Since July 2006, Janet Dillione has headed the Health Services division of Siemens Medical Solutions in Malvern, Pa. With Siemens since 2000, Dillione served as a group vice president of Global Financial Systems and senior vice president of U.S. Business Management. During her tenure, Siemens launched Soarian, a workflow-based healthcare IT system. Recently, HCI Senior Associate Editor Daphne Lawrence caught up with Dillione to talk about Siemens and the industry at large.
DL: What is it about Siemens that keeps you interested?
JD: Siemens has the DNA for innovation. We like to be leaders, we like to be first. We don’t have much fear for the unknown. We’re not afraid to fail, we’re more afraid not to try.
DL: I know you were key in developing the Soarian product. Why didn’t Siemens just build on Invision?
JD: Invision was an extremely successful product line at the time, but we started from the ground up to be Web-native and wrapped in a Web mask. The other reason was so we would have integrated workflow technology. That meant a new architecture — that’s what begot Soarian. It would make a great book someday. This was a once in a career opportunity.
DL: What’s happening with Soarian today?
JD: Globally, we recently put out Release 5; it’s a true global release for the product. We actually did our beta in Austria. There are now 50 implementations in the United States. It’s a release with a lot of function, and feedback has been very good. But again, that first global release with the beta in Europe was huge.
DL: But if I’m a CIO in the United States, what does that overseas success mean for me?
JD: I think if I’m a customer, what I care about from global is that we get to see global innovation no matter where it’s happening, especially from the clinical side. We have Soarian being evaluated in Europe, in Asia, in the United States. What we find is our customers like talking to global customers, ‘What’s your best practice?’ Surely our biggest brand customers like to know we’re global because they’re trying to take their brand to other parts of the world. There is no greater healthcare market right now than parts of the Middle East and Asia.
DL: What’s different about Soarian clinical overseas?
JD: We find that what varies is not the care process so much as the role of who does what. So physicians in Europe do very different tasks than physicians in the United States. They all encounter the patient, treat the patient, and roll them through evidence-based protocols in a pretty similar manner. You could argue that the United States has greater efficiencies in some areas. I could argue that Singapore has greater efficiencies in other areas.
DL: I saw that Soarian recently received CCHIT certification. How important do you think CCHIT certification is?
JD: I think it gives a certain stamp that will be required in the market. I think it implies scale and ability to manage complexity. It doesn’t necessarily say this system is better than another. It does say the vendor went to the effort to do it; therefore, it has the intention of being in the market for awhile with that product. And I think it lends a sense of credibility to outside observers. There’s rumor that one day it will be linked to reimbursement, but I’ll leave that to the political pundits.
DL: Where do you see the greatest area of growth in the years to come?
JD: Ten years ago, Siemens Medical began this march towards personalized medicine. In the last few years, we’ve become extremely strong in imaging technologies. We added IT to wrap around that because we need to push it to the doctors and nurses. And now we have to get the genomic around the patient — so in the last few years we’ve made the move into the diagnostics business. All of that is a staged march towards this horizon of personalized medicine, where your therapy will be personal to you, not the generic segment of the population that presents with those symptoms. All towards improving quality and reducing cost.
DL: Tell me more about your view of personalized medicine.
JD: If you had a world of personalized medicine, you’d be reducing tests, because most tests are ordered for rule out, rule out, rule out. Plus you also have the opportunity on the therapeutic side to say that a patient will not respond well to a medicine because of their genomic disposition.
DL: Is there any best practice that you’d like share?
JD; I’d say right now, it’s workflow. It’s one of the key differentiators for Soarian.
Going into last year, we had 40 live workflows. Before that, we had three. We also built a Web environment for workflows, so people could post their workflows on the Web sites. Other customers can go in, grab that workflow, bring it into their own environment and reuse the design of that workflow. And customers are absolutely loving that. This year, there’s 107 out there. So there’s a customer-only Web site and right now that’s a hot spot. In the last year it really took off. This year we’ll start to wrap some of the diagnostics into that.
DL: What other plans do you have for the next year?
JD: We have high expectations of growth in Europe. In the United States, we will be heavily concentrated on getting that Release 5 implemented in the customer base — we want to get the customers live. We’ve also begun a joint venture in Japan with a legacy product there.
DL: What about on the financial side?
JD: We have Soarian Financials, which like Soarian Clinical is built from the ground up with that same Web technology and workflows as Clinical. We have a backlog of orders to fill this year. We want to continue to get customers live.
DL: What trends do you see in solving issues with IT solutions?
JD: Well, first and foremost, the Web isn’t going away. Every generation of clinical users coming in is a different generation than any of us have ever served. It means today that if you’re under 35, you can’t get it. The Web is not going away and the mobile user is not going away and the open global forum that has become the computing world is not going away. Years ago, we made an investment that put us in a Web environment — in a services-oriented architecture environment — because that is the computing environment you’re going to have to have in the future. No one will be able to scale and own every best practice. You’re going to have to be able to interoperate.
DL: Any tips to keep in mind when considering technology investments?
JD: I think that openness, Web-ness, and service-oriented architectures are keys that I would be looking for if I was making an investment. You have to remember this is an investment that has a shelf life of 10-15 years. So I want to have a kernel in that system that is a current kernel.
DL: Why do you think so many CIOs go for just a few vendors?
JD: The healthcare market sells by a lot of word of mouth. It’s a risk-adverse market. Quite frankly, that’s the biggest obstacle to being the new product on the block. I get my dander up when I talk to consultants and other pundits in the industry: I say, ‘But the fact that (potential buyers) give me an RFP with 22,000 function points — and ask me to name the 10 environments that look just like me that are live — means you’re asking me to bid my legacy product.’ You penalize the market for innovation. If you just put your capitalistic blinders on, why would you bring new technology into healthcare when the market subsumed it with these legacy requirements?