Dee Cantrell, CIO - Emory Healthcare - Interview

Dee Cantrell, CIO - Emory Healthcare - Interview

Interview Transcript:

Interviewer (I): We are joined by Dee Cantrell, a friend of Jvion, a friend of ours, and the CIO of Emory Healthcare. Welcome to the show Dee!

Dee Cantrell, CIO (DC): Thank you. It’s my pleasure to be here.

I: Well, thanks for making your time. I know, that as a CIO there are only about 3400 vendors that want to talk to you today.

DC: [Laugh] I think I have talked to most of them already.

I: [Laugh] Oh did you? Why don’t we get started by you telling the audience about your background a little bit Dee?

DC: Sure! Happy to. So, I am the CIO of Emory Healthcare. I have actually been at Emory for about 21 years now. So I'm way past the normal tenure of a CIO. I hope that is a good thing, right? But, I am also a nurse and first and foremost, I think having that clinical background and that calling if you will for caregiving is a huge part of why I've been so successful at Emory Healthcare, which is our largest academic health system in the Southeast. And we’re based in Atlanta, Georgia of course.
And we have a very large Integrated Delivery Network. We’ve got the largest primary care provider network in all of Georgia. We have 6 hospitals now I think. But any moment we’ll probably have another one. So my life is very busy. As the CIO, there's never a dull moment. In the one… in the 21 years of I’ve been at Emory, I have never been bored.

I: [Laugh] I can imagine. Well, I know you come to HIMSS because one, you want to bone up on and two, you want to learn more about the latest trends in IT. What do you think that are the top three trends as we head into 2016?

DC: Well, so I think one of the… one of the key initiatives, I think that all of us have been tackling and will continue to tackle into the… into the next year even, is optimizing workflow, right? By leveraging all of the great technologies we've been so busy implementing over the past years, and so, I think you see pretty much whether it’s physician practices or integrated delivery networks or large academic systems, we’re all focused on trying to make that work flow more efficient more user-friendly and just more high quality and the interactions that we have with this system to ensure that we're delivering the highest quality and safest patient care possible.
Um, the other two areas that are strong initiatives right now and again continuing into the next year is also Data Analytics, right? And, Predictive Analytics and leveraging all that data lot of us have been collecting over the years and harvesting in such a way that we can get meaningful information out of it and be able to help provide feedback into the care process and make that process even better than before so that we can manage outcomes, we can manage populations of health in a much better way. And then Cloud services, right? So, you know we’ve always had the Cloud, you know. We've had virtualization for a long time but we definitely marketed this Cloud thing [Laugh] and you know, I wish I had been the one to market that. I think I'd be making some money on that right now, right? But Cloud services definitely, that whole approach to virtualized environments, managed you know by Amazon and other big vendors like that. You see a lot of us really participating, and how we leverage that to the best benefit of our IT shops and more importantly of the Healthcare System.

I: Dee, we are doing a lot of these interviews, you the first one who’s called out workflow and I almost reached around and hugged you.

DC: You can do that. I am good with that.

I: Over the past 10 years we've been installing all these systems. Because they are installed doesn't mean they are optimized, right?

DC: That’s so true!

I: Your hands are tied. You are doing 5 and 6 implementations concurrently. Not every time could you get the optimal workflow. And workflow changes. So you are always in the process of evaluating. And you don't have to re-implement a system, but optimizing what you have.

DC: Oh that’s so true. And you know, particularly with the hi-tech act and all of the fed reqs that have come out for meaningful use and quality of care and all those things. I mean if you look at it the vendors have been churning that code out, right, in a very rapid process. And we in turn have been implemented it just as fast as we can. The challenge with that is… is that we implement something that's probably not as user-friendly as it could be because they hadn't had time to really work through that. So in some ways we've done a disservice I think to our providers, our consumers of those technologies. But at the same time there were such pressures that we had to meet certain reqs and make sure that we were going to get, as our CFO likes to call it “meaningful money”, you know from those meaningful use of things.

I: Meaningful money. I love it.

DC: Meaningful money! That’s right!

I: We are going to hash tag that.

DC: [Laugh] And avoid all those penalties even more so… so definitely optimization of work flow is got to be a BIG focus area for all of us to make things better.

I: You know Dee, most of the listeners on our show are healthcare listeners and they understand. But I tell the story to my non-healthcare friends. My wife was the CFO of a fast food restaurant chain. And she had IT under her. And in the IT department there were about 200 hundred IT people which is probably comfortable to your style.

DC: Ya. I have about 245. And let me tell you, I am at least 50 FTEs understaffed, according to benchmark. Just had to get that plug out there. [Laugh]

I: At the restaurant, she had may be 9 or 10 applications.

DC: Oh ya!

I: For 200, for the same amount of IT staff, right?

DC: Ya! Uhun..That is…

I: You see the point, right?

DC: Ya. That’s…

I: So you have 5 or 6 skilled people per application. What do you have 200 applications? 200+ probably?

DC: Well we're lucky that our turnover is 3% or less annually in the IT department itself. But, the positions that do come open, I mean trying to get the right skill set and expertise level, it's… it is so difficult.

