Ministry’s EHR Announcement

Today, Governor Doyle announced our plans to create the largest patient database in the state of Wisconsin.  We appreciate the recognition from Madison and the inspiration we received from the governor’s e-health initiative.  Both efforts recognize that information silos are limiting quality of care and patient safety.

In April 2006 a group of key Ministry IT, Business and Clinical Leaders collaborated to develop an Electronic Health Record (EHR) vision that has served us well over the last two years as we developed our Clinical IT Strategy.

By the end of June 2006, using that vision as our foundation, we identified the need for a single Electronic Health Record to be shared across all of our Ministry Medical Group Clinics and hospitals in Central and Northern Wisconsin.  In addition to the need for a single, shared electronic health record we realized that our greatest clinical functionality gap exists in our medical groups.  We set out to find the best solution to provide us that single patient database and revolutionize how we care for patients in our clinics.

Ministry used a traditional system selection process to look at all of the established options in the market place.  Through our Request for Proposal process we developed a short list of options that included Epic, GE and a commercial product that the Marshfield Clinic was bringing to market: CattailsMD.

I was very hesitant about the notion of buying a new product, especially one that was developed by a company that has not traditionally sold software.  However, the opportunity to expand our vision for a shared patient database beyond our organization to include our largest patient care partners was too important not to consider.

I strongly believe that our selection process was very thorough.  we laid out the options to key leaders and medical staff members who challenged us to be very thorough in our analysis. A thorough selection of this magnitude requires a great deal of time.

In August 2007 I recommended to the Ministry board of Directors that we name CattailsMD as our Ministry-wide EHR vendor of choice.  I actually did not think this is where we would end, but we have been very surprised how well the CattailsMD offering has stacked up to the competition.  We are also very excited about their willingness to include Ministry as equal partners in the development of the product, even before the contract was signed.  We have identified 6 critical enhancements and developed details specifications.

However, we committed to the board a full business case.  We did not want to have the same experience as others that have had clinical IT projects that have run well over plan (schedule and cost).  I have half-jokingly reminded my team that our primary indicator of success will be CIO retention.  If I am still at Ministry at the end of this effort that means we did it properly.  The most important aspect of success is the preparation.

We spent 8 months developing detailed plans and testing the most technically challenging aspects of the project.  all of this was done in partnership with Marshfield Clinic without a committeemen to purchase their offering.  This level of collaboration would not exist with a traditional software vendor.  It is refreshing to have a partner with the same level of commitment to a mutually agreed upon definition of success.

This decision meant that over 1,000 doctors in our region of Wisconsin will share an Electronic Health Record.  They will jointly contribute to patient’s single medication, allergy, immunization and problem lists.  All patient care documentation will be accessible anywhere and immediately.  I believe that RHIOs (aka CHINS) have largely been a failure.  If we want real integration today, that is a quantum leap in patient care, it is clear to me that a shared electronic health record is the best way to accomplish this.

Of course I am the CIO at Affinity Health System as well.  They are observing Ministry’s progress as they look at their EHR options.

Today, many hospitals are extending the electronic records to their non-employed medical staff.  Ministry’s approach turns that model upside down.  Instead, we are purchasing an EHR from our physicians.

Now that this announcement is public I will have lots more to share.  It is my intention to use this forum to be very candid about our experience.  I believe part of our mission includes sharing what works and what was not ideal so others can improve their care, even our competitors.

I am so thankful for those that have made this happen.  Our planning project alone was 12,000 hours of effort.  It has been an incredible collaboration of medical group leadership, practicing physicians, senior leadership, Ministry’s project management office and IT.