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Before CHIME Fall Forum, Ebola, health IT policy on CIOs' minds

Ahead of CHIME's 2014 Fall CIO Forum in San Antonio, speakers dish to SearchHealthIT about what's keeping them up at night.

For Daniel Barchi, senior vice president and CIO of the Yale School of Medicine at Yale University and the Yale-New Haven Health System, good health IT policy doesn't always come down to money.

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Sure, funding is important because it gives CIOs and the systems they administer the flexibility to do what is best for physicians, caregivers and patients, Barchi said.

"But people and priorities are the most important things," Barchi told SearchHealthIT as the College of Health Information Management Executives CHIME 2014 Fall CIO Forum gets set to unfold in San Antonio Oct. 28-31.

Getting people, software on the same page

Barchi, one of about 50 health IT experts scheduled to lead and participate in sessions at the annual conference, said one of his challenges is getting clinical scientists who are used to creative thinking and trained to ask "intriguing questions" to go along with the standardization of how healthcare is being delivered.

"It's much easier to buy new tools or new pieces of software," Barchi said. "I actually think it's more important to remember that we are people in every part of the hospital."

Given that skeptical attitude about reflexively buying the fanciest new IT toys, Barchi expressed enthusiasm for some items from the new wave of health IT technology such as vendor neutral archives (VNAs), for example, for medical image storing and retrieval.

Despite the flogging mainstream cloud vendors such as Apple and Amazon have taken in the court of public opinion this year, the healthcare cloud continues to flourish. Yale-New Haven recently installed a primarily cloud-based SaaS (software as a service) VNA system. "I'm impressed by that," he said.

The fall forum session Barchi is speaking at along with three other noted CIOs, "IT Realities of Health System Integration," will deal with, among technology and other issues, organizational culture and restructuring the IT organization.

Ebola, meaningful use hot topics

Meanwhile, another presenter at the CHIME event, Theresa Meadows, senior vice president and CIO of Cook Children's Health Care system in Fort Worth, Texas, sees the meaningful use slowdown that CHIME and other health IT groups have pushed for, as receding at the fall forum.

More prominent, she said, could be hot healthcare issues such a security and privacy, and public health in the wake of the Ebola crisis, which hit close to home for her with a Liberian man's recent Ebola diagnosis at a Dallas hospital, and his subsequent death.

Meadows will preside over a session titled, "Don't Overthink Social Networking: Changing Cultures and Communication Styles in Healthcare."

Meadows plans to talk about her hospital's innovative use of social networking for both internal and external communications -- using tools that go beyond Facebook and Twitter (which the hospital also uses, mainly to reach patients and families).

"I think social media or social collaboration is something that can fit in both in a healthcare organization and health in general," she said.

Within the Cook enterprise, teams uses "Chatter," an internal, blog-like social media program from Salesforce.com, Inc., for simple mobile and desk-based messaging, technical change requests and most communication -- largely instead of email because it provides advantages such as easy archiving. Meadows also "gamified" her hospital-wide safety training program with a funky, self-designed social media program called "Culture of Safety: Promise Island," which Meadows says achieved participation from all 6,000 employees. Started last year, the popular program rewards proficient users and high scorers -- such as those who have added more islands -- with public recognition.

For external collaboration and networking with health IT industry leaders including providers and vendors, Meadows uses Next Wave Connect from Next Wave Health, Inc.

Whither Epic Systems?

As for Barchi, a high-profile fan of his hospital's EHR from industry giant Epic Systems, Inc., he defended Epic's interoperability qualifications in the wake of the company's brief and unwelcome turn in the media spotlight in early October.

Dallas hospital officials initially blamed Epic's software for their failure to admit and quarantine the Ebola victim, Thomas Eric Duncan. They retracted the allegation a few days later.

"We've been able to use our Epic EMR across the system to coordinate how we respond to any threats," Barchi said. "We've able to share data with other systems whether they're on Epic or others."

Let us know what you think about the story; email Shaun Sutner, news and features writer, or contact @SSutner on Twitter.

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