Meridian Health System: a 'destination employer'

This year's Best Hospital IT Department in the 'super' category sticks to its core mission of taking care of patients
By Tom Sullivan
03:40 AM
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Meridian Health System

The IT department at Meridian Health System is two blocks from its academic medical center – a geographical layout that makes apparent the direct impact its technology work has on clinicians and consumers alike.

"When you see a helicopter flying over our parking lot, bringing a patient into the trauma center, that really hits home because you know that there's a person in need coming to us," says Steven Sakovits, vice president of IT at Meridian. "We have to take care of them."

That sentiment percolates all the way up to Meridian's C-suite, which also turns right back around and applies it toward employees – clearly among the reasons Meridian sits atop Healthcare IT News' Best Hospital IT Departments for the third straight year.

[See the 5th Annual Best Hospital IT Departments]

"Our secret is that from the top down in our organization we truly care about our staff and treat each other in the same manner as we treat our patients, with the utmost respect and consideration," CIO Rebecca Weber says.

She notes that CEO John Lloyd, for instance, is known to walk around and take the time to ask employees about their families or dole out hugs: "We are a big family with an important mission – our focus is all about taking care of our community."

That would be Neptune, N.J., on the Jersey Shore. But Meridian is alluring for more than just the beach, boardwalk or New Jersey's famous sandwich shops. There's also its practice of empowering its IT staff to deliver cutting-edge technologies that have a direct and positive impact on patient care. 

"Individuals gravitate toward working at Meridian and that allows us to identify and be selective, to grab the best IT talent around," Sakovits says. "We have tremendous tenure and retention."  

That also means Meridian has high hiring standards. The health system looks for candidates who are energetic and smart, who communicate well and are committed to taking care of patients, according to Bob Radvanski, Meridian's senior director of IT.

Folks, in other words, who embrace forward-thinking approaches to IT. Take the integrated delivery network's enterprise-wide data warehouse and integrated disease registry system that pulls patient information from anywhere across Meridian's care continuum, for instance.

Meridian built a longitudinal record for its patients that houses all the information the IDN has and aligns evidence-based medicine protocols against that data in a manner that both identifies gaps in care and enables clinicians to be as prescriptive and assertive as possible in care delivery.

Indeed, the warehouse includes more than 1 million patients in the data warehouse, over 100 million unique records, and a quarter-million in the disease registries.

"We're continuously, in real time, updating that information with everything we have," Sakovits says. "Plus, we're taking in claims data, pharmacy data and creating a complete picture of everything going on with that patient."

Example: Looking at diabetic patients, Meridian clinicians can tell whether or not a consumer had a foot exam that year. If not, that gets highlighted in the patient's record so the primary care physician sees it and representatives can reach out to that patient. 

"In the world of healthcare population health management is huge," Radvanski says. "The fact that the operational layers are coming together and making use of technology to do that really puts us as the cutting edge."

And those types of projects also bring a degree of organizational visibility to the IT team. What's more, members of IT present monthly to executive and senior leadership and communicating about such achievements gives IT gratification, Sakovits adds.

"We also are about working hard and having fun together," Weber says. "Team activities throughout the organization create relationships and help build trust."

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