Mary Ackenhusen | March 30th, 2015
Last week, VCH/PHC/PHSA and Team IBM (TIBM) reached a mutual decision to part ways, ending the contract with this vendor for our Clinical and Systems Transformation (CST) project support. I believe this was the right move for our organization and for TIBM, but I am sympathetic to the sense of loss that some of you may be feeling. TIBM has been on site for over a year, and friendships have been formed. As consultants, we knew their time here was limited, but I understand that having them leaving on short notice must be difficult, particularly when the next step is not yet clear. Adding to the uncertainty, is the resignation of our Chief Information Officer who will be moving on to a new position with Pacific Blue Cross, and the fact that our Chief Transformation Officer, Rebecca Hahn, will be starting her maternity leave in a few months.
This is a lot of change in a short space of time, but there’s also much that remains the same. VCH and PHC remain fully committed to CST, the goals of advancing overall patient care, quality and safety, and the building the project on the Cerner platform.
And I am personally invested in working with all of you on this project for all the reasons you know and believe in: This is our path to efficient and effective quality care and the foundation for a modern healthcare informatics strategy. I can confirm we are committed to building the capability to HIMS level 5+ (something very important to those working directly on the project) as well as making CST work with our community and primary care systems. Both of these things are essential for our patients to experience a single record for all their health encounters – in PHC, PHSA, VCH or the community. This is still our vision.
What have we achieved?
We have spent almost two years doing the ground work to create the clinical content and processes to support the first part of our vision, the clinical transformation in acute care. We have learned a lot over these two years and we will build on that learning. One of the most heartening discoveries I’ve witnessed is the growing expertise and experience of the many staff and physicians who are part of the CST team. We were novices when we started this project, but that’s no longer the case. So going forward I expect we will be much less reliant on outside expertise.
We also have found that there is a huge passion for this project and a strong drive to get it right. I echo this sentiment that we have to get it right, even if it takes a bit longer, because our clinicians will be using this every day, and our patients are depending on us to deliver safe and timely care.
So where to from here? As some of you know, the Ministry of Health initiated an external review to provide an objective and independent opinion on the current state of the CST project. The review recommendations, in combination with our own learnings and evolved thinking since the beginning of the project, will be the basis of developing a revised plan to continue the project. We expect to be able to tell you more about this in a few weeks, but I can say at this point that it is our intention to engage our staff and physicians in the project “reset” in a manner that ensures that our clinical needs are truly leading this transformational initiative.
In the meantime, our people currently working on the project will be tasked to continue with the many pieces of work that are unaffected by the departure of TIBM. This is an opportunity to regroup and do some of the work that we never got done due to the fast pace of the project, such as pharmacy supply chain, document imaging, clinical report distribution, laboratory design, and clinical policy work.
What about you?
Naturally some of you who have been assigned to the project may be wondering about what it means to you as individuals. I expect we will actually need to increase our in-house expertise, though, in the short term, as we regroup, we will have to be careful about hiring. Unfortunately, it’s hard to be any more specific until we have confirmed our new way forward and determined the numbers and types of resources we will need.
I have also heard that some of you feel concerned that you have “failed” the project in spite of the huge effort that you put in. I want you to know that feeling goes both ways – I have some of those same feelings in reverse. All of us are very grateful for the work that you have achieved to date, and we will build on this going forward. A project of this size and complexity often has many twists and turns. Our feelings of loss will be short lived as we re-group and begin our re-planning work towards achieving the benefits for patients that motivates us all.
We will be stronger
The best cultures, of which I hope we have one, accept setbacks and are stronger because of them. It would be nice to get things perfect the first time, but organizational literature is full of delayed and even failed large IT health projects. It is not our intention to be added to the list. We have lots of other health systems that have gone before us and we need to take the time to learn why some were amazingly successful and some never got off the ground. Thus, we will be looking to Island Health, North York, and Intermountain Health to name a few of the many that have a lot to teach us.
It will be worth it
I am sincerely enthused that we have this opportunity to take a pause and regroup. It will never be an easy project, but it will be one that we can all be proud of. Thank you so much for the blood, sweat, tears and the many long hours that you have put into CST so far – it is my goal to make it totally worth it in the end, both for you and for our patients.
If you have any questions, feel free to post them to this blog and I will do my best to answer them. I know there are lots of rumours and chatter so please take the time to tell me where your concerns lie.