detroit-medical-center-most-wired.jpgThe phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” gets no respect from the people responsible for information technology security at Detroit Medical Center.

DMC, a nine-hospital system that is the largest health care provider in southeast Michigan, has earned Most Wired status for 10 consecutive years, in part, by constantly working to improve.

Like the rest of the field, much of DMC’s current IT work centers on beating back hackers. “The security at the level that we are talking about costs a lot, and it is something the organization has to be committed to,” says Joe Francis, chief information officer (pictured at right). “You have really got to be active, not reactive, to protect your patient and corporate information. One bad incident and you will have many more problems than just the payment for the security upgrades.”

DMC takes a “very locked-down approach” to security, which can trigger physician and staff pushback. However, since the executive leaders are committed to this high level of security, measures eventually gain acceptance, says John Karras, executive director for technical services.

Just as the days are largely gone when people could roam hospital hallways on their own, computer system users now have virtual escorts at DMC. Firewalls are opened and closed systematically as requests for access come in from authorized individuals. “We track where people go, and we validate the information that leaves the organization,” Karras says. “We probably go to the extremes, but, by doing that, we have been fortunate enough not to have had any major issues.”

Another of DMC’s primary focuses this year is bringing all of its more than 200 clinics fully online with the system’s electronic health record system. All are equipped with the EHR’s scheduling and registration functions, but only about 60 percent have added clinical functions as well.

“We have every service line you can think of in both the adult and the pediatric world, so this is a real challenge,” Francis says. “Getting those all automated will expand our knowledge of our patients and make the integration between the outpatient world and the inpatient world seamless.”

Also in the works: new levels of information technology support for population health management. Relying on its advanced IT systems, DMC is one of the few health systems to thrive in the government Pioneer Accountable Care Organization model; during the first three years of the Pioneer program, nearly $39 million in savings has been attributed to Michigan Pioneer ACO.

“We are starting a pediatric clinically integrated network,” Francis says. “We are expanding our registry capabilities and adding a more robust physician portal in support of this network. Those tools, as well as the care management processes they support, will be expanded to our work with the physician organizations in southeast Michigan.”