New Orleans, LA—“We must start to think differently if we want to change the healthcare system,” said Ochsner Health System President and CEO Warner L. Thomas, CPA, MBA, FACHE, in a keynote address at the 2013 Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) annual conference. “We are seeing the most significant changes in healthcare in 30 years.”
Ochsner is a 71-year-old institution, with 8 hospitals and almost $2 billion in revenue. It is now 70% of the way toward an information technology (IT) conversion from a homegrown electronic health record to Epic systems software—in just 15 months—and 100% of its 900 physicians have met meaningful-use criteria.
The country’s fiscal situation, the unaffordability of healthcare for consumers, and the reductions in payments to providers and hospitals create a crisis that requires health systems to be more proactive than ever, he said. “What are we going to do about it?” Mr Thomas asked. “We’ve got to shift from a volume mentality into value. We’ve got to be thinking differently.”
Problem solving and coping with change is all about “perspective,” he suggested. “We control our perspective. If we’re not optimistic and energized, we will not be successful. We’re going to set the stage now for the next 10, 15, 20 years.”
Challenges and Solutions
Ochsner’s mission, Mr Thomas noted, is to provide an experience for patients that makes them want to come back, to improve clinical outcomes, and to become more affordable for patients.
Success starts with the health IT leaders, he said, who should ensure that systems provide better, safer patient experiences; optimize the use of systems to their full potential; be proactive and use systems to solve and improve on what patients want and need; and use IT to improve the productivity and efficiency of employees.
This requires that health IT be developed with the broad context in mind. For example, a successful “go live” is a very good start, rather than the end game. “I think we need to redefine what a good installation is,” Mr Thomas explained. “Does it provide higher quality healthcare cost-effectively? Are the physicians happier? We don’t expect IT to drive all the change, but we expect it to be a driver….And I would add this advice to IT leaders: add value.”