Kory Hudson is on a mission to correct misconceptions about his work, his role, and his region. He is the director of information systems and health information management at Singing River Health System, which spans across the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Hudson is out to prove that the rural, southern system can provide the kind of high-quality care and experiences patients expect from a major metro market.
While most people think of in-house IT leaders as simply the hospital’s “tech guys,” he insists that his team’s role is one of service that makes a direct impact on clinicians, patients, and the communities it serves.
Singing River is a system comprised of three hospitals with various primary and specialty care clinics where patients—or “guests” as it likes to call them—seek emergency services, cancer and cardiovascular treatments, surgical procedures, inpatient and outpatient rehab, and more. With more than 3,500 employees, 450 physicians, and 700 licensed beds, Singing River Health System is the second-largest employer in its region and contributes approximately $270 million to the local economy.
These facts and figures provide context to Hudson’s work and motivate him to approach all he does with the patients and community in mind. “When you lead information systems for a healthcare provider, you are more than an IT professional,” he says. “We take this job seriously because Singing River’s employees are our customers, which means we’re ultimately responsible to the patients.”
Those patients are coming to Singing River Health System for routine and life-saving care; Hudson’s team works both behind the scenes and with those on the front line to make sure each patient receives the very best care possible.
That makes Hudson, and the 120 individuals who report to him, the guardians of data and security. “Everyone who works here needs to be able to trust that they can perform their work effectively. It’s our responsibility to provide the best technology and the best service with no interruptions,” he explains.
Hudson is a veteran leader who takes a hands-on approach with an MBA and certifications in health information administration to back him up. He applies his training to optimize systems and implement advanced software and technical services that save organizations millions. Singing River is on par with its major market counterparts, but like most effective leaders, Hudson has to overcome considerable challenges to keep pace with the ever-evolving industry.
With career opportunities limited and industries concentrated in small pockets throughout the Mississippi Gulf Coast, many individuals in Singing River’s six-county market are industrial or part-time workers. Many insured patients have high copayments, and a large percentage are uninsured. That reality means Hudson must maximize each dollar in his budget and prioritize every project to bring the highest return to the patient.
It takes careful communication with dedicated system leaders to navigate these concerns and ensure patients living in the area have access to the modern comprehensive care they would find in big cities. When it comes to competing with places like New Orleans, Houston, Dallas, and Atlanta for IT talent, Hudson takes a creative approach. He looks to recruit top professionals but also grooms capable people with nontraditional backgrounds who are willing to develop IT skills on the job.
These strategies are helping Singing River Health System thrive. Hudson was an integral leader in the installation of Epic, an enterprise electronic health record, which reduced paper records by 90 percent and brought more than $2 million in savings. Large software implementations in healthcare require key partnerships, and Hudson turned to Harmony Healthcare IT to archive the legacy data from the outdated systems Epic replaced.
“Everyone who works here needs to be able to trust that they can perform their work effectively. It’s our responsibility to provide the best technology and the best service with no interruptions.”
Harmony’s HealthData Archiver allows Singing River to consolidate and store protected health information and previous business records. The partnership, Hudson says, saved his organization considerable time and money associated with maintaining dozens of various smaller systems, and it now benefits from having access to one archive that approved users can access any time.
With Epic implemented and electronic health records in place, Singing River can easily execute its mission to improve health and save lives while providing a seamless patient record independent of location. Hudson says his team has extended Epic to other local providers and even explored projects to link with outside clinics that use other systems. For instance, when a prominent community health provider passed away unexpectedly, Singing River volunteered to honor his legacy by taking authorized ownership of his patient records and fulfilling information requests.
These are just some of the key ways Hudson is working to make an impact through data, analytics, and technology. He also started an initiative to implement an enterprise-wide imaging platform that unites siloed systems and gives providers access to all of a patient’s medical images from every service line. Moving to an enterprise-wide solution drives better patient outcomes, as AI tools can scan multiple images and data sets to predict diseases and assist in diagnoses.
In October 2020, Singing River Health System acquired Garden Park Medical Center from HCA Healthcare. The 130-bed facility, now known as Singing River Gulfport, expands access to patients and features robotic surgery technology, a Level III trauma center, and a cardiac catheterization lab. As leaders increase volumes at the new facility, Hudson is deploying his IT professionals to bring its systems and technologies up to the Singing River high standards.
One of the things Hudson enjoys most about his work is the chance to see the impact it makes in the community. When COVID hit the Gulf Coast, Singing River’s first drive-through vaccination event served seven hundred people, but that wasn’t enough. Hudson’s team worked overtime to automate the process, equip clinicians with handheld devices, and introduce wireless capabilities. These measures dramatically reduced wait times and doubled the number of vaccinations administered at a second event and led to Singing River vaccinating more than sixty-five thousand people against the deadly virus to date.
In fact, after arriving onsite to drop off equipment, many people from the IT department stayed behind to help their colleagues at Singing River greet patients and get them checked in to receive a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The patients who came that day may never realize the impact Hudson and his team had on their ability to access care. But, to Hudson, serving his community in this way just affirms he’s doing his job right.
Harmony Healthcare IT is proud to serve Singing River Health System in its mission to provide a seamless patient record. As a data management firm, we partner with organizations across the healthcare continuum to consolidate and manage legacy data through extraction, migration and archiving. To learn more about our comprehensive solutions, visit www.harmonyhealthcareit.com.