The Accidental CIO: How a Former Nurse is Creating a Patient-Focused Digital Health Strategy
- October 12, 2020
Editor’s note: Michelle Trupp of Tower Health, an NTT DATA Services client, is a finalist in this year’s Women in IT Awards, which celebrate the achievements of women in the IT sector and shine a light on female role models. Three NTT DATA team members — Lisa Woodley, Lisa Talcott and Sharon Harvey — are also finalists in various categories. Congratulations to all of the nominees!
Michelle Trupp, senior vice president and chief information officer of Tower Health, never intended to be a CIO. She didn’t even work in IT. And yet in less than a decade, this former nursing leader made the transition from running a busy emergency department at a single hospital to leading digital health transformation for a fast-growing regional health system of seven acute-care hospitals, a network of more than 2,200 physicians, and multiple outpatient and urgent care facilities.
Even more impressive, in less than two years, she accomplished what many more established healthcare organizations have yet to achieve: implementation of a single electronic health record (EHR) across an entire system.
One project leads to a new career
As it turns out, Michelle’s emergency department experience was great training for her future role. Because of her cross-functional clinical knowledge and strong relationships across the organization, Michelle was tapped to lead Reading Hospital’s implementation of the Epic EHR system in 2011.
“Because of my nursing background, I had the ability to really listen to the various business units and understand what we wanted to get out of the technology,” she recalled. “Our focus is always on the patient, the consumer — and our job in IT is to better align our business and revenue processes to support them.”
New system, new responsibilities
Tower Health was formed in 2017 when Reading Hospital acquired five hospitals from another health system. Suddenly Michelle was managing IT integration for the new facilities, which were operating two different EHR systems. A decision was made to bring the five new hospitals onto the Epic platform. Michelle’s leadership and success led to her being named permanent CIO for the new system in October 2018.
By using a “lift and shift” approach and an aggressive two-year timeline, Michelle assembled multiple teams and leveraged learnings from the first Epic implementation. Despite the obvious IT and cultural challenges, Tower Health was determined to go live with a “big bang” approach on a single day. On Aug. 3, 2019 — again on-time and on-budget — all Tower Health hospitals and physician practices began using Epic.
“Ultimately, patients and the Tower Health communities benefit by having physicians share best practices and use a common platform to care for patients, eliminating redundancies, ensuring high-quality results and enabling patient access to their records and results in real time,” said Michelle.
But the EHR platform is just the beginning of a digital roadmap that puts clinician experience and patient outcomes front and center. Tower Health recently launched MyTowerHealth, a mobile app for patients. This secure, password-protected, online and mobile-friendly patient portal gives patients real-time access to their health information including medical history, appointments, medications, lab test results, and more from any Tower Health provider.
Next on the horizon is a virtual care platform for behavior health, and integration of new physician practices and a newly acquired pediatric hospital. IT’s work is never done!
A leader is born
As a first-time CIO of a new organization, Michelle had to create a mission for the combined IT organization, articulate the vision, develop a leadership team and engage with critical stakeholders, all while keeping a massive integration project on track.
Michelle gratefully acknowledges the mentorship of Tower Health COO, Therese Sucher, but is keenly aware of the need for increased female leadership in healthcare overall and in IT in particular. She is working to change that by creating a career ladder for current IT staff to “try on” new positions by taking on incremental project coordinator roles. She also looks outside of IT for potential recruits, and mentors other aspiring leaders across all areas of the organization.
“I look for super users and problem solvers and people who have a customer service focus,” she noted. As someone who took a non-traditional path to becoming a CIO, Michelle Trupp knows what it takes, and she has become an inspiration to many.