This Healthcare IT Outsourcing Relationship is Nothing Short of a Medical Breakthrough

Healthcare, IT, partnership.2014 Outsourcing Excellence Awards

Best Healthcare

Springhill Medical Center and Allscripts



“We helped Allscripts understand our business, our strategic plans and where they fit in as a partner. We recognize that they are a business too, and we try to be as helpful to them as they are to us.”

Jeff St. Clair
President and CEO
Springhill Medical Center 

Springhill Medical Center is a 252-bed, solely owned, full-service, for-profit hospital located in Mobile, Alabama. It doesn’t have a foundation, a network or a big corporate bankroll. Yet, this small-but-mighty acute-care facility is one of the most technically advanced in the nation—light years ahead of many larger providers.

“You know what a scum breaker is? That kid who jumps in the pond first to break up all the scum on top of the water? We’re pretty much the scum breaker equivalent for IT in healthcare,” said Jeff St. Clair, president and CEO of Springhill Medical Center. “We’re not afraid to dive in first—and that’s been a big part of our success.”

The whole thing started back in 2000, when the hospital decided to outsource Springhill’s IT to Allscripts.

“As an independent, privately held hospital, capital is harder to come by. Besides brick and mortar, our largest expense was IT, so it made sense to outsource,” St. Clair explained. “But, we wanted to do something more than offset costs. We wanted to partner with a company that could understand the nuances of our business and could help us apply the latest technology to improve patient care. At the time, we were lagging behind on technology and we wanted to become a technological leader.”

Although Allscripts offered everything Springhill Medical was looking for, the hospital was smaller than most others on this provider’s client roster.

“We said, ‘If you want to be our partner, you need to work like we work. In return, we will move quickly and use what you have to offer. You won’t need a sales force of five working two and a half years to sell us something,” St. Clair said. “We also agreed to become a showcase site, so prospective clients could see how Allscripts’ solutions worked in an actual setting. Everything looks great on a PowerPoint presentation in a boardroom, but seeing technology functioning in a real healthcare environment makes a far greater impact.”

And just like that, a symbiotic outsourcing relationship was born.

They Went Electronic Before Electronic Was Cool

“Jeff (St.Clair) and his leadership makes our job easy, because he realizes the benefits of technology. He had the vision to move toward electronic health records (EHR) long before the mandate. We went live with our system back in 2004,” said Mark Kilborn, CIO and area vice president at Allscripts. “Springhill is the only for-profit hospital within a 75 square mile area and we were the first to raise our hands and tell the physicians, who can choose any hospital they want, ‘We’re going to change our workflow and move to EHR’. That took guts.”

Initially, physicians had to use the system for prescription orders but could record their notes and records manually, if they so chose.

“Last year, the leadership of our medical staff asked us to mandate 100 percent computerized physician order entry, which meant going totally paperless and not giving physicians any options to work outside of the system if they used our hospital,” St. Clair said. “We set the mandatory compliance date of July 1st and braced for the worst. It was a total non-event. It’s important to understand that these physicians are not employed by Springhill, they’re independents. If they didn’t like the mandate, they could go to other hospitals in the area. But they didn’t.”

Part of this success is due to the quality and reliability of the technology, but equally important is the way the Allscripts team tailors hospital systems to the needs of the different physicians and specialists.

“We’ve outsourced our IT department for 14 years, but to see how Allscripts interacts with our physicians, you’d never know it,” St. Clair said. “Allscripts understands that our business is not a ‘one size fits all;’ that each specialist has uniquely different needs from any other type of specialist, so they customized the system for the way our individual physicians work.”

The IT team gains this insight through personal interaction—not just with Springhill’s staff but with the physicians themselves.

“Our IT group sits down with the physicians not only to explain how our systems work but to find out how they can make the systems work better for them,” St. Clair said. “It’s not unusual to see them rounding with our physicians—looking for ways they can enhance our technology to help them work more efficiently, offer better care or make their days go faster.”

It’s not just Allscripts reaching out to the physicians. IT is so entrenched in Springhill’s eco-system that the physicians reach out directly to them.

“Ninety percent of our physicians can call our Allscripts CIO by name; almost everyone knows at least one Allscripts clinical nurses by name,” St. Clair said. “They’ll email questions directly, like ‘How can I make “X” drug pop up on my favorite list?’ It’s a very unique, very deep relationship.”

Building a Healthy Outsourcing Relationship from Day One

According to St. Clair, this amazing outsourcing partnership is a combination of philosophy, the right people, and a little bit of luck.

“For one thing, we picked the right partner and have an outstanding team in place,” St. Clair said. “From the onset, we helped them understand our particular business, our strategic plans and where they fit in as a partner. We recognize that they are a business too, and we try to be as helpful to them as they are to us.”

It’s never been an “us” and “them” situation. As a result, in all the time Springhill and Allscripts have been working together, St. Clair can’t remember a really “bad” day.

“The CIO (Mark Kilborn) sits in on our management meetings with our ownership, not as an Allscripts person but as a member of our team,” St. Clair said. “There are no secrets, so we all are working toward the same goals.”

Everyone is focused on helping the hospital do better or accomplish more.

“Our shop is very talented and they’ve saved us a lot in implementation fees. When we have third-party software upgrades or need to swap out a server, those vendors quote implementation fees.  We have consistently saved 50 percent to 100 percent of those quoted fees by handling it ourselves, through Allscripts,” St. Clair said.

And the turnover traditionally associated with IT? It just isn’t happening here.

“Getting longevity with IT personnel is difficult, but we’ve had stability in the ranks, which is a testament to the CIO,” St. Clair said. “But, if we should have a problem or turnover, with Allscripts, I know I have a very deep bench for my 24-person IT department, nationwide. Allscripts has tons of resources I can tap if we need to.”

Bleeding-Edge Technology Adoption Without the Expected Pain

If it’s something new, and beneficial to its patients and physicians, Springhill Medical is all in.

“While there’s a risk in being an early adopter, it also gives you the opportunity to shape the product; to have input on what that final product’s going to be,” St. Clair said. “We also know that Allscripts produces quality technology, and that our IT team is committed to our patients and our success. They’re not going to let us fail.”

This year alone, Springhill is implementing Allscripts’ new financial management system, a new surgery product and was the first in the country to upgrade to Allscript’s Sunrise Clinical Management 14.1—the latter in record time.

“We were down exactly three hours and had six consultants here for just 48 hours. I don’t think you can have a more operationally sound upgrade than that. That tells you the quality of the team we have working here.” Kilborn said. “We’re fortunate to have a hospital and IT department full of over-achievers.There’s an old quote from the Carthaginian General Hannibal, ‘If I can’t find a way, I’ll make one.’ That’s the mindset of the staff and the way they approach everything asked of them.”

Over the years, this dynamic duo and two-time Outsourcing Excellence award winners have accomplished a lot—with many more achievements to come.  The unique combination of a publicly traded large company and a good-sized private hospital in Alabama has really paid off.

“As CEO, IT went from the biggest pain in my neck to the biggest feather in my cap,” St. Clair said.

And he’s happy to spread the news.

“If I can make an honest call on Allscripts’ behalf, or showcase what Springhill Medical has been able to achieve, I’m always willing to do it,” St. Clair said. “What’s good for Allscripts is good for us.”

Now that’s an award-winning partnership that’s worth celebrating.

2014 Outsourcing Excellence Awards Winners

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