Eric Jimenez – Artesia General Hospital
For years, whenever a patient was referred by Artesia General Hospital (AGH) to one of its 16 outpatient clinics, hospital staff would have to print the patient’s information from an electronic medical record system (EMR) and deliver it, by car and foot, to the next clinician. After the checkup, new data would be added to the file, which then awaited its next cross-town courier.
When veteran IT director Eric Jimenez arrived at AGH in 2014, addressing these inefficiencies—and the gaps in care they created—was foremost on his agenda.
“We were dealing with three different EMRs from three different vendors, and they weren’t able to talk to each other,” explains Jimenez, director of information for the New Mexico-based AGH. “I knew that by removing that barrier, we could make things a lot easier, for both doctors and patients.”
Today, a single, unified EMR sits at the center of the AGH nexus. Whenever a patient is treated, his or her files are updated automatically, creating a database which will soon be able to trigger specific treatment protocols.
It’s just one of many initiatives Jimenez and his team have helped usher in—all while keeping AGH’s bottom line squarely in mind.
Case in point: a brand-new picture archiving and communication system (PACS) and radiology imaging system (RIS) capable of bringing all of AGH’s disparate imaging systems under a single, digital umbrella.
In the past, images taken in a clinic or hospital—CTs and MRIs, ultrasounds, radiology scans and so on—had to be mailed or hand-delivered from one facility to another. If an AGH patient happened to need attention at an outside facility, that wait time could be extended even further.
Having worked with the company at his previous post, Jimenez commissioned the help of Novarad, a medical imaging solutions company specializing in user-configurable PACS solutions. Designed for ultimate scalability, Novarad’s cloud-based system allows AGH doctors to access images from any location, while allowing radiologists to more accurately interpret those images and relay results to referring physicians.
“For a lot of smaller community hospitals, solutions like this can be cost-prohibitive, but we’ve developed a suite of solutions that are both effective and cost-effective,” says Kenny Balser, regional director of sales for Novarad. “As Artesia continues to grow, we hope to partner with them on a number of projects, including tele-radiology services and Enterprise Imaging. Eric is someone who really gets the big picture and how to turn it into reality.”
But while process efficiency has been a hallmark of Jimenez’s tenure, the resulting data treasure trove presents its own set of challenges, particularly on the cybersecurity front.
Back in 2014, the year Jimenez arrived at AGH, the hospital relied solely on free Microsoft antivirus software to protect its back-end systems. Even if a breach did occur, it would often take days before AGH staff pinpointed the source.
Jimenez’s first step was to institute a comprehensive cybersecurity awareness program for all AGH staff members. Featuring a mix of PowerPoint presentations and phishing exercises—whereby staff are trained to identify and report emails sent by hackers—the initiative proved an immediate success.
Coupled with a robust network security infrastructure provided by Cisco, Jimenez’s cybersecurity efforts have resulted in a 54 percent reduction in the number of phishing “clicks.” Their adoption of Novarad’s Object Store data architecture with the PACS/RIS further shields their archive with NSA-level encryption.
“One of my core beliefs as a director is you’re only as good as the people you work with,” Jimenez says. “Our staff is our human firewall. As long as they’re educated and engaged, we feel confident in our ability to safeguard our information.”
Out of the shadows
Indeed, that commitment to people power has become a pillar of Jimenez’s management philosophy. Unlike larger regional hospitals, where IT needs are easier to address, AGH’s rural setting and modest operating budget can make for quite the financial tightrope walk. That, in turn, demands that Jimenez and his team of 17 become a boon, rather than a burden, to the bottom line.
“For me, the first thing I start with is the ‘why’—‘why do we have the staff size we do?’” Jimenez says. “Having the staff we do allows us to provide the functionality necessary for doctors and nurses to do their jobs more easily. That’s the value add.”
Five years ago, back when AGH’s IT department was seldom more than three people strong, if one of the system’s EMRs wasn’t working properly, doctors might have to wait hours—or even days—before the issue was resolved. Now, Jimenez is able to dispatch help in a matter of minutes, thereby reinforcing his philosophy that “a happier practitioner makes for a happier patient.”
Going forward, Jimenez hopes to foster an even more collaborative rapport with AGH practitioners, part of a broader strategic plan aimed at bringing his department more firmly into the business fold.
“When people ask me how many people I manage, my response is, ‘How many people do I work for?’” Jimenez says. “I’m here—our team is here—to work for the entire Artesia community. When we see pain points, we need to step in and address them.”
Jimenez certainly has the doctor lingo down. Even if the tools and training are a tad different.
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