Virginia Commonwealth University Health System: Analyzing the Gaps in ITVirginia Commonwealth University Health System: Analyzing the Gaps in IT
Greg Johnson, a speaker at the marcus evans National Healthcare CIO Summit Spring 2011, on analyzing the gaps in IT to achieve organizational goals.
Interview with: Greg Johnson, Chief Technology Officer, Virginia Commonwealth University Health System
Hollywood, FL, December 15, 2010 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
"Chief Information Officers (CIOs) need to perform a gap analysis to identify where Information Technology (IT) needs to be, from a business and not an IT perspective," advises Greg Johnson, Chief Technology Officer at the Virginia Commonwealth University Health System. Healthcare organizations must be able to work smart, which means that virtualization, standardization and simplification of the IT environment are necessary for meeting growing organizational goals.
A speaker at the marcus evans National Healthcare CIO Summit Spring 2011, taking place in Hollywood, Florida, May 25-27, Johnson talks about operating IT in an environment of zero tolerance for downtime, and virtualization for increased flexibility.
What are unique challenges for CIOs of healthcare organizations, and what solutions would you recommend?
Greg Johnson: As healthcare becomes reliant on technology for providing quality healthcare, the tolerance of any sort of downtime is essentially zero. This is understandable, as doctors need to be able to provide immediate care to their patients and need access to data. However, that is a huge burden on CIOs and Chief Technology Officers (CTOs); it implies operating in a business continuity and not a disaster recovery model, and ensuring fail-over for the servers, storage, messaging system, network and data.
These are all very costly propositions; it is very challenging to explain why the cost of IT is increasing so rapidly, when the patient population is not growing by the same degree.
What initiatives to improve efficiency and reduce costs have you undertaken?
Greg Johnson: The biggest project we have undertaken was simplification of the environment, and standardization of technologies, partners and virtualization. These are all tied in together. A few years ago we had disconnected components that did not work well together. The team was spending the majority of its time fire fighting. The healthcare industry average ratio of servers to engineers is about 40 to 1, but my team is now operating at 120 to one. That is partly because we are very good at what we do, but also, we have found ways to work smarter as the explosive growth in servers is not being kept up with the growth of staff in IT departments. We have virtualized our space, brought in automation tools, and reduced the amount of time that IT has to touch a server throughout the course of the year.
From the clinical perspective, clinicians are demanding flexibility and device independence; the ability to customize their work environment. The next area that we will be concentrating on virtualizing is the desktop, to provide device independence whether a clinician wants to use his personal laptop, Mac or iPad; any device, from any location, at any time. This will solve a lot of perceptual as well as real problems.
What strategies for succeeding in such extensive projects would you advise?
Greg Johnson: CIOs need to perform a gap analysis to identify where IT needs to be from a business and not an IT perspective. To achieve organizational goals and to bridge any gaps, the focus has to be on what the customers and clinicians need. Vendors have to be selected carefully, to ensure they are competent in understanding the business.
Sarin Kouyoumdjian-Gurunlian, Press Manager, marcus evans, Summits Division
About the National Healthcare CIO Summit Spring 2011
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