October 18: Today on TownHall Reid Stephan, VP and CIO at St. Lukes interviews Jeffrey Sturman, Senior Vice President & Chief Digital Officer at Memorial Healthcare System about his journey to his current role and patient access centers . What was his career path and how do mentors fit into the picture along the way? How did he evolve his organization’s patient access center and why is a mature call center so important?
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on the digital front, we've always expected consumers or patients to call us. and I think that's fine for the last dozen plus years or last hundred years to have.
People phoning a call center. But we have to get much more mature and be able to communicate with patients the way they wanna communicate with us.
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Welcome to this week, Community Talent Hall Conversation. My name's Reed Stephan, VP and CIO at St. Luke's Health System in Boise, Idaho, and I'm joined today by Jeff Sturman, Senior Vice President and Chief Digital Officer at Memorial Healthcare System in Florida.
Jeff, welcome and thank you for making the time.
Always. Thanks. Re great to talk to you as always.
You bet. Take a minute and just introduce Memorial Healthcare System for our listen.
Happy to. So first of all, Memorial Healthcare System is a terrific community based healthcare system in South Florida.
So we're on the southeast of Florida just north of Miami the southern region of Broward County. We are formally known as the South Broward Hospital District. So we are a public. Quasi-governmental facility. We're six hospitals, five acute care hospitals, and a really stellar children's hospital freestanding called Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital.
So we span from really the water, the Atlantic, all the way west , up until the Everglades, from the Everglades to the west coast of Florida, there's nothing except Everglades and so we really are the South Broward region. We own about what we say, one third of the county. The other two thirds of the county is shared by our sister healthcare system, Broward Health.
Actually doing a lot of collaboration with them today. So we're about 2.8 billion in revenue. About 15,000 employees. And we've enjoyed really terrific financial success for many. Very clinically integrated an integrated healthcare system that's trying to become more of a healthcare system as opposed to a hospital system.
Like many of us and we are forced to be reckoned with, we're certainly not alone. There's a lot of competition in our market. More so today than ever before, but we've really owned, in a lot of respects, some of the major service lines that we focus in on. So pediatrics, as I talked about with Joe DiMaggio, is a very important and core service line for us, mothers and babies.
So we deliver over 60% of all babies in Broward County, not just the South District, but Broward County in total. So we're a bit of a baby factory and that's terrific and fun and, we also have a great service line around cardiology, around orthopedic and rehab, around cancer. And certainly neurosciences as well.
And so, we're comprehensive. We are the safety net healthcare system in Broward County. We're also the trauma one center. There are only. Three hospitals in Broward County that are trauma one. We are the one in the South District, and then there's two hospitals in the North District. So Broward Health, you know, and Memorial, we're really the county based delivery systems.
Memorial is a wonderful, as I said, place I love being here. I've been here four and a half years in this position and it is just a family and community.
Okay. You've told that story before. That was excellent. Great to understand more about Memorial, What a great facility and, resource there for that community.
So you've been there four and a half years. Take a minute and just share with us your background, your education background, your career path that led you to this role today. .
Yeah. So, I, I say I've been here four and a half years, and the reality is I'm what you call a boomerang. , because I was here for about 10 years.
I left for six years and I've been back for the last four and a half years. So I started with my education, I went to the great school in Indiana called Indiana University, where my son is today, which I couldn't be more happy about. So my wife and I both met there. I was a psychology major and chemistry major.
Thinking, Okay, I'm gonna go to medical school cuz that's what the path in my life had always been focused on. My father's, a physician, lots of doctors in the family. And uh, through a number of conversations, I think both my parents were like Well, just take your time. You don't have to go to medical school.
Go do something else first. And so I, I heated their advice. I went to graduate school and I got my master's in health administration. Because I always loved the idea of being in healthcare, really helping people. And I thought that would be a natural way to extend my education before potentially going to medical school.
Well, long story short I've decided to pursue that healthcare administration focus even beyond grad school. I got recruited to Ernston Young right outta grad. And I was there for the better part of, off and on a little bit for 10 years doing healthcare consulting outta Chicago. What do people in the mid nineties get pulled into?
And they don't know anything outta grad school really. But it's it because things were gearing up for y2k. And I got pretty immersed into IT strategy, IT planning, and then ultimately big implementations like electronic health records. My first Epic implementation was in 1997. And I've been doing epic work and Cerner work and other EMR work ever since.
