Virtual Integrated System Blog – Healthcare – A Pioneer Provider Reaches an IT Crossroads

Virtual Integrated System Blog – Healthcare – A Pioneer Provider Reaches an IT Crossroads.

Before he became corporate vice president and chief technology officer of the Beth Abraham Family of Health Services–which is the second-largest long-term care provider in New York State–Steven Polinski worked for Goldman Sachs.  Beth Abraham’s mission brings a somewhat different set of problems, but it’s no less complex than those on Wall Street. It’s just a different kind of complex.

Beth Abraham (BA) is a $700 million not-for-profit with about 40 locations and two major business areas. One half of BA is a focused on long-term care programs, Polinski explained. These include four nursing care facilities with a total of 1,198 beds, a long-term home healthcare program with 100 visiting nurses and about 1,100 patients, seven adult daycare centers, as well as several hospice and smaller programs around the New York metropolitan area.

The other half of the business is a Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), a service that manages care providers. PACE includes Comprehensive Care Management Corp.–the largest of such program in the country–employing 200 nurses who deliver home healthcare in New York City and surrounding areas.

The two businesses have very different IT requirements.  When Beth Abraham started its PACE program 20 years ago, it was experimental. “The concept of PACE is, it’s all-inclusive care.  We get a fixed dollar amount per member from Medicare on a monthly basis, and we have the responsibility to provide all the healthcare services, including all sorts of preventive care, to keep those people as healthy as possible. We’re responsible for all the medical bills, so we do the best we can to keep them healthy. That makes Beth Abraham not just the healthcare provider, but also an insurer,” Polinski explained.

Since it started as an experimental program, Polinski says there was no commercial software available to support it. As a result, the PACE program employed custom-written software, and the organization has built up a proprietary software platform to handle care management and other operational aspects over the years.  At the same time, BA has two separate EMR systems: a hosted SigmaCare solution at three of its four nursing facilities, deployed in 2009 and 2010 (with the fourth scheduled to roll out in April); and an in-house system operated by McKesson Horizon EMR for home healthcare and adult daycare sites.

Moving to a new system for the managed care business that offers better EMR functionality (and meaningful use certification) is at the top of Beth Abraham’s IT agenda.  There’s also the issue of growing storage requirements for its three small in-house data centers, and the cost of networking a growing number of remote sites on the corporate WAN.  There’s also a strong impetus to make IT more efficient.

How to surmount all these challenges?  Polinski discusses his strategy in my next post.