St. Luke's University Health Network IT team shows how big-name rollouts are done

Epic rollouts, a Microsoft cloud transformation and pilot projects using Alexa are putting this IT team to the test.
By Mike Miliard
06:36 AM
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Best Hospital IT department 2017

The 430 IT staffers at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania-based St. Luke's University Health Network are no strangers to big, ambitious projects.

"From a tactical perspective, we're trying to rip out our legacy ERP, we're looking to standardize that platform," said CIO Chad Brisendine. "And we've been implementing Epic, and are getting ready to do our last really big piece of that in January. We've got, I'd say, about 90 percent of that done."

Meanwhile, "we're all in on the Microsoft digital cloud implementation," said Brisendine. "We're in the process of moving our data center to the cloud, moving everything to collaboration teams, pretty much trying to transform all of our legacy applications."

As if that wasn’t a long enough to-do list, the system is also focusing on digital innovation. St. Luke's has been piloting an array of projects hoping to explore how they could impact quality and efficiency in ways large and small.

“We have about 60 different innovation projects going on right now," said Brisendine. "Anything we can spend $25,000 or less on, and pilot and implement and track and get metrics.”

Those include hand-hygiene, tracking physicians and nurses, RFID in the ERs, image sharing on the radiology side, and building its own price transparency tool, a project SLUHN partnered with a company on to commercialize.

"We've been doing a lot around mobile," he said. "Adding some more capabilities, basically as easy as Starbucks makes it to get a coffee, we want to make it that easy to get registration and scheduling through our system. As such, the hospital’s innovation portfolio comprises 
automation and consumerism.

"We're basically leveraging both of those to automate as much as we can for our consumers – there are 25 projects in that area."

One of them has to do with harnessing Amazon's Alexa technology, "enabling patients to check in from their home: "Hey, Alexa. I want to go to the urgent care.' It would say, 'The closest one to you is here and the wait time is 15 minutes. Would you like us to check you in?'

As technologies such as cloud, mobile and AI-based voice assistants have evolved in remarkable ways in recent years, so too has the IT team and its mission at SLUH, said Brisendine.

"We've gone through massive change and implementations and it's really helped the organization improve its performance. And now we're on to our next level, which is innovation, and our team feels good about the excitement and vision of where we're going,” he said. “It's the camaraderie. We really help each other. That's the number one thing. It's a very collaborative environment where people try to help each other. Teamwork. The other thing I would say is they're just passionate to do work.”

The health system's attainment of Stage 7 on the HIMSS EMR Adoption Model is a testament to the department's prowess. 

"We try to help them correlate the work that they're doing to the drivers in the business," he said. "It's about transparency: a culture of transparency around everything. Help business understand the importance of IT, help IT understand the importance of business. It's all about hiring great people around you and letting them do their job. Supporting them, and breaking down barriers to effectiveness."

Best hospital IT departments: 2017

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Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
Email the writer: mike.miliard@himssmedia.com