Creating IT for a "Vertically Integrated" Healthcare System: Thoughts from Marion Jenkins of 3t Systems
In late October, QSE Technologies in Englewood, Colo., announced it had joined 3t Systems, a complete IT services company based in Greenwood Village. The two companies, though different, bring essential services to the integrated organization: QSE Technologies specialized in IT systems for small to mid-sized ambulatory organizations, while 3t Systems has more focus on the acute-care market.
According to Marion Jenkins, executive vice president of 3t Systems, and former CEO of QSE, the combined company is particularly strong as health systems move toward "vertical integration," a model that requires more complex IT solutions. Several factors are driving this change, including the migration to EHR to comply with "meaningful use" incentive programs, emerging delivery models such as accountable care organizations, and increasing demands from patients that healthcare information be accessible and electronic.
"The combination of the two companies is really an end-to-end IT solution for healthcare," Mr. Jenkins says. "With this combination, our expertise goes all the way from acute-care to ambulatory and everything in between."
Mr. Jenkins says QSE brought traction and domain expertise with ambulatory surgery centers, physician practices and clinics, and 3t Systems already had extensive domain expertise in the acute-care setting. "Our CTO, Jake Hughes, is the former IT director for Seattle Children's Hospital, so we really understand technology from the clinicians’ and users’ point of view," he says.
Solving the silo problem
Mr. Jenkins says the integration of QSE and 3t Systems solves a problem that has plagued healthcare for years: the issue of healthcare IT systems operating in silos. In a traditional healthcare model, technology vendors target one specific kind of operation — with a focus only on that vendor's solution.
Under an integrated healthcare IT model, Mr. Jenkins sees an entire healthcare system, made up of clinics, surgery centers, practices and acute-care facilities, able to use a single vendor and communicate seamlessly through technology that eliminates the silo effect.
Protecting data as devices multiply
Mr. Jenkins says the integration also fits with a trend he calls "BYOD" — "Bring Your Own Device." This means that as physicians increasingly purchase smart phones and tablets for personal use, hospital IT departments must learn to merge these devices with the legacy technology already in the facility. This poses a problem for data protection and patient privacy.
"It's a big problem for IT departments because they're used to standards and protocols," Mr. Jenkins says. "At 3t Systems, we have mobility solutions in which we can keep all the data protected and readily accessible to the authorized users." HIPAA fines are extremely costly, forcing hospitals to install the right protections upon implementation. The way many sites address HIPAA security slows down clinicians. "It's possible to take sophisticated technology security and make it work in clinical workflow," Mr. Jenkins says.
Additionally, clinicians have the ease to move from patient to patient with reduced login times and easier access to technology. "With a paper record, in the old days, you just tucked one folder under your arm and pulled out the other one, and went on to the next patient," he says. "Now, many systems require you to log out and log back in each time you change patients, and it can take minutes for a provider to switch patient records." The 3t Systems technology suite should save up to 45 minutes per day per clinician, allowing clinicians to see approximately 5 additional patients per day. This results in increased revenue for providers, higher clinician satisfaction, and ultimately, better patient care.
"For healthcare IT to be effective, it must fit the needs of clinicians and patients," Mr. Jenkins says. "It must make clinicians more efficient and effective, and give patients the tools they need to be involved in their treatment, both at the point of treatment and across different episodes of care."
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