I: I bet. I bet. All right, I am going to move right along.

DC: Sure.

I: It’s not about me, right? [Laugh]

DC: It can be! But then it has to be about me. [Laugh]

I: This is going to be really interesting, because you have been at Emory for so long and you really kind of haven't had the opportunity to pass your problems on to the next person. What are… What are those challenges that are keeping you up at night now?

DC: Well this one has… has always kept me up at night. But it’s the worse that I think I have ever seen in my career. And that is the imbalance of the volume of the user needs for new technologies, enhancements and optimizations with the human capital and the money capital that’s available to go around. I mean there are so many hopes, dreams and desires out there that we would love to be able to address. But there is just not enough money or people to be able to go around to tackle all of those. So we have to make even harder decisions than ever before as to what gets prioritized.

I: I bet. I bet. We talked a little bit and we mentioned a little bit about analytics. What is the role analytics is playing in your environment today?

DC: Well that's sort of the corner stone of almost everything, right, going forward. Given the regulatory changes, the reimbursement model changes, I mean population health management; that's… that's the way of the future, right? Lot of us are already doing pieces of that. But without data and that technology wrapped around that data to make is meaningful for how do we manage populations of health and wellness and how do we identify those high-risk categories and try to intervene sooner that later, so they, you know don’t become one of those acute care kind of situations. It is… that is the critical path forward in healthcare.

I: Dee, you mentioned all these opportunities and applications and all the people that want to talk to you about their applications. What are the things you are really considering as you prioritize and figure out which ones are you really going to tackle as you create your IT strategies?

DC: All of that is really centered around what the Emory Healthcare strategic plan and goals are because the technology plan is… is really only as good as what that business plan is, right? And so we have to sort of ensure that we are thinking through from a technology perspective; where that… where that vision for Emory Healthcare is going and then what products are going to help us get there and underneath all of that is which ones will really interoperate the right way. So that we can deliver that high quality safe patient care that we are known for.

I: Perfect. One question I love to ask all CIOs. Everybody has a little different view of this. How… how do you drive adoption? It's one thing to install a system we talked about. Our systems are optimized; but we really need physicians and clinicians and nurses and everyone that's going to touch that system to adopt them. How do you optimize your adoption for new technologies?

DC: Well, they have to part of the process. It’s the active engagement of those key stakeholders and design, implementation and sustainment of the things that we implement that’s key. It’s… it's really having that partnership with the providers, because really it's us together that are going to make the difference. Each of us alone cannot make that difference.

I: Perfect. So, imagine we’re sitting at the roulette table. We got one chip. There are all these technologies out there that we got to place the one bet on, and if we do not put our bet on this in 5 years we are not going to exist as a heath system. What do you think that is today?

DC: I am going to stay with the theme of interoperability… um because we have to be able to have the products and development of those products that play better together. And personally I think, FHIR development is going to be the big thing in the next years because that is the closest thing I have seen in my career so far that promises opportunities for actually really interoperating and layering a user friendly front on top of these legacy EMR systems which in the back end are great, you know, they are workhorses. But usability’s not necessarily their big thing. So I think that we're all going to want to watch the FHIR development process and get involved in that early.

I: Yup. And for those of you listening that don't know what FHIR is, don't Google fire. Google FHIR, great new emerging standard, lot of... we first probably heard about it maybe last year at HIMSS?

DC: Yes.

I: … where it was enough of a conversation that those in the know would have heard. So, thank you for mentioning that. That's really important I think. One question I have to ask every guest on a show, whatever shows we go to. What's on your personal must-do list? What do you have to do before you leave HIMSS this year?

DC: Well, I’ve sort of accomplished most of those already which is, there were very specific technologies that I had my eye on, that I wanted to go and… and follow through with. And most of my focus has… has again been on interoperability and in particular… How do you offer a… more functionality through the virtual environment with no… with no footprint on the client itself. So… so I've been pretty busy talking to a lot of those vendors, you know, like Mmodal… is one of those that I think is… everyone should watch because I think they've done some great things and zero footprint and offering up their technologies in that virtual environment and also addressing HCC codes which is one of those things that our CFO stays awake about at night.

I: I bet!

DC: Our meaningful money man!

I: Meaningful money! That would be hash tag I promise you’ll hear… you’ll see by noon today.

DC: Awesome!

I: From me… from me. Dee we are running close out of time. Here, before we let you go, where can people go to learn more about the great things you and your team are doing at Emory Healthcare?

DC: Oh awesome! So go to our website, of course www.emoryhealthcare.org.

I: Perfect. Dee it was so great to have you. Thanks for sharing your wisdom and your insights with us today.

DC: My pleasure! It’s always fun to be on the radio with you.

I: You are great. You are really great. That wraps this broadcast. Once again we want to have a quick shout out to our sponsor Jvion. And on behalf of our guest, Dee Cantrell, I am Joe Lavelle in Intrepid Healthcare’s live coverage from HIMSS. We will be right back.

- Intrepid Healthcare’s exclusive coverage at HIMSS16 sponsored by Jvion