Artesia General Hospital's small IT team goes big on 'cool tech' investments

Hyper-converged infrastructure, lean methodologies and next-gen firewalls are keeping the IT team in front.
By Bill Siwicki
06:35 AM
Best Hospital IT Departments

The IT department of Artesia General Hospital in Artesia, New Mexico, has its hands full -- and they prefer to be that way.

"We just completed a main data center project," said Eric Jimenez, director of IT. "We installed a new hyper-converged infrastructure into the hospital. We have a complete disaster recovery infrastructure that can bring the hospital back up within hours. We are currently protecting the hospital with the latest next-generation firewall and advanced malware and virus protection. We have pretty cool technology for a rural hospital."

On the clinical side, the IT team has been focused on optimizing its EHR, from Evident, in the clinic and hospital by using lean methods.

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"Four years ago, I was hired to lead the IT department with little more than 'Make it better' for direction," said Jimenez, who also stressed the importance of the whole team of IT staff members. "The culture surrounding technology within the hospital was so poor, I was not sure there was a way to actually be successful. The only reason the providers and end users were using technology was because they were forced to by the government."

The challenge was beyond his skill level, Jimenez thought, but he and his team were dedicated to ensuring the hospital was not just using technology but was one of the most technologically advanced hospitals in New Mexico.

"Within the first year, we were tasked to implement the second EHR in a matter of four years," he said. "As I began looking into the reason the first implementation failed, I realized it was the failure to create processes and workflows and the lack of accountability the users faced when the processes that were created were not followed."

The first task at hand was to change the culture of the hospital and convince end users, physicians and management of the future of technology and what was possible if they would get on board with the process. The philosophy of change of Jimenez and his team was simple: technology, people and process.

"The first phase in implementing this change was to acquire the technology that was necessary," he said. "The IT team was focused on the technology portion of user adoption and included the training of employees to use, troubleshoot and fix any issues end users would face. The second phase would be the people, which would prove to be difficult as the end users were not always on board with these changes."

The fear of change often leads to resistance, which leads to people going back to the previous process, stalling the adoption of the project, he added.

The third aspect was the process. This is an area still in progress at the hospital. The processes created would change with each new manager turnover, creating constant confusion of what the processes actually were. This was where implementing Lean methodology came in handy.

"By creating standardized processes that will not change, we will allow the end users to adopt the process and end the constant confusion of how to enter the data necessary," he said. "Along with streamlining the process and creating workflows that are consistent, holding the end users accountable is essential."

Working with department managers to build processes, evaluate effectiveness, and learn how to improve ultimately will benefit the hospital in numerous ways, Jimenez said.

"We will consistently monitor the processes and re-evaluate as a committee when issues may arise," he explained. "Through this process, we are looking to change the relationships we have with other departments and become partners in creating a hospital with stellar technology and patient care."

Jimenez advises his peers that vision is a key part of operating a top-notch hospital IT department.

"You need to provide your team with a vision," he said. "I was inspired by Simon Sinek's speech 'Start with Why' and I strongly believe in the idea of starting with why. You have to tell your team why they are doing their jobs. It is important to start with the why. They have to understand their purpose in this hospital. Why we have to do the thing we do."

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Twitter: @SiwickiHealthIT
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