Menninger Clinic: How a small IT shop can eliminate paper records too

With behavioral health ineligible for federal IT funds, this small team is bearing the full weight of its EHR overhaul.
By Bill Siwicki
06:29 AM
Best Hospital IT Departments

The Menninger Clinic in Houston, Texas, has just begun its EHR implementation journey. And it’s a biggie for a behavioral health institution ineligible for meaningful use reimbursement incentives.

“Behavioral health is not covered by Medicare or Medicaid programs, we do not get money from the government to do an EHR, so we are still all on paper,” said Tina Marie Baugh, director of information technology at the 120-bed clinic. “We are leading the effort with the organization to transform to the EHR. We’ve selected a major vendor, we can’t say which one yet.”

For about 18 months, the IT team has been walking the organization through the whole concept of cultural transition for an EHR. The organization has relied on the internal IT team for how the EHR implementation gets done, how the organization gets through the process. There is no big purchasing department nor any consultants, so it’s all up to the IT team.

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Moving forward, strategically, the EHR implementation is the big priority.

“The other strategic priority is we are building a new facility to expand outpatient care services,” Baugh said. “So we are helping the organization through that process. They have not built new buildings in a while. That means a lot of technology, like a conference center. We also are strategically acquiring a couple of outpatient practices and trying to convert them into the Menninger way.”

These practices are small and independent, using tech from Best Buy and Comcast Internet, for instance. Migrating them gracefully to corporate-level technology is the responsibility of the IT team.

Tactically, everything is focused on information security. “We’re really trying to continue to beef up the security solutions we have and our incident response process,” Baugh said.

The IT team likes working at The Menninger Clinic for a variety of reasons, including the people, collaboration and proximity to the end results of work.

“The IT team are just like a family,” Baugh said. “They collaborate on everything, they don’t make major decisions without each other, and when there is a crisis or an urgent need, everyone piles in and helps. If the phones are ringing wildly all of a sudden, I do not need to ask the project manager if they can take service desk calls because they just do it. We always have each other’s backs.”

Additionally, since the IT team is one part of a smaller organization, team members can actually see the difference they are making every day in patients’ lives.

“We are very close to our customers, and so when we work on a project and when we resolve requests we see the immediate impact it has on clinical care,” Baugh added. “It’s very fulfilling and they really like making that difference.”

When it comes to running a positive work environment and winning IT department, Baugh offers peers this advice.

“Out of all the years I’ve been doing this, the one thing I’ve found where I cannot cut my time, the one place that seems to yield high dividends, is investing facetime with team members,” she said. “Even when I had 150 people on my team in the past, we met every six months. The return on investment for face time is tremendous.”

That enables a team leader to really see what staffers are going through. Especially if a team leader does walking face time out in the field, Baugh advised.

“Walk through the halls with them, or at their desks, where they can show you the latest things they are working on,” she said. “They get to show off what they are doing, you get to check in on that career progress, when they are talking with you are they lighting up? And you also get to make sure you are covering the direction. Are you getting where this snaps in during the next 18 months? Have I as a communicator laid out what you are doing here and how that fits in in the next six months, 12 months, 18 months?”

When these meetings are short or rescheduled or canceled, team leaders begin to lose touch with the team, and team members begin to get a little less engaged, Baugh added.

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