How Arkansas Children's Hospital ended communication breakdowns to become a top IT department

The medical center turned around its employee satisfaction so well that its Epic EHR rollout wrapped up months early.
By Jessica Davis
06:01 AM
Best Hospital IT Department 2017

Children’s hospitals have an almost magical atmosphere, even though it’s tough work, according to Arkansas Children’s Hospital CIO Jonathan Goldberg.

"There’s a sense of mission you won’t find anywhere else," said Goldberg. "It really creates a platform to take that next step in terms of employee and staff involvement." 

That was one of the pieces that engaged employees for what Goldberg said is among the largest Epic implementations in terms of the number of modules rolled out at one time -- and the project was three months ahead of schedule.

The former Meditech system wasn’t working for the medical center and the leaders decided they needed to make a shift. Goldberg said they also needed to install new accounting and support systems, along with labor analytics. The hospital is also working on a payroll site, while implementing an Epic API.

The API went live in May 2017 and the Epic system rolled-out this November. 

Along with its Epic project, the medical center is also building another hospital in another part of the state. Communication was crucial throughout these massive overhauls, and Goldberg said that, frankly, he wasn’t expecting positive responses from employees.

"But there is a level of excitement to what the system can do," said Goldberg. "We’ve gone through so much change here in the last couple of years. To see the employees engaged like this is nice. It means we’re heading in the direction."

Finding that balance, however, was not easy.

Over the past two years, Arkansas Children’s Hospital – the only statewide health system solely dedicated to children – went through a lot of leadership, IT and staffing changes. The medical center surveyed its employees and found that after not being paid enough, communication was the biggest source of contention.

The results of the survey spurred some major changes to both who was in charge and how staff interacted with leadership, explained Goldberg. The hospital has made a significant effort in these last years to take time to speak with its employees.

"We really set out to solve that with hand-to-hand combat," said Goldberg. Leadership meets with staff regularly, including a biweekly meeting of directors. That, in turn, cascaded down to where those leaders were expected to regularly meet with staff.

In fact, Michael Howard, chief nursing officer for Arkansas Children's Northwest, said the hospital spent the last three years heavily focused on improving communication. "It’s been enlightening to hear the various feelings of staff from different areas," said Howard.

Indeed, working to make sure employees are more happy and engaged has made it much easier to take on those larger tech projects.

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Twitter: @JessieFDavis
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