A Model for Transformational Change Across a Healthcare Enterprise
As a member of HIMSS and a board member of the TN chapter, I’m fortunate to gain great insight into a range of topics I would otherwise not be able to experience. One such presentation was by Eric Thraikill, Vice President and CIO of AMSURG, as he walked through the IT transformation taking place within his organization.
Healthcare is ever evolving. Healthcare provider organizations come in many shapes and forms – from the front line physicians to community hospitals to large national operating companies. One similarity is that they are all focused on providing outstanding medical care and they are not immune to business drivers. Mergers, acquisitions, market consolidation – all play a factor as organizations transform themselves. However, truly successful organizational and transformational change within an organization doesn’t just happen, according to Eric.
In AMSURG’s case, the ambulatory surgery company merged with Sheridan Healthcare in 2014 and then Envision Healthcare in 2016. This rapid-fire merger path included not just AMSURG, Sheridan Healthcare and Envision Healthcare but five major brands. Today, Envision Healthcare is the name of the recently combined companies with five operating brands, including AMSURG, Sheridan Healthcare, EmCare, AMR and Evolution Health. As the operating strategy evolved, branding and marketing approaches, as well as growth and expense synergies were being analyzed to build a comprehensive integration plan
Naturally, one of the most complex areas was IT. Not only were the corporate and regional offices affected, but there were hundreds of facilities and offices around the country that relied on high-performing, high value IT capabilities. There were clinical systems, revenue cycle solution, ERP and networking to consider integrating as well as staff, budgets and system and data security to factor. From a healthcare delivery perspective, consideration of any technological changes had to be weighed against the combined organizations’ goals of delivering outstanding care in the areas they serve.
The difficulty of unifying and aligning IT operations from these companies came with an understanding that change would occur operationally, according to Eric. This began in earnest in December 2016 with the announced merger of Envision Healthcare. The complexity of the IT teams and functions was an enormous undertaking where several models were developed and analyzed that would provide the most robust service delivery and capabilities in the dizzying array of requirements and needs.
Today, the transformational journey to a combined technology approach led them to develop the hybrid model of IT delivery across their organization. This resulted in organizational changes, the creation of a shared services group that can be leveraged across the enterprise to provide deep expertise and resources, along with functional leaders and executive teams responsible for each operating group. It’s a combination of certain centralized and de-centralized functions designed to achieve maximum efficiency across their operational units.
It has only been five months and organizational change and transformation is still occurring. The dust hasn’t quite settled in all areas, but the benefits of a cross-pollinated IT team in a new model of delivery for the combined brands is starting to show positive results across the organization with new efficiencies, cost savings and expertise that used to be available only in certain areas and now spread organizationally.
Eric will tell you there are challenges with this organizational change, as with any: cultural, duplicity in roles, costs and uncertainty. But a well-developed and organized process that fuels innovation and collaboration will deliver results. In the case of healthcare organizations undergoing transformation, the result in many cases will be felt in many ways over several years.
Eric said that many lessons were learned and still being learned as they continue to traverse their merger. He said out of all the lessons he learned communication is key. However, he said don’t just communicate — over communicate to ensure messages are being delivered and understood by all.
There is still work to be done. However, the process is well underway and change doesn’t stop with one operational decision. True organizational change and transformation takes time, patience and collaboration.
President, TN HIMSS