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by Philip Coule
Published on March 14, 2017

Augusta University Health works closely with Cerner through a strategic alignment called the Jaguar Collaborative. In this blog, Dr. Phillip Coule, AU Health's associate chief medical officer and chief patient safety officer, explains how the collaboration is helping AU Health drive fundamental cultural change and improve care.

The well-known business strategist Peter Drucker once said, 'Culture eats strategy for breakfast.' Our astute leaders recognized this truth and realized we needed to change our culture. Anyone who has worked in an academic health center will tell you it can be very difficult to change that culture of siloes and entrenchment.

Before the Jaguar Collaborative, we had IT for the sake of IT. People used to have meetings about designing the system without any input from doctors or nurses. The approach was always, 'Here's your new technology, go use it.' Today, the Cerner ITWorks team asks us, 'What can we do to help you do your job better?'

This transformation didn't happen overnight, but it did happen rapidly after we established the Jaguar Collaborative.

Building reliable health IT support

The transformation of our help desk is just one of the Jaguar Collaborative's successful outcomes. Previously, when we called in tickets, they would disappear into the ether — we called it the 'no-help desk.' That nickname is long gone now that our help desk is remote.

Now, when we run into IT trouble, our help desk can remote into our solutions so I can show them what the system is doing. They immediately recognize problems and properly escalate issues, and something that would have required two or three phone calls previously can now literally be done in a matter of seconds.

Before we moved to remote hosting, we experienced widespread and lengthy downtime. This was frustrating, because in a physician's world, IT downtime translates to organizational inefficiencies. Physicians aren't able to consult with each other about patient care in a timely manner, or they may not have immediate access to a patient's EHR and are unable to make a decision on treatment without adequate information.

Ultimately, this downtime affected the patient experience. Downtime was such a routine issue at AU Health that many of our clinicians would change their schedule to avoid working during it. Today, we don't think about downtime, because we rarely experience it.

Impacting the physician experience

Over the last several years, we have implemented many different systems and projects that have profoundly affected our physician experience. Examples include access to information through our health information exchange, the ability to search through digital patient charts and physician playbooks, which help our informatics system mesh much more smoothly with physician workflows.

Most importantly, we have improved patient safety. We now see IT as a lever to make our patients safer.

For example, prior to automating the management of new mothers' breast milk and formula through barcode scanning, we had four reported errors at the bedside on the expiration of breast milk. After we went live, we had 93 catches by the system in the first year alone — the technology showed us we had a huge problem.

Since implementing the system, we've had zero errors.

Through projects like these, our collaboration with Cerner ITWorks supports a strategic culture that is helping us rapidly transform our organization while keeping us focused on what is most important: our patients.

Want to know more about how ITWorks can help transform your organization? Get more information here.

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