Systems under examination

In February 2005, Trillium Health Care Centre launched an ambitious seven-year, $100-million project to transform the two hospitals it operates in Mississauga and Etobicoke, Ont., as well as associated health care facilities in the Toronto area. Called THINK, for Transforming Health Care into Integrated Networks of Knowledge, the ultimate goal is to transform today’s health care centre by delivering systems that allow health professionals to provide patient care whenever and wherever the patient needs them.
Two years into the seven-year project, Wayne Mills, CIO at Trillium, is confident the project is on the right track and all the milestones are being met.

Mills is a good example for any CIO to follow, private or public sector. It might be his grasp and understanding of the big picture, it might be the right mix of business and technology skills, or his quietly confident demeanour.

Mills talks frankly about what drives his passion for his job as CIO at the Trillium Health Centre. Two years ago, his father passed away, as he says, not as a result of the level of service – it is excellent, he says – but because of what he suspects may be a failure in information systems.

“He was a great user of the health care system,” says Mills of his father. “He didn’t experience every disease you could have, but we went through most of them.” He fondly shows a picture of his father in a boat. It serves as a reminder of what this is ultimately all about.

Evidently, Mills likes to carry a camera with him. He takes pictures of all those around him, whether it’s family or the people he works with.

He says he likes to look at the faces to remind himself that the technology is there to serve the people, and not the other way around.

Yes, it’s a something we all heard before, but it’s a sentiment much more difficult to ignore when you’re staring at the people in question.

Mills outlined his philosophy in an interview with EDGE.

Starting with a vision
The goal is what Mills calls an integrated network of knowledge. The status quo: Health care is siloed, divided between the hospital and the physicians. And even though you may not know exactly what the final outcome will look like, Mills advises you “have to think differently.”

Trillium is out to transform health care, meaning it wants to revolutionize the way care is delivered to patients and their families. For example, studies have shown that pleasant, soothing and easily accessible environments can have a significant positive effect on patient recovery, and one goal is to design and create patient-friendly spaces.

Building a team
As the lead organization in the alliance, IBM Canada provides consulting expertise and project management to THINK. Other vendors involved include Agfa, Cisco, Cognos, Eclypsis, EMC, Toshiba and many others.

Mills is also quick to credit and praise members of his own internal IT department. One of the first tasks was to replace each and every one of its 2,300 computers, a job that is almost completed.

Select the right technology
Mills likes to use technology that is on the leading edge including: wireless and fibre networks with “five-nines” reliability (99.999 per cent uptime); a service-oriented architecture (SOA) that enables Trillium to build applications that are more process-oriented; portal software technology that integrates across platforms; and single sign-on, for access to systems such as clinical imaging, which went live in January 2007.

Understanding business processes
“The technology is relatively easy,” says Mills. “It’s all about process change.” We need doctors and nurses to work differently than they do now and as a result, Trillium has a lot of people who are focused on change management, including 13 full-time people working on the total user experience.

Measuring the outcomes
THINK is a seven-year process ending in 2011, but in the meantime, processes are in place to define and measure outcomes.

Each project will have clear timelines, deliverables and controls in place. “This is a very tightly run process with specific goals,” says Mills.

Be personally committed
Wayne Mills wants to transform the health care experience. And you’ll see the word “transform” all over Trillium’s newsletters and in its signage.

Mills feels generally that the problem in health care is not the provision of care – it is very good, if not great, he says, and health care professionals are committed to doing their very best.

Where things fail some times is in the area of “information transfer,” and that is why CIOs have such an important role in this process.

Mills has moved to what he calls “patient-centred thinking” and advises all CIOs to think through to the very end of the system, whether it’s the patient or customer.

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