At the Flemington, N.J.-based Hunterdon Healthcare, executive leaders have moved forward on a plan to modernize the organization’s vast application portfolio. According to Hunterdon vice president and CIO Dan Morreale, the health system, which consists of a 190-bed community hospital, Hunterdon Medical Center, and 60 care locations, had a segmented approach to IT with each department independently acquiring the software that it needed. Executive leaders specifically wanted to upgrade a dated email tool with a more modern application that would support collaboration, Morreale says, as health system clinicians and staff needed instant messaging activity, a stronger archive solution and video communication.
Last year, Morreale led the organization’s migration to a cloud-based suite of productivity applications for 3,000 users and at 60 locations within the healthcare system.
Hunterdon worked with IT consulting firm SADA Systems to support the migration and transition to the cloud-based email system. Overall, the health system is anticipating $1.3 million in cost savings from moving to the cloud, according to the consulting firm.
“We were able to eliminate several servers, and the cost of replacing those servers and maintaining the operating systems on them,” Morreale says. “We saved a significant amount of money on archiving and security aspects that we had in place for the email environment.” In addition, the explosive growth in healthcare data is starting to push the limits of Hunterdon’s infrastructure and the move to the cloud enabled the organization to move data out of its data center.
In addition to cost savings, the move to the cloud helps to create more efficient workflows, while also supporting Hunterdon’s broader organizational goals, Morreale asserts. “My organization has been doing population health for the better part of 60 years, so we have a nice flow around that and it was important that our suite tools did not interfere with that. I think we were successful in that transaction.” He adds, “We believe the ability to collaborate is going to take form in many ways. We get to share a document or a spreadsheet being developed across a broad spectrum of users, which is truly amazing. We’re able to eliminate departmental storage drives because of the capacity to share within Google drive and Google team drive, so that’s helped to reduce our costs, and the general ability to access all of the tools, whether within the health system or at home, has truly significant value for us.”
While the email application was rolled out last year, Morreale and his team are currently working to increase adoption of the broader offerings of the cloud-based applications. Rather than pushing a mass migration to the other productivity applications, project leaders are taking an organic approach; “we are not trying to force or fast track changes,” he says.
More broadly, the move to cloud-based productivity applications and moving data out of the data centers to the cloud aligns with Hunterdon’s strategic focus right now. Speaking of the most significant challenges facing healthcare CIOs, Morreale says, “We have to contend with the usability of these systems that we have essentially pushed on our health systems over the past three years as the result of pay-for-performance, quality metrics, and meaningful use, so I think a lot of health systems, mine included, put in a lot of changes but never took that opportunity to take that giant step back and say, ‘Now that I made these changes, how do I make it more usable?’ So, at Hunterdon, right now, we are concentrating on interoperability, which is always a headache, and adoption with a focus on, ‘How do I make these systems easier for clinicians and for the workforce to use, and by so doing, improve efficiency and efficacy?”