So I worked at EY for almost 10 years. I joined my. Memorial Healthcare system and helped. I was going back and forth from Chicago to Florida and back and forth and had a baby and another one on the way and decided to get off the road. They made me a great offer. I was the first vice president at Memorial, so now we have a lot of vice presidents and a lot of layers of executive leadership.
But back in 2006 or 2005, there. I was the first vice president of it, and I worked very closely with our chief information officer and really actually bringing in our clinical informatics function, which was a separate department at the time. And my client, my previous client, So I spent almost 10 years again, actually eight years at Memorial in that role and doing a number of things.
Ultimately converting Memorial to our new electronic health record, which is Epic. And we now have been on Epic for over a dozen years. And really aligning the IT strategy with the healthcare system strategy. I then had an opportunity to leave Memorial, join some very good friends what I consider almost family to me to build a consulting practice and a consulting firm that they had already built and had been establi.
I think I might have been their first client. And so I had this opportunity to join them, a company based in Nashville. I stayed living in Florida, so I got back on the road. I think my wife was getting sick of me and happy to see me go on the road for a while. And so did that for six years.
Joined them as a partner. Built the company to over 600 people. Did really amazing things. All healthcare it, focus. Mostly strategic planning in my world. Organization governance, transformational work implementation was our bread and butter. And that company has now subsequently been purchased and bought by another larger consulting firm.
They also went through a private equity transaction, which was a lot of fun to learn. Yeah. And so, I rejoined Memorial four and a half years ago in the chief information officer role. . And then just two years ago, my role expanded to the chief digital officer role, which everyone asked me, What does that mean?
Mm-hmm. .. And what it means to us is that not only do I oversee information technology and all of the technical infrastructure requirements for the healthcare system, but I also get and enjoy the opportunity to move the patient experience, the consumer experience forward. Our call centers. Which we call our patient access centers.
, report up through me as well as clinical engineering or biomedicine biomedical services report up through me. So it's a pretty big group. And I love being here. And it's been quite a journey already and look forward to many, many more years here.
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Yeah. Thank you. It's always so fascinating to listen and learn from others.
Kind of how they navigated their career. There's a couple of common threads that I find in everyone's story, and you hit on those as well. One is a willingness to be open to change your mind, right? I don't know many people that went to school with a fixed career in mind and then never deviated from that.
And so having the courage , to be open to a different path and then. Along your career being open to taking on a different role. Like you talked about some of the movements that you made, and I'm sure with that there was maybe a little bit of trepidation or uncertainty, but you just trusted in yourself and went for it.
And I'm also assuming that along the way you had, there were mentors or those that encouraged you and saw things in you that maybe you didn't realize in yourself at the time. And that's, that's the secret sauce.
A hundred percent. I mean, I remember a conversation I had with one of our CEOs of one of our hospitals years ago.
And I had my master's in health administration, I had my mba, I have a undergraduate degree in psychology. I always thought I'd be in healthcare, which I obviously am, and I'm passionate about taking care of people. But at one point in my future, I thought I'd be a hospital CEO and this mentor and dear friend of mine, said Man, you've been in it for so long.
You are the future cio, and this was before I was the CIO Obviously, you're the future cio. That's the path that we all see for you and you love it and you're good at it. And there's not a broader perspective in the healthcare system that gets to enjoy, again, broadness of capabilities and services that are provided than the cio.
That was true 10 years. ago It's even more true today. And that's what I love, that I get to be involved in all aspects of care. Of organization, of business. It's a lot of.
Could not agree more. As you talked about y2k, it brought back memories for me. I actually was a contractor at St. Luke's at that time, and I look back on that, the biggest non-event in IT history.
But I remember like going around every corner of the hospital and the clinics putting Y2K compliance stickers as we would patch systems. But also there was so much fear and like people would hand us a calculator, right? Like, Hey, does this need to be patched? So we just put stickers on everything just to reassure people that everything was gonna work.
And it did. Yeah, exactly. Fun times. Fun times. Well, let's, talk about your patient access center. You and I were visiting about this a couple of months ago, and this is you know, a call center. It might be kind of a mundane topic, but for me , it's really important and I find it fascinating and the reality is wherever you're at in your digital journey, for most organizations that call center, that is the gateway, the doorway that most patients interact with your health system through.
