At Children's Hospital Los Angeles, IT staff driven by big ambitions

Deployment of the Cerner Oncology platform, seeking Stage 7 on the HIMSS EMR Adoption model, and rolling out a 24/7 mobile app are just a few things on tap this year.
By Mike Miliard
06:43 AM
Best Hospital IT Departments

What makes Children's Hospital Los Angeles such a great place to work for its 200-plus IT employees? 

"The kids!" CIO Steve Garske said. "Our mission is to be the best in the world."

That means CHLA has its plate full implementing what Garske said is the first-in-the-nation deployment of the Cerner Oncology platform, striving to attain Stage 7 on the HIMSS EMR Adoption model, rolling out a 24/7 mobile app – and those are just three of its big ambitions for the year ahead. 

"We're a mission-driven organization," said Dave Abbott, vice president of IT operations. "We have laid a strategy for the next three to five years: technology, process, people, and really moving the needle for CHLA. How do we expand our network for the Los Angeles area and beyond, and how do we improve access for families in LA and the surrounding areas and even nationwide and globally?"

That list of strategic goals is not small. 

"But it keeps every day exciting," Abbott said. "One of the biggest things we're working on is our health network. It's posted on our consumer-facing website, where we explain how we can extend care to the larger population. Even beyond core metro LA. There's a lot of technology work going on, but the primary focus is how we can expand the focus of digital health and things like telemedicine."

The ultimate goal is to create a virtual channel for children and families to be engaged with the physician, even when they're not even necessarily close to main CHLA campus.

Beyond that, there's "a host of clinical initiatives across the care continuum," Abbott said, whether it's bold vision initiatives like leveraging technology to implement better and more efficient processes and procedures, or special projects with specific aims, such as developing better inpatient entertainment systems with richer content for the kids.

Beyond robust technology infrastructure, CHLA is a Cerner shop, it's critical to have the right people making it all work.

"When we look at candidates, we want folks who are driven, passionate, collaborative, really up for a challenge," he said. "And ready to jump in and work with an organization that has a strong focus on its mission."

No two days are going to be the same working at CHLA.

"You're going to face a bunch of challenges, and all challenges are good and need to be met with an open mind and a solution focus,” Abbott said. 

That's why it's critical to put the staff-level folks first, said Abbott. "Leadership is obviously an important part to the overall team. But when you focus on the folks below the managers and really foster the training plans and the collaboration and the communication, that then helps people see the bigger picture and really understand, because they are the ones out there day to day interfacing with the clinicians, the nurses, the administrative staff.

If the leadership is where the strategy and mission is developed, that vision must be communicated to the folks in trenches, he said.

"Keeping lines of communication open, giving a state of the state, letting folks ask questions" is important. So is "a recognition program where you can celebrate successes, even the most basic ones," he added. "A handwritten note goes a long way."

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Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
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