Marc Probst: Intermountain will double and triple down on innovation in 2015

While Marc Probst believes the recent string of leadership exits at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, combined with Meaningful Use criticisms, could be cause for low morale at the agency, he also believes the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' health IT efforts aren't going to screech to a grinding halt because of those departures.

"I think they're committed to [IT]," Probst, CIO of Salt Lake City-based Intermountain Healthcare, told FierceHealthIT at the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives' annual fall forum in San Antonio, Texas. "But it's difficult for me to see the actual levers that HHS and ONC have to actually push for implementation and use."

In the second part of our exclusive interview, Probst discusses the federal interoperability road map draft, unveiled by ONC on Oct. 14. He also shares what his organization's primary focus will be in the coming year. Read Part 1

FierceHealthIT: Are we on the right track with this draft interoperability road map for healthcare?

Marc Probst: In my personal conversation with Dr. DeSalvo on it, my concern was that it's another 10 year plan, and there are 20 of them out there. Every group is getting together and creating their plan for interoperability, saying pretty much similar things. But no one is doing anything.

What I do like about what Dr. DeSalvo has done is, she's raised the conversation. I'll give her credit because she's the national coordinator and she really put a focus on it. But it's been a crescendo; we've been building up to this conversation, and as a country we're prepared for it and understand better than we ever have the importance of it.

Now we have to move the conversation to the CEOs, the people that really focus the energies of an organization solving problems. We can help with that, but it really needs to get into the board rooms. I think maybe we have some potential to do that. We're starting to get an idea of just how important this is.

FHIT: Looking ahead to next year, what are your biggest objectives at Intermountain?

Probst: We're installing a new electronic medical record. That is, by far, the largest project we have to do. From a massive project perspective, that will be our focus.

We'll also continue to focus heavily on privacy and security. It's an area you can't spend enough money on and you can't put enough effort into.

We're also focusing on customer service and reorganization. We're changing IS from being this implementation development organization. While we still have to do some of that, our focus will be on making sure that we provide an awesome patient experience.

Efficiency is also a priority. We have to get more costs down. Every year we do more and we have a long ways to go.

FHIT: How long do you anticipate the EMR implementation taking?

Probst: I'd love to get it done in 2015, but it wouldn't shock me if we got into mid-2016 before we're done. But we're in a pretty good position. We already operate as an enterprise, so once we have it working in a couple of our facilities it shouldn't be too hard to take it everywhere. We're mainly in one state, and only have one hospital that's not in Utah, so we don't have a lot of interstate issues. I think we can go pretty quickly once we have a configured system that we're comfortable with.

FHIT: Any thoughts on ICD-10?

Probst: We were ready a year ago and we'll be ready in October. If they do it, we'll do it. It's funny that we're starting to see the rhetoric raising now for pushing out ICD-10 again. If you're not going to do it, just kill it so we don't have to spend any energy on it.

FHIT: What would you say is the most innovative thing that you've been able to accomplish at Intermountain this year?

Probst: We've created this transformation lab, and I think just what we're doing around wearables and wireless monitoring. We've created some really good applications for our portal and we've been focused a lot on population health, so those have been creative.

In the next year, we're going to double and triple down on all of those fronts. It's just really hard when you're doing a massive implementation like we're doing; it takes all the energy out of a lot of other things we'd like to work on. Our emphasis has been down, but not our desire. Once we get this system installed, the emphasis will be back.

Editor's Note: This interview has been condensed for clarity and content.