Partners' Cara Babachicos: The people part of IT is really complicated

While health IT education is a passion for Cara Babachicos, the corporate director of information systems and CIO of community hospitals and non-acute entities at Boston-based Partners HealthCare, also has a bevy of day-to-day responsibilities to ensure that the 10 sites she oversees run smoothly. From a personnel standpoint, alone, the task is not an easy one.

"There are a lot of differences in all the sites and people that report to me," she said at the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives' annual fall forum in San Antonio last week. "Some CIOs who report to me might be more influential when it comes to their hospital's executive team, while others are reporting to their facility's chief financial officer and struggling to get a seat at the decision-making table."

In part II of FierceHealthIT's exclusive interview with Babachicos, she talks about the state of Partners' move from a homegrown electronic health record system to a vendor product, as well as ongoing security efforts.

FierceHealthIT: Talk about switching from using a homegrown EHR to using a vendor product. How is that going and what challenges have you encountered?

Cara Babachicos: A very strong belief of mine is that IT systems are really about two things: the technology and the people. If all I had to do all day was put technology systems in and implement a system in the back room, my life would be pretty easy. But our lives are complicated because you have a real personal piece of how you get change in an organization, how you get people trained, how you reorganize, how you staff. The technology is complicated because it's something new and different and we're trying to leverage it across our entire enterprise; that's clearly complicated. But the people part is really complicated.

Setting the expectations and helping people understand that their world may change is a really big deal.

Our first major milestone was putting the revenue system in at two of our hospitals. That's gone well, but the next big milestone--we call it Family One go-live--is both the clinical and the revenue cycle applications going live on the same day across one of or academic medical centers, as well as home care and a community hospital.

From there, we'll go live with the other families. I think around 2017 we'll be live with the majority of the hospitals and ambulatory practices.

FierceHealthIT: How will training work?

Babachicos: In some cases, some of the sites are probably going to have to have 15 training rooms going at one time. It's all hands on deck. And all of this will take place while we have heads in the bed; we'll have patients literally right there because there can't be a dip in quality.

Part of what we do is engaging people to visit other comparable sites and to understand that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Other sites have made it through such implementations with similar capabilities.  

FHIT: What are some of the other big IT projects you're working on?

Babachicos: Security is a huge deal. We're working on a big initiative to ensure all of our systems, including our new ones, are safe.

FHIT: Is there more of an emphasis on security following the Community Health Systems breach?

Babachicos: I would say that we were already on top of that. We have a big project going on across Partners to ensure that we have the right governance and structure in place. I would say that [the CHS breach] just enforces why we need this.

Security is never going to be 100 percent, but you have to do the best that you can because it's a constantly changing environment. You're reputation and patient safety are at stake.

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