The Art of the Possible

As health-care funding changes in Ontario, Sinai Health System CIO George Georgiadis is pushing his team to automate, standardize, and become a true business partner

Few industries are changing more than health care—and technology is playing a major role in that transformation. Many chief information officers are eager to jump in and develop flashy new applications or implement sleek hardware systems. George Georgiadis, however, is taking a different approach at Toronto’s Sinai Health System: he’s harnessing the true power of technology through a more measured technique that’s complementing the hospital’s vision while driving results.

Georgiadis is the vice president of information services and chief information officer for Sinai Health System. In 2015, the Toronto-based Mount Sinai Hospital amalgamated with Bridgepoint Active Healthcare to create Sinai Health System, thereby adding a full spectrum of community-based services. Mount Sinai Hospital opened its doors in 1923, and it operates several functions, including a 442-bed acute-care centre, a renowned Women’s and Infants’ Health Program, and emergency care. Additionally, Sinai Health System’s Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute is one of the world’s leading biomedical institutes.

Essentially, Georgiadis’s approach allows IT to have the biggest-possible impact on the overall organization. In 2011, when he first came to Mount Sinai Hospital, he analyzed the organization’s needs and developed an IT strategy to match. “Technology is fun, and gadgets are great—but in health care, a CIO has to provide solutions that help an organization realize its vision and achieve its goals,” he says.

Education is important, too. At Mount Sinai, IT leaders talk to department heads and executives to demonstrate how technology trends can improve situations for patients and health-care providers alike. Georgiadis and his colleagues translate IT jargon into real language and focus on education. If they get a “yes,” the IT team steps in to deliver results. “We don’t just plug in a fancy piece of technology,” Georgiadis says. “We transform the business so they can do their jobs better.” A measurable framework and robust metrics allow Georgiadis to determine how effective his team is on each specific project, and doing so is helping him take the department from a simple service provider to a true business partner.

A more thoughtful approach is especially important for hospital CIOs operating in Ontario, where funding models are changing dramatically. Under a new patient-based system, the Ministry compensates each medical facility based on the number of patients it treats, which services it offers, and the quality of care it provides. In response, hospitals are reconfiguring services and forming new strategic partnerships.

In this new era, IT must provide better information and analytics to enable decision-making. Additionally, CIOs need to help hospitals reach more optimal operating levels. “IT can be a leader as hospital funding changes in Ontario,” Georgiadis says. “The role of the CIO in health care today is to guide the organization to determine priorities and direction.”

FACTS & FIGURES

128,
714

Annual inpatient days

7k

Babies delivered annually

20k

Surgeries performed annually

95%

Acute-care settings with electronic nursing documentation

3.6k

Computing devices

8k

Users of electronic systems

And while many people assume that tools and talent are the most important part of the process, Georgiadis says that those are actually the easiest parts of the puzzle. He simply starts with a business need, assesses possible options, does a cost-benefit analysis, and provides a solution. The hard part, he explains, lies in the financials. IT is expensive, and finding money is hard. With resources low, Georgiadis has turned his attention to philanthropic efforts—but obstacles still remain. “Typically, donors support opportunities to fund clinical equipment, such as an MRI machine or new OR equipment, because they can see the direct impact on patient care,” he says. “It is more challenging to engage a donor in a new IT initiative because it might seem less tangible.” Georgiadis has found that success comes only through careful conversation and repeated education. When donors understand the connection between IT solutions and patient care—what Georgiadis calls “the art of the possible”—they are engaged and supportive of the hospital’s vision and IT agenda.

To make each dollar count, Georgiadis is concentrating on the standardization of equipment and solutions. Over the past year, he’s taken the Women’s and Infants’ Health Program at the Mount Sinai to an integrated electronic platform. “We’re a health-care organization, not an IT organization,” he says. “We’re not here to develop new software; we’re here to transform the business and meet business needs.”

In early 2015, Mount Sinai Hospital became Sinai Health System through an amalgamation with Bridgepoint Active Healthcare. This merger, which brings a number of new services under the same umbrella, is another opportunity for IT to demonstrate its value as it leads a complex integration of services and systems. IT will also play a major role in Ministry-funded projects to renew aspects of surgery, ICU, emergency, and other areas over the next five to eight years. The newly formed Sinai Health System has a strong vision for the future—and its IT department will be there every step of the way.