Richard Vaughn

Q&A with Richard Vaughn

April 10, 2014
by Sean Ruck, Contributing Editor
SSM Health Care is a system made up of 18 hospitals across four states. DOTmed HealthCare Business News spoke to Dr. Richard Vaughn, System Vice President, Chief Medical Information Officer, Center for Clinical Excellence at SSM Health Care about his background and about the role electronic health records are playing for the SSM Health Care system.

HCBN: Why did you choose a career in health care?
I think it’s the usual answer — I had a desire to help people. I also had an interest in human biology and wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. I was interested in science too and realized the best way to apply it all to people was through medicine.

HCBN: What is your current role with SSM Health Care?
In 2008, I moved into my current position as the CMIO and leader of the Center for Clinical Excellence. My role has expanded to include the business intelligence program, other clinical information systems beyond the EHR and leading our organization in clinical standardization efforts. We are now turning the corner from an emphasis on implementation of the EHR to one dedicated to innovation and optimization. I am now also focusing on using the data in our systems to provide insights and to support the new health care delivery models we are developing. We are fortunate that we have implemented a enterprise EHR solution that is patient centered and allows us to ‘know’ the patient wherever they are seen at SSM.

In all of this work, my role is to assure the critical collaboration between IT and clinicians – so that our limited IT resources deliver the tools our clinicians need to improve care.

HCBN: You said you’ve brought on some new hospitals recently. How difficult is it to get facilities new to the system up-to-speed with your EHR system?
We made a giant commitment early on to go with a single EHR to cover all our venues of care. We now have extensive experience converting hospitals with a ‘big bang’ approach that covers revenue cycle and clinical applications. We can bring that experience to a new hospital, show them our previous success and give them the confidence they need to rapidly convert to the new system. After months of preparation, we convert hospitals to the enterprise system over a 48-hour period. It sounds impossible, but we have been very successful with this approach.

HCBN: How do you go about getting a new facility ready to join the group?
We begin engaging the hospital operational and clinical leadership many months before the go live. We expect the medical staff and operational leaders to work together as part of the facility EHR implementation team. They become the clinical and operational champions and guide the Medical Executive Committee, nursing leadership and department directors in creating the policies and procedures needed to ensure proper use of the medical record, mandate clinician training, ensure adoption of system standards and develop the communication conduit needed for change management.

There are three major challenges for an organization of our size and diversity:

The first is the interaction with the various cultures across our organization. We have strong direction from system leadership to coordinate, collaborate and standardize our care processes and build them in the EHR. We have made tremendous progress in this area by building trust and delivering value.

The second is geographic dispersion — we must develop and maintain strong relationships despite the distance and respect local needs while at the same time ensure that system standards are met. We have to respect differences in hospital size, services and resources. So we have to do a lot of creative thinking to figure out how to support local needs without producing expensive variation that isn’t justified.

The final challenge is universal — the continually increasing number of regulations and quality reporting requirements. Time spent planning, developing and implementing what is needed to meet Meaningful Use stage 2 and 3 requirements as well as other regulatory requirements consumes a lot of time and effort that could be spent on improving clinician satisfaction, safety and quality.

Click here to view the hospital spotlight pictorial of some of SSM Health Care's facilities.