Union Hospital on giving its IT staff the space to fail, and is winning in the process

The small Stage 7 provider empowers its tech pros to challenge themselves, knowing the CIO has their backs.
By Bill Siwicki
06:31 AM
Best Hospital IT 2017

Union Hospital of Cecil County routinely undertakes what CIO Anne Lara calls a series of “adventures.”

Example: The 90-bed facility in Elkton, Maryland, is upgrading its infrastructure to increase the performance of its applications, integrating high-speed disk drives. 

“We are constantly trying to refine our network performance and network redundancy,” said Lara said, who is also a Registered Nurse and vice president of innovation. “Also, the analysts are embracing and working on getting prepared for Stage 3 Meaningful Use. And we’ve successfully validated for Stage 7 designation of HIMSS Analytics’ Electronic Medical Record Adoption Model.”

The IT shop also has been an integral part of building the hospital’s new intensive care unit, now called the clinical decision unit. The team was part of the planning and implementation to make sure from an infrastructure perspective that hardware, wireless, printers, the works, were set up where they needed to be. It was a flawless implementation, Lara says of her team.

As for electronic health records, Union Hospital of Cecil County uses Meditech in the inpatient setting and in its two urgent care centers, and Allscripts in physician practices.

The provider organization has a number of items on its IT to-do list for the years ahead.

“We are looking at device connectivity in our emergency department, trying to further improve workflow,” Lara said. “We’re also looking at ways to put an early warning system in for patients with sepsis. Strategically, we’re taking a look at how we can continue to leverage the power of our statewide health information exchange to inform population health needs.”

Population health is important to Union Hospital of Cecil County because the little health system is the lone provider in the entire county, and its staff is responsible for caring for the community, Lara added. Information that the HIE Union participates in gets used to help hospital staff best understand where they should be focusing efforts, she said.

So what makes the hospital a great place to work? What do employees like best about the environment?

“What they like best is they are able to be independent,” Lara said. “And that their ideas are discussed. They can implement their ideas. They are allowed to make mistakes without fear of repercussions. They find enjoyment in helping other folks and helping their end users learn more about the IT systems and applications. They like to teach. They like challenges.”

Further, the infrastructure and the IT analysis role present tech pros with many opportunities to challenge themselves and move in a direction they might not have been able to without these experiences, she said.

It’s on this subject of people that Lara focuses when thinking about the kind of advice she could give to her peers who are seeking to better their IT departments.

“The greatest advice I can give is to have faith in your people,” she said. “Understand what motivates them. Create a workplace that fosters their own creativity and their own growth, and always be there when they need you.”

The IT team leader, she added, creates opportunities and is there to help support staff when things don’t necessarily go the right way. 

“You have their backs,” she said.

Best hospital IT departments: 2017

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Twitter: @SiwickiHealthIT
Email the writer: bill.siwicki@himssmedia.com

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