices.
What was your strategy for consolidating historical medical records?
It’s an issue of cost and time. There has to be a decision about how much data you’re going to maintain in the new system. Both of the Kentucky legacy organizations were just starting implementation of an ambulatory electronic health record system and they had both chosen Allscripts. We are starting the transition to Cerner for our hospital system. We will copopulate from one system to another and the information will go to the Kentucky Health Information Exchange as well. CHI is starting on a patient portal project that is about two years out. So, if you’re a patient and come into the KentuckyOne facility, you’ll be able to log in and see what the physician sees.
KentuckyOne has an employee blog to answer questions about the new organization. What else have you done to make sure people are buying into the new company?
We are beginning to implement Cerner for our common clinical information system and we are creating order sets for that system. CHI as a whole had comments from hundreds of physicians across the country on what these order sets should look like and we got over 100 just from doctors in Kentucky. So, when we build an order set for the system, we have an idea of what the common practices are. At the end of the process we can say here’s what you guys told us you wanted. There is a governance body throughout CHI that reviews best practices as new things come up. They go through recommendations for best practices that maybe KentuckyOne brought to the table that affect other CHI groups in Seattle, Tacoma or Little Rock.
How does the accountable care model fit into KentuckyOne’s plans?
ACO models are being started at other locations; it’s very much top of mind with CHI. Because of the merger, CHI decided it was not a good time to do that here. It’s a big part of our IT work anyway. In order to have a managed health environment, you have to have data on patients. Our Onecare program will allow us to create the ACO when we’re ready.
Any thoughts on the fate of the healthcare reform law?
I think regardless of what happens with the law, what we’re doing here for healthcare is the right thing. We’ve got to do this anyway from a quality and information sharing perspective.
Has anything surprised you during your work so far with KentuckyOne?
I’ve been pleasantly surprised that there is so much enthusiasm for doing this; everyone is really anxious to get these IT systems and platforms in place. They can see better patient care and increased efficiencies when this is done.