Telemedicine and Enterprise Website Consolidation
The Prime View had the pleasure to interview Jared Meredith, Executive Director of Enterprise Architecture at TeamHealth, a leading physician practice in the US.
Jared, tell us about the steps in your career and how your career has led you to this point?
I am an Executive Director of Architecture, Strategy, Governance at TeamHealth. I oversee a team of enterprise architects, project managers, and practice managers for my IT organization. I joined TeamHealth six years ago, and since then, there has never been a shortage of challenges or continuous need for improvement, whether you involve internal systems and processes, infrastructure, or the integrations between hospital systems or the technology you put in clinicians’ hands.
I graduated college with an information systems background, went into work as a programmer analyst, did a lot of full-stack programming, which subsequently led me into architecture. I grew in my leadership capabilities and ability to lead across projects, which over time have taken me to this spot where I oversee projects and architecture together. It is my evolution from programming to architecture to leadership.
Executive Director, Architecture, Strategy and Governance at TeamHealth
You have done a significant project related to CMS consolidation. Could you share the lessons from this process?
One of the reasons why we have started the consolidation work was because we found that our content editors, website marketers, and business development were challenged to have to edit within multiple content management systems. In other cases, there were plain HTML pages that only IT could manage. To improve on these multiple challenges, I knew we would need a more simplified CMS that gave a great user experience in terms of backend editing, content tagging, and leveraging the power of plug-ins.
So, as the first step when you’re trying to evaluate a transformative change in a core CMS platform, you must make sure that you understand all of the use cases of your separate apps and websites to choose the most compatible tool.
The biggest lesson I learned was understanding more about the power of managed services and letting that influence my IT organization. I went from having three full-time team members integrating servers, patching, and maintaining operating system features to let a managed service provider do that for us. Thus, it became more about what we could develop and transform upfront instead of having employees always busy with operating system level patches and updates. That was a huge culture change for us as we got the ability to put our people on transformative work to do new builds on that platform.
We looked at several platforms but settled on using a product called WP Engine. It allows us to have a consolidated stack of all our WordPress sites in a managed single pane of glass. You can manage all the web properties, stand up new ones, and have a configuration layer seamlessly. The beauty of the system is that going from site one to site thirty-two, you use the same steps, and it takes less than 20 minutes from your first few clicks to the point where you are able to start developing on a property.
What was the impact of the consolidation on the company?
As a result of consolidation, we gained a financial return in savings that we gained year over year, as well as a reduction in overall maintenance expenses. To put that in perspective, we are talking about averaging between 250K to a million dollars for the previous site builds in the previous CMS. With the former CMS systems, we were investing on average 1.5 million dollars every three years and not gaining any major features over time, while with a simplified CMS, we were able to scale expenses down to where the cost of all our web properties (30+) was done at one-fifth of the cost. That was a very meaningful ROI.
How does the innovation frontier look like at TeamHealth?
I am the executive sponsor of the Innovation Community Practice, which we formed earlier this year. The strongest feedback that we received from our employees was around the desire to continue to improve their technical skills. Oftentimes, we’d hire people good as a master of a certain technical domain, but as the technology shifts, some may struggle to adjust, evolve, and grow their skill set. To solve the issue, we are leveraging Lean Six Sigma’s DMAIC methodology, identifying our gaps, and measuring skills IQ through tools like Pluralsight®. It allows our leadership to get the necessary insights to understand better how they can continue training employees and grow their skills.
Telehealth becomes massively popular. Do you see this as a threat or as an opportunity for your company?
Telehealth is very much at the forefront of technology right now. As we consider expanding a telehealth platform for TeamHealth, we have to understand how payers like United® or Aetna® can handle these services. A critical component to consider in this type of care is the security and privacy of data. We must make sure to secure the information we collect and store over time.
In general, I foresee an expansion in our market to telemedicine, and before introducing telehealth, we are carefully investigating all the options. We are trying to get more comfortable with the technologies and see how those services will impact our business model. I do see telemedicine technologies becoming more emergent.
How do you leverage AI in your organization?
There are two spaces where we predominantly use AI. One is how we leverage website personalization, and second, analytics from a marketing and recruitment standpoint as we aim to deliver the most relevant content to prospective clients so that their experience is tailored.
Another space where we are injecting this technology is data that helps us efficiently staff our clinicians to facilities. We are currently looking at and evaluating insights on how to automate these processes with the help of AI. We evaluate the data on how things pick up or slow down during certain months and plan to automatically adjust our schedules to get more efficiency throughput having people in when we expect peak time or dips in the market. That will help us avoid creating additional costs.
Walmart has announced entering the healthcare industry. How would that affect your market and your competition?
Walmart is targeting an urgent care type of service. I would place that type of business line is remarkably similar to a service line that we offer at TeamHealth. Will it create a disturbance in the market? It definitely will. These companies can create a shakeup in a way that they are placed in strategic locations of convenience. Someone may be more likely to go to Walmart and have their health checked while they are also doing grocery shopping or having their tires done. That’s something that we’ll see play out over time as it starts to emerge in the market.
How did the pandemic impact the industry?
The Covid-19 crisis has completely changed our investments, changed our plans and strategies. Whether it is a physician staffing company like TeamHealth or hospital-based systems that provide their own clinicians, any organization has shifted its culture. We went from a mindset of going to the ER if you have anything seriously wrong to changes that have been put in place to make sure we are separating people, not exposing them to risk, to visiting the ER less. By that alone, every organization across the board, ours included, has felt the effects of lower volumes that we were able to intake. And as we know, part of that business model is that when you experience lower volumes in your ER, the bigger impact it has on the bottom line. We continue to review volumes and continue to plan to make sure we are able to go the long run with the best clinicians across the country.
As an IT representative, I can see that from March through today, that every IT department has been challenged with how to get people to work online and work effectively. If they cannot do that, what changes do we quickly need to make to accommodate that? Within IT at TeamHealth, we have shifted from having most of our workforce traditionally being in the office to pretty much everyone, aside from critical data center service workers, working from home.
I believe that now we should be thinking differently about our work from home culture. I foresee many IT organizations arriving at a ‘the hoteling-model,’ working with a limited number of resources in the office at any given time. In this model, we would let people come in and reserve offices for critical meetings. So, when all the dust settles, it is still not going to go back to exactly as we were before.