Jason Fischer – PIH Health
- Written by: Mary Raitt Jordan
- Produced by: Liz Fallon
- Estimated reading time: 5 mins
Ramping up a new telemedicine platform, implementing work-from-home operations and integrating a newly acquired hospital into the system is just a sampling of IT initiatives tackled before and during the COVID-19 crisis by PIH Health Information Solutions.
While the pandemic shut down industries and businesses around the world, Chief Information Officer Jason Fischer and his team at the Whittier, California-based three-hospital system seized an unexpected opportunity. Through its work, PIH Health maintained solid operations, accelerated project-based work and improved its consumerism platforms.
“The pandemic, by virtue of reduced patient volume, provided us a unique opportunity to move forward with key initiatives in an expedited fashion,” Fischer says.
The doctor is in
Founded in 1959 as a Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital, the nonprofit organization changed its name in 2012 and has grown to 7,100 employees and three hospitals with 1,130 beds and 26 outpatient clinics.
In any given year, Fischer says his team can have dozens of projects, and 2020 has been no exception with 110 enterprise initiatives. Among the most impactful was PIH Health’s new telemedicine platform, which Fischer says didn’t exist before the coronavirus crisis. With support from the executive team, the groundwork was laid in two days, and within a couple of weeks approximately 60 percent of total visits were digital.
Through the platform, patients can safely connect off-site with their care providers. At peak, Fischer says there were more than 980 visits in a single day, across all ambulatory specialties.
“We have a rigid schedule as it is,” Fischer says. “It’s an aggressive day-to-day pace, but we were ready to pivot with the organization while continuing to deliver on our previously agreed upon commitments. The pandemic only heightened that sense of urgency.”
He is quick to point out that he doesn’t work in a vacuum. His team consists of 160 onshore resources, and an additional 30 support people in offshore operations. Groups of employees in different specialized divisions—including IT operations, enterprise applications, security, analytics, informatics and the enterprise program management office pay keen attention to everything from electronic health records to financial systems and technical operations to keep the healthcare system operating 24/7.
Of course, COVID-19 meant keeping available employees working wherever they were located. That meant Information Solutions was kept busy establishing work-from-home methodologies, as well as supporting on-site operations and the challenges faced by employees shifting from their office to their remote locations.
“We had three goals established as COVID-19 began to impact the health system: keeping operations running as smoothly as possible; making sure we were moving forward on the initiatives we committed to, while pivoting with unplanned organizational needs; and establishing solid communication with staff both on-site and at home on a daily basis,” he says. “It’s a burden for some to not be able to work and problem-solve face-to-face as we were accustomed, but the technology helped with that.”
And, of course, not all the work is—or has been—related to the pandemic. In late 2019, PIH Health acquired the former 400-bed Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles. That kept Fischer and the information solutions team busy developing and implementing a three-year strategic roadmap for integration of the organization into the PIH Health enterprise.
“A lot of our project growth had to do with that,” he says.
As Fischer explained, Information Solutions set a 90-day due diligence period for the team to evaluate the technology and operations between the organization and its new hospital, post-acquisition. That meant translating those findings into a multi-year strategy that included establishing contracts, identifying resources, suggesting applications and making recommendations for technology, infrastructure and security.
“We had been through this before, but were right in the middle of things when COVID-19 hit,” he says. “My goal was to make sure we stayed on track to deliver upon multi-year plans and ensure cost-reduction opportunities.”
Among those long-term initiatives, he says PIH Health has been restructuring its storage infrastructure with the help of Key Information Systems.
“These improvements may be blind to our end-users, but they provide welcomed advancements to the customers who use our technologies,” Fischer says.
Steve Driesens, Key’s senior client executive, says the company has been fortunate to support Fischer and his team for many years.
“Jason’s leadership has never been more on display than during these challenging times,” Driesens says. “It’s important the technologies we are deploying remain in alignment with his business goals and objectives.”
Fischer has seen a lot of change at the organization since he arrived in 2014, including hospital acquisitions, technology advancements and PIH Health’s ambulatory business expansion.
“It’s three times the size now compared to when I got here. That’s progressive growth,” Fischer says. “We’ve stood together, shoulder-to- shoulder, through every change and have educated our staff on newer and broader technologies over the years. It’s been interesting and never stagnant.”
After graduating from Syracuse University with dual degrees in accounting and biology, Fischer worked as an auditor, consultant and executive focused on health care technology at firms such as Ernst & Young, Capgemini and Accenture.
His first hospital-based position was at CHOC Children’s in Orange County, as the director of business applications and revenue cycle for close to eight years, before joining PIH Health full time.
“I gained great exposure in IT and finance, along with the business side of healthcare operations through these experiences,” he says. “I was exposed to major change initiatives and put in a position of accountability. Given the number of work efforts we have, there’s absolutely no way the team would’ve been successful without being extremely organized—and working together we achieved that.”
Looking at IT as an “enabler to a business strategy,” his approach was always to engage in discussions to better understand how the organization wanted to leverage technology. The benefits of this approach, he says, include cost containment; ease of use and standardization of technologies for his customers; and a consumer strategy that is geared to secure a positive patient experience.
The reward for the work?
“A customer or physician’s quiet ‘thank you’ is a good day for us,” Fischer says. “Our job is tough and a lot happens all day, every day. Great satisfaction comes from working together to achieve our goals. This may come in the form of melding workflows with technology to create efficiencies and ease of use—but it’s all about creating a better experience between patient and caregiver.”
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