In 1995 I joined the administrative staff at Overlake Hospital Medical Center in Bellevue, Washington. What began as a half-time position while I continued to practice medicine and provide medical reports for local and national television outlets soon turned into a full time position. Knowing my penchant for technology, the hospital CEO approached me about taking over IT at the hospital. The department was running amok with too many projects and too few accomplishments. The CEO said, “I need a civilian in charge of the military”, in this case meaning a doctor in charge of the department working on behalf of, and in the best interests of, the hospital’s medical staff. Before I knew it, I was carrying the title of hospital CIO and CMIO.
What made Overlake special was its location in the backyard of Microsoft. Microsoft executives were on our board and active in the hospital’s foundation. But from an IT perspective that was also a challenge. At the time, Overlake’s IT department was anything but centered on Microsoft technologies. For instance, our network was Novell and our e-mail system was GroupWise. Even if those systems were serving the hospital well at the time (remember this was more than 16 years ago) the situation was politically untenable. During meetings, visitations and hospitalizations we had Microsoft’s most senior executives wandering the halls of our hospital watching our medical staff and employees using non-Microsoft solutions. We soon realized that for political, perhaps even more than for economic reasons, this had to change.
When I announced to our IT staff that we would be migrating our hospital e-mail system to Outlook and Exchange, the news wasn’t exactly met with cheers. In fact, the manager of our network and e-mail system was enraged. He told me that hospital staff wouldn’t know how to use Outlook. He said the transition would be painful and costly. It would require massive retraining. He also said the network would be infested by viruses and malware attacks. But despite his objections, we forged ahead. To make a long story short, our medical staff and employees started using the new e-mail system without missing a beat. We didn’t have more, but far fewer issues with viruses and malware. And the system manager that had been such a vocal critic of our decision to embrace Microsoft became one of my most ardent supporters. In fact, he used to accompany me on visits to other hospitals to sing the praises of Microsoft technologies and solutions and how much better things worked after we made the transition at Overlake.
Move forward to today. Just as in the late 1990’s we realized significant savings and improved functionality at Overlake with our move to Microsoft. Today’s most forward-thinking and progressive hospital CIOs are seeing a new opportunity to drive value in their organizations by moving to the cloud. Over the past few months I have documented this movement here on HealthBlog. The latest example is reported in a just-released article in Computerworld. The article documents Grady Health System’s journey to the cloud. As I read about this well-known, 1000 bed hospital and clinic system in Atlanta and what drove them to not only move off of GroupWise but go straight to the cloud, I couldn’t help but think of my own experience so many years ago at Overlake. If only “cloud” had been an option then. What a marvelous opportunity to reassign precious IT staff from managing an e-mail system to focusing their talents on innovation – innovation for the organization’s future. I urge you to read the Computerworld article, and contact your Microsoft account executive. You’ll be glad you did.
Bill Crounse, MD Senior Director, Worldwide Health Microsoft