Executive Interview Series
Welcome back to Optimum Healthcare IT’s “4 Questions with…” series, where we interview top executives in the Healthcare IT space. We search for the leaders with track records of service excellence, who are passionate about their work and make patient safety their top priority. In this installment, we talk with Terri Couts, VP of Clinical Systems and Epic Program, The Guthrie Clinic.
OHIT: As the VP of Epic Applications Program, what are your top three priorities? Why are they so important?
Terri Couts: As the VP of Clinical Systems and Epic Program there are a lot of priorities. If I had to narrow them down to three they would include the following:
- Value-Based Care: Value-based care feels like it did when we first started the Meaningful Use process. There is a lot of unknown and ambiguity. This is important because we have to compete against other organizations for the same reimbursement money. We have to be able to deliver the tools that will help support our organization in this transition.
- Provider Efficiency: Provider burnout is a hot topic at our organization. We have spent a lot of time in the last year redesigning our system and delivering training that is directly focused on provider efficiency. Getting the providers home for dinner is our goal.
- Virtual Health: Our community in rural. Our patients come first and how they access us for care is a priority. We are developing our virtual health program to utilize the tools that we have to provide care in certain scenarios remotely. This not only benefits our patients from the perspective of access but also provides enhanced care coordination adding additional value to the hospital and the patient.
OHIT: Part of building a strong Epic team is finding top IT talent. What do you look for when you need to augment your team?
Terri Couts: We are positioned in a unique area that is hard to recruit to, but I have found that asking the right questions during the interview process helps with the identification of the right candidate. I like to ask situational questions to understand their thought process on how they would handle a particular scenario. The right candidate should be able to think globally and have a customer service focus. With Epic EMR integration, so many users can be impacted by one change that we need to ensure the staff is partnered with our users in developing the right solution, not just the easiest. When we need to augment, I look for a company that doesn’t view themselves as “us” and “them.” The consultants need to be part of the team. We are a family in IT, including any vendor augmentation we use.
OHIT: What are your biggest challenges in regards to stakeholder buy-in? What has worked best for you in getting Physicians to buy-in to EHR changes and optimizations?
Terri Couts: The biggest challenges for our stakeholders is time for joint design. IT has historically made a lot of decisions that impact the business. We have recently put together a governance structure that has allowed our stakeholders to partner with IT to jointly design workflows and functionality. With the partnership, you have a level of commitment and ownership that carries through operational departments. We are using other tools as well to get the word out ahead of time including voting efforts on changes they find most valuable. The more communication we provide, the better the buy-in.
OHIT: How do you see the EHR changing in the next five years? How are you preparing for it today? What do you need, but don’t yet have, to get to where you want to be?
Terri Couts: I feel that the EHR will change drastically in the next five years. Analytics will be vital to transition from the treatment of symptoms and illness to predictive and prescriptive value enabled care. Discrete documentation will replace free text and will need to have the required aspects. As the health care environment continues to be a political hot mess, it causes confusion in the direction or path we will need to take. We will need to be agile in our technology and acceptance of change to respond to the rapid changes. I think it is hard to understand what I need because there are not clear measurements of what is needed. Technology will be the foundation for how we care for patients, and we will need the right talent and organizational support for sustainability in the future.