Intermountain Healthcare is equally renowned for cutting-edge information technology and health care quality improvement. Though it hasn't formally attested for meaningful use (mainly because its homegrown EHR system has to be certified first), health informatics pioneers were using computers for decision support at Intermountain's flagship LDS Hospital as early as the 1950s, and it has had electronic medical records in some form since the 1970s.

It's currently developing a new EHR system in collaboration with GE Healthcare; modules are expected to start reaching the market sometime later this year. Using its advanced IT capabilities, Intermountain conducted some of the first formal studies on health care quality, utilization and efficiency in the mid-1980s. The Intermountain Institute for Health Care Delivery Research, founded in 1990, routinely breaks new ground in finding ways to make care more efficient and effective.

It's Marc Probst's job to coordinate the intersection between IT and clinical care, leading a staff of 1,100. The CIO had originally set his sights on a Wall Street career in the mid-1980s, but fell into consulting to pay for his education and worked with several firms before coming to Intermountain in 2003. Our sister publication, Health Data Management, talked with Probst recently about self-development, standardized data models, and the future of health care software.

On self-development

“The project is going well, but it's harder than any of us anticipated because we are building something truly revolutionary. The least interesting but most important difference is the clinical element model: the way we are storing and managing clinical data for decision support and reporting so that the system can use it to help the physician provide care. The secondary difference is the service-oriented architecture, based on easy-to-build apps. The things we're building didn't exist five years ago.”

On data models

“If we can get a clinical element model standardized [across the industry], we can really do things with information systems in health care. We are getting good traction from our efforts abroad, and we're working with the Defense Department, the VA, and HHS. One of the keys is to facilitate other vendors embracing the same model without completely rewriting their systems. It would be a sin if each of them pursued their own clinical model, but they're so busy with other things that this isn't a top priority.”

On the future

“We have to be planning now for the next 20 years. I was talking recently with a peer CIO, and I asked him how he was going to react to all the changes that accountable care is going to bring. [I said] I'll be retired by then. If we're going to transform health care, we can't be thinking that way.”

This article originally appeared in Health Data Management magazine.

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