United Regional tackles challenges on two fronts

'This is a complex and involved industry'
By Eric Wicklund
02:45 AM
United Regional Health Care System

At the United Regional Health Care System in Wichita Falls, Texas, IT is too big for just one department. The award-winning hospital has divided its IT duties into two units: Information Services and Telecommunications, which is supervised by Jerry Marshall, and Clinical Informatics and Business Intelligence, which comes under Dwayne McKee's purview.

It's part of an evolution in the traditional healthcare IT structure, says McKee, that recognizes the challenges of not only keeping everything running smoothly, but pulling data from the many systems and putting it to use.

"This is a complex and involved industry," says McKee. "There's so much more to do, from dashboarding to data extraction and reporting. When we realized we could pull out and marry clinical data with financial data and have it improve clinical outcomes, it just became a natural evolution for us."

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McKee says United Regional prides itself on letting IT staff develop their own specialties, so that they all have a unique place in the team. With that, and an environment that stresses work-life balance and opportunities to relieve the stress that comes with being in healthcare, he says, it's no wonder both departments see very little turnover. Most IT staff have been on board for at least a decade.

"Our folks take a lot of personal ownership and pride in what they do – and that certainly does impact patient care," he said. "We may not touch the patient at the bedside, but we provide the clinicians with the tools to do that."

He also noted the IT staff have a lot of clinical knowledge – they aren't just tech geeks. When the hospital implemented an EHR platform in 2005, he said, the project pulled in members form other departments in the hospital to work with IT. "And they're still with us," he said.

McKee sees that expertise helping the health system with future initiatives, such as population health and patient engagement projects. After all, he points out, they've all bend around the bend a few times, and know what works and what doesn't. 

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