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Project portfolio management for meaningful use efforts

Catholic Health Systems implemented a project portfolio management tool to streamline IT efforts. Read expert insight from the project in this Q&A.

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Catholic Health System in Buffalo, N.Y., is a non-profit organization serving Western New York across a network of hospitals, primary care centers, imaging facilities and several other community health ministries. With 1,400 physicians and more than 8,500 full- and part-time associates, the system is turning to automated solutions to help keep staff and projects on track.

Tony PappagalloTony Pappagallo

Tony Pappagallo, IT director of project management, is focused on implementing integrated project portfolio management (PPM) solutions for increased efficiency and a smarter allocation of resources. Pappagallo recently talked with SearchHealthIT to share his perspective on PPM integration and how utilization of this system has increased efficiency and decreased the complexities around project management within Catholic Health.

What IT projects rise to the need of a project manager and PPM system (versus those that don't)?

Tony Pappagallo: All of our IT projects with substantial resource needs (greater than 40 hours of labor) make it to the PM [project management] team and to the PPM tool. There are some smaller items -- upgrades and single PC deployments -- [which] we treat as small enhancement requests.

What kinds of things in IT project management go more efficiently in a health care environment?

Pappagallo: This is not for health care only, but project management goes more efficiently when you have a well-defined project objective, a solid team of internal and external resources to work with, and significant support from IT and the business unit leadership impacted.

Describe your typical project and walk me thorough the steps, specifically noting how utilizing a PPM system has increased efficiency and decreased complexity (i.e., employee training for a software implementation, etc.)?

Pappagallo: We've been able to streamline and improve the initiation process as well as the execution and closure project processes. Over the last year, we've brought on three new PMs [project managers] and the training process has been much easier with the help of the Innotas' PPM tool.

How has your project management load/initiatives changed in the last couple years (i.e., since HIPAA, meaningful use and bring your own device have risen to the top of CIOs' priority lists)?

Pappagallo: Meaningful use (MU) has raised the need for project management as many of our clinical initiatives are requirements for MU. We need to ensure the proper oversight, organization, communication, etc., are in place for these important initiatives. As well, our overall increased workload has put a premium on project management to help keep it all straight across our department and our organization.

What characteristics do you feel make the best health care IT project manager types? Do they have to have started working the floors so they understand workflow? Is being organized and understanding the order of steps most important?

Pappagallo: Working the floors is not a bad thing. One of the best project managers I've worked with came from a nurse manager background. However, it is not a mandatory thing. More important is the ability to deal with a changing environment where requirements are not always real clear; resources are shared across multiple projects, vendors are not always top-shelf and clear communication is a strong suit of the project manager.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Jenny Laurello, senior community manager, or contact @jennylaurello on Twitter.

This was last published in April 2013

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