Sean PatrickMeet the new MES Advisory Board member with a front-row seat to the shifting landscape of healthcare and how IT has had to adapt to new demands within it.

California-based Ridgecrest Regional Hospital Director of Information Technology and HIPAA Security Officer Sean Patrick will be serving as an Advisory Board member for the first time at the Spring 2019 Midsize Enterprise Summit. However, this isn’t his first time attending the event.

Patrick brings several decades of IT expertise in multiple hospitals around the country as well as within the U.S. Navy. He is also an active member of CHIME and HIMSS.

We asked Patrick about the challenges he faces when it comes to connecting doctors to data, budgets, integration, and the advice he would give to other midmarket IT leaders to help them succeed.

How has IT impacted healthcare up to this point, and how would you like to see it develop in this field in the future?

Having worked in hospital IT for almost 20 years, I have seen how information technology has changed. Early on, the information was mostly of a billing nature and that led to the development and need of more clinical applications that required the clinicians to have an understanding of IT. Over the past 10 years, the technology really started impacting the physicians. The systems and applications were developed with an expectation that the physician would be hands-on and expected to use it. Finding ways to help the physician with the workflow and making it so they don’t feel like they are data entry folks has been a challenge. The key is finding a balance where the physician is still able to interact and treat their patients, while using modern tools to get the job done. The amount of data continues to grow and expand. The expectation and demand for analytics will continue and more and more data will be needed.

What challenges do you face in your role when it comes to IT? If applicable, how would you like to see this resolved?

I have always worked in the smaller, community-sized hospitals. My current hospital is the fourth where I have served as IT director. While the geography has changed with moves from Kentucky to Illinois to Vermont and now California, the challenges remain the same. Budget is always a challenge. Now more than ever with shrinking reimbursements and complex programs, IT is challenged to do more with less. Rural and community healthcare strive to provide top-quality care. Our patients expect the same care they have available to them as anywhere. Incentive programs aimed at community hospitals are vital to keep our technology current. 

What do you believe is the most important aspect of IT impacting your role today?

Without a doubt, our biggest challenge is integration. Much of the information in early EMRs (electronic medical records) was stand-alone data. The systems being used today focus on integration. We are striving to eliminate the silos and provide systems that are integrated and talk to one another. These integrated platforms are bringing the patient data into a single database for both the inpatient and outpatient levels of care. This allows the care team to see all of the information about their patient in a single system, not having to log onto multiple systems and looking through multiple systems to find what they’re looking for. This integration helps provide more timely care and improved outcomes.

Where are you investing your IT dollars this year, and/or what projects are you working on?

2019 is going to be a challenging year for my organization. Our budget is expected to be very tight. We will continue to invest in our ambulatory EMR, to bring our providers onto the same platform that the inpatient, hospital system is on. We are continuing to invest in our replacement of our phone system as we migrate to a VOIP enabled Mitel platform. We are doing this in phases to help all the costs at once.

How has this changed from previous years? 

Our budget this year is going to be lower than years past. We’re still investing in technology and replacing things that need to be replaced. We’re just being very careful this year and doing everything we can to make sure we’re investing smartly.

What IT goals do you hope to reach in the near future?

One of our main goals is to have our ambulatory EMR started in 2019. This will be a huge undertaking for our team. It will put the hospital and clinics onto the same platform. This integration is part of our strategic plan and something the hospital has been working toward for several years. An integrated platform will improve our access to information and improve the care we are able to provide.

What advice would you share with midmarket CIOs and other IT leaders?

I have attended the MES for five years. MES is my “go-to” event every year. I don’t attend a lot of shows. I thoroughly enjoy MES because of its size. It provides me the opportunity to meet with peers from like-sized companies. I have had the privilege of meeting vendors that I would not have met, had it not been for MES. If you’re looking for an event that will provide value and help introduce you to peers in the midmarket, then MES is an opportunity you shouldn’t pass up.