Jerry Vuchak – Children’s Hospital & Medical Center
Having a sick child is hard enough—technology shouldn’t be an added stressor. So says Jerry Vuchak, senior vice president and chief information officer at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska.
“I feel passionate about what this organization is doing, which is providing the very best care for kids,” Vuchak says. “Technology ultimately ties into that work and that is why I’m here.”
The pediatric healthcare organization is comprised of over 15 primary care and urgent care locations, as well as a specialty care clinic providing expertise in over 50 pediatric specialties. Anchored by a 243-bed hospital in Omaha, the organization is the only of its kind in the state and provides care to patients in Nebraska, western Iowa and South Dakota.
In 2020, the organization refreshed its strategic plan to further advance care and patient engagement. The plan outlines five primary goals related to care, advocacy, research, education, workforce development, strategic growth and innovation. For each goal, the organization has assigned two senior leaders as sponsors, as well as other leaders partnered with providers as “strategy champions.”
A matrix has been developed that outlines the institutional support required to execute each strategy and helps the organization prioritize the work.
“When asking what support people needed to meet these goals, the number one answer was information technology,” he says. “My team’s work is to ensure that everything that we do from a technology standpoint supports the strategic plan.”
A seamless experience
For example, Vuchak and his team have focused on the patient portal, which has recently been reframed as the “Digital Front Door” to engage patients virtually. It can be used to view records and lab results, pay bills and schedule appointments, as well as engage in virtual care (telehealth) visits.
Physicians and organization leaders have been looking for ways to better engage with patients and their families so their experience is more seamless and convenient. With this in mind, Vuchak is planning to combine the Digital Front Door and other digital tools in a mobile application.
The organization hopes to roll out an “umbrella” application this year, which will include all the resources of the patient portal, remote patient monitoring, virtual visits and GPS wayfinding for navigating within the hospital, among other expanded capabilities.
“In the current set up, patients potentially have to log in to many different apps or access websites depending on what they’re looking for,” Vuchak says. “It can be confusing and inconsistent, so we’re excited to bring everything together in one place and to expand the capabilities of the services we provide.”
Over the next few years, the organization also wants to offer more virtual appointments to rural patients and patients seeking behavioral health services. The organization also plans to enable virtual urgent care on demand, meaning parents could, for example, video chat with an urgent care provider to determine whether a visit is required for their child.
“We’ve seen success with telehealth through COVID-19, and moving into the future, we plan to continue to support and expand virtual care capabilities,” he says. “We want to put the tools in consumers’ hands where they are.”
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Vuchak and his team have been relying on virtual capabilities more than ever before, and not just for patient care. Children’s Hospital & Medical Center is an academic affiliated hospital with the University of Nebraska Medical Center, meaning students are trained at the hospital. Using Zoom, Vuchak and his team have set up virtual training sessions, although residents still work in person. His department also trains staff to use IT tools and platforms.
“Education is very important here because we’re training the pediatric workforce of the future,” he says. “We had to quickly switch to a virtual environment and while it’s the not the same as in person, it’s been working well.”
“People First” approach
While Vuchak could work in any industry, he says he chose healthcare because he enjoys helping people.
“I’m more of a people person and relationship management person than a technologist,” he says. “I’m really about getting to know people, what motivates them and what their goals are for the organization, and then finding ways to integrate technology for the betterment of the organization.”
Vuchak has worked in the healthcare industry for over 30 years, having started at Houston Methodist, a Texas healthcare system, in 1991. He earned several promotions over his 15 years with the organization, spending his last four years as vice president and chief information officer.
From there, he spent 12 years at BJC HealthCare in Missouri as a vice president over IT application implementation and support. He came to Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in March 2019.
“Pediatric medicine is very special,” Vuchak says. “I’ve worked in adult medicine and enjoyed it, but there’s a mission in pediatric medicine that really motivates me to be my very best for the patients and families we serve.”
View this feature in the Spring I 2022 Edition here.
Showcase your feature on your website with a custom “As Featured in Toggle” badge that links directly to your article!
Copy and paste this script into your page coding (ideally right before the closing