University of Illinois Health shows how C-suite, IT team alignment actually makes change happen

A massive EHR rollout and cutting-edge big data projects owe success to leadership and tactical workflow design.
By Jessica Davis
06:52 AM
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Best Hospital IT Department 2017

Many hospitals are beginning to realize that one key to successful IT deployments and security posture is to partner with leadership to get all departments on the same page.

For the University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System, this became very clear as it began to plan for its transition to a new electronic health record platform. UI Health considered the EHR replacement both tactical and strategic, according to CIO Audrius Polikaitis.

"We’re positioning it as a redesign of workflows, with IT being an enabler. IT is important in rolling it out and supporting it," Polikaitis added. "We might have some challenges with change management but if leadership owns it, it might go smoother.”

The EHR project is predicted to go live in 18 to 24 months. UI Health is replacing all clinical and revenue cycle platforms. Currently, it uses Cerner for its inpatient and ambulatory systems, while billing is on Epic and McKesson. Polikaitis calls the project a "wholesale replacement."

UI Health prides itself on being what Polikaitis called a "flat organization," with directors and C-suite leaders mingling together with staff. Leaders have a presence within an organization and are approachable to its employees, he said – in fact, the executive level offices are right on the first floor.

The health system also recently completely redesigned its management processes, starting with its workflow. Further, UI Health has made serious investments in its leadership team. Every manager must go through a nine-month leadership program.

"Fundamentally, it’s the notion: How do people get into leadership positions? Technically, it’s because they’re the best at their job," Polikaitis said. "But we’re realizing: We don’t prepare people for the leadership role … It’s the notion of investment into people and leaders, so we saw as an organization how we can improve."

The result? Managers understand their roles as leaders, rather than doers, he said. And it changes how employees view leadership within the organization and will engage more with those managers.

To Polikaitis, this also means partnerships in planning for future IT projects. Once the EHR project gets underway, UI Health will work on transitioning its imaging systems from slides to digital. It also plans to further leverage analytics, bringing data more closely into clinical workflows.

UI Health has been building dashboards and Big Data platforms for the past eight months, along with working with stakeholders to develop the right representation of data, he explained. Now, providers carry around iPads with these dashboards using analytics for real-time action.

"It’s the notion of very real-time, very numeric data," Polikaitis said. "It was a massive, massive initiative."

Best hospital IT departments: 2017

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Twitter: @JessieFDavis
Email the writer: jessica.davis@himssmedia.com