And yet sometimes it's almost kind of dismissed or treated like, it's just not cool enough. Therefore we don't talk about it or give it the attention maybe that it should rightfully get. And so I love the fact that your patient access center rolls up through you. St. Luke's , it's with a
Peer vp and she's great. She and I partner together closely, but I've often thought like, if I had more kind of oversight of this, what might I do differently? So I'd love to learn from you and just kind of have you share with us how you've thought about evolving and maturing this critically important resource.
Yeah it's a great point and it's something I talk a lot about. It's been a journey and it's gonna be, continue to be a journey for us. , Mm-hmm. , it is something that I'm learning. I, I'm not a call center guy by background. I'm an IT project manager and someone again thinking about care delivery but you're right, it's the gateway to that care delivery process.
And if it's broken on the front end, it's certainly gonna be a bad experience. On the journey for a patient throughout. And so we're trying to fix it. We've had a lot of disparate call centers at Memorial for many, many years, and we still do, although we have centralized and we have consolidated a number of them, we've really started in our physician practices.
And again, our physician practices is called mpg, Memorial Physician Group, and they've been very specialty driven, not very primary care focused, and historically they've all had their own essentially call center. So, We've tried to bring that into what we call centralized scheduling, which is really a, again, our fancier name for that is our patient access center.
It's a little bit of a, misnomer because it's really a patient intake center. Yep. We're not fixing access, we're fixing the process by which we intake. Communication with our patients, and to your point around digital and innovation, I would say is really important here. We foundationally said we need new technology to support the patient access center.
So that we can understand metrics analytics around how we're performing and knowing where our pain points are, as simple as what I'll call performance management, meaning how do I staff up during certain hours? Where do I need, need to shift resources? I had no lens into that previously because I didn't have the right technology in place today.
I put the right technology in place. It was a, process by just doing that. It's a very modern cloud based solution, call center focused, but it gives me the analytics and my team, my leadership team, the analytics to help us. Tune where people sit and at what time people sit so that we're attentive to the consumers when they want us to be attentive as opposed to historically always thinking that consumers were gonna come to us.
This is an opportunity for us to be a little bit more centric around what they want as opposed to what works for our hospital based services. The second thing I would tell you, Is on the digital front, we've always expected consumers or patients to call us. and I think that's fine for the last dozen plus years or last hundred years to have.
People phoning a call center. But we have to get much more mature and be able to communicate with patients the way they wanna communicate with us. And we all know how many of us are communicating with call centers by calling. them Well, A certain percentage of us always will do that, but we also need ways in which we can communicate with them through.
text Through chat, Through chat bots, through voice bots or IVR through self-service capabilities. So we've been on this journey for the last couple years, and again, it will be an ongoing process by which we create these mechanisms so that we're communicating with patients in, again, any means by which they wanna communicate with us.
So we're recruiting that omnichannel capability Today, I have a couple or a few different solutions. In play. I do see that converging over time where I get to a I would hope I could get to a single solution. I don't know how practical that is in the next year or two. I think in the next three or plus three plus years, we will get to a much more single based technology that can serve us from self-service.
From chatting, from chat bot to voice bot to texting, et cetera. And so that's the exciting part that I see happening because I see the engagement with our consumers getting better. I see ratings and reviews getting better. We're influencing from the very get go, the patient experience. In that gateway, as you said, in that first interaction of them calling our call center or our patient access center.
So this is a trickle effect and a domino effect, if you will, where if that experience is good up front it starts a better process for our consumers. So it's been a lot of fun, but there's a lot more work to be done. There's a lot more that we're pulling into this call center. And over time, the very disparate call centers that we have, not just scheduling but eligibility collections, customer service, and dietary, all of these call centers are gonna be working under the same technology, get the same level of analytics so that we can do performance management effect.
And ultimately bring them into a single call center that can be very consistent for all experience.
Yep. I, I love that approach of the omnichannel options for the consumer. Again, to meet them where they are and let them decide what is the most effective and enjoyable way for them to engage. With Memorial, I think Jeff based on the time, I'm gonna put you on the spot and ask you, If we could schedule a part two of this sometime down the road the next couple of months, cuz there's more I want to get to but wanna be sensitive to your time.
I just think you've done great work there and there's more insights to kind of glean from a conversation. But based on the time we're at today, just want to thank you for making a few minutes sharing with us about your company and about this path you're on and really appreciate your time.
Thank you, Rita.
I'd love to do another one. So, Let's get a schedule.
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