Wisconsin CIOs look for an IT tipping point

Wisconsin CIOs look for an IT tipping point

Madison, Wis. — 2005 is pulling some long-term information technology projects into the spotlight. CIOs in Wisconsin are watching for tipping points, where incremental developments in IT turn into radical new advances in health care, education and other industries.
In the days leading up to the Fusion 2005 CEO-CIO Symposium on March 2 in Madison, several of the state’s IT leaders shared their views on the emerging information technology of the year.

Keeping up to speed

According to Matt Miszewski, CIO for the state of Wisconsin, advances in information technology have accelerated because the timing is finally right. Businesses that are able to do more in less time have worked to “redefine the IT market space”, and everyone else in the market is looking for the fastest tools possible.
“It has become an expectation that governments and companies provide services and interactions online in a way that is different from before,” Miszewski said. “The large increase in the demand for electronic delivery of services is unparalleled.”
Government has also been helpful to the IT industry, according to Carl Christensen, CIO of the Marshfield Clinic. As an example, Christensen cited President Bush’s support for electronic medical records (EMR), which have been in development for years but failed to gain major support until relatively recently. Bush spoke of the need to move medical technology forward in his State of the Union address and plans to increase funding for EMR tests to $125 million in his next budget.
Proposals like this have given healthcare professionals a second look at EMR and raised more serious possibilities for its use. “Healthcare is really starting to embrace information technology … our physicians [at Marshfield] couldn’t practice without them,” Christensen said.
Scott Converse, information technology director for the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Business, said that consumers – both private and corporate – have been responding well to IT developments. Their interest in online systems and personalized software means that they are willing to spend more money on projects, giving companies the resources they need to expand.
“As the nation continues to recover from past economic slowdowns I’d expect this area to continue to spend and fuel IT growth,” Converse said.

Coming out of the shadows

Sales of EMRs to hospitals have gradually risen over the past five years, with leaders in the technology including Epic Systems in Madison, IDX in Burlington, Vermont, and GE Healthcare in Milwaukee. Clinics such as Marshfield have developed in-house systems.
As interest in the market builds, Christensen hopes the successes will breed new developments in the health-care IT market. Projects such as hospital Web portals and home monitoring are the next area of development at the Marshfield Clinic, which is using technology to follow its long-time goal of getting assistance closer to the patients.
“That momentum is certainly continuing,” Christensen said. “I don’t know whether we’ll see more of it or not, but that’s where our focus is – the next step.”
Similar developments are present in the educational field, according to Ed Meachen, UW-Madison‘s CIO. UW-Madison has spent the past decade trying to develop its business processes and bringing the system together, trying to merge enterprise resource process systems for controlling student, financial and human resource records.
Advancements in networking have allowed UW-Madison to encourage collaboration between corporate and educational bodies, setting the stage for online learning. Meachen hopes this growing collaboration will speed the development of “virtual high schools”, building off successful UW-Madison online education and letting more and more users get online certification.
Meachen said networking advancements could open the door for technologies that the university has tried to add over the years but are currently below the operating levels he predicted. He said he hoped to see the university expand its capabilities over the next few years, adding new tools for mobile learning and network space.
“We’re a little bit behind the curve, but I think they will take off,” Meachen said.
Meachen said that this year could provide the energy for a “huge drive” to change the way business is done, heading towards the end goal of customizing every service offered by the university and providing them individually.
“I say that every year and it happens incrementally,” Meachen said. “Some year we’ll have a tipping point, and it could be this year.”

Les Chappell is a staff features writer for WTN and can be contacted at les@wistechnology.com