staff photoThink of Fort HealthCare’s information technology (IT) department as the mouse that roared. A leading informatics journal, Healthcare IT News, has named Fort HealthCare in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, as one of the best hospital IT departments in the nation. The magazine ranked Fort HealthCare, which has 15 clinics and 72 licensed beds, as the #4 small hospital in its annual survey, which was published the first week of November.

“This recognition highlights something everyone that works with our IT department already knows: We have one of the hardest working IT departments around,” said Chris Manakas, MD, Chief Medical Information Officer at Fort HealthCare. “I am proud to work with them every day.”

An article about Fort HealthCare’s successful IT team mentioned Fort HealthCare’s “vendor partnership” with Cerner ITWorks as a factor in the organization’s success. All 18 members of the department are Cerner associates. “If we’re going to make any changes or start new projects for developing new services lines or project improvements, it’s a ground-up build with ITWorks,” Dr. Manakas said. “It is very deeply integrated into every single workflow.”

A HIMSS Analytics Stage 7 organization since 2013, Fort HealthCare’s leaders have long pursued the goal of making Jefferson County, Wisconsin, the healthiest community in the state by focusing on wellness and better management of chronic diseases. ‘We couldn’t do that without a robust IT infrastructure,” Dr. Manakas said. “The ITWorks collaboration makes it so that everything is where we need it when we need to help execute our vision.”

The publication received 169 nominations for the award. Then, on July 7, the magazine emailed a secure, online employee satisfaction survey to Fort HealthCare’s IT team.

“Fort HealthCare is honored to be recognized as a Best IT Department in 2015,” said LaBebe Nickell, senior director of IT at the hospital. “We work hard to support the needs of our organization, and we are thrilled to be on this distinguished list.”

To qualify for the award, more than 50 percent of a hospital’s IT team had to complete the survey. One of these staffers, Lori Leary, an application architect, said she appreciates the strong collaboration among her fellow team members and other Cerner associates.

If Leary is struggling with an issue, she says she can always turn to Nickell or other leaders for help. “That’s huge, having that sort of relationship,” said Leary who was born at the hospital and has worked there for 11 years — five as a Cerner associate. Training is “definitely” better with Cerner.

“We’ve had opportunities,” Leary said. “You can always put your career on a certain track.”

The magazine also recognized two other Cerner ITWorks clients, Winona Health Services, in Winona, Minn., and East Jefferson General Hospital in Metairie, La., for the award. Winona won in the small category (less than 100 licensed beds), while East Jefferson won in the large category (more than 350 licensed beds).

Marcos Garcia, vice president, ITWorks, said the awards show Cerner invests in these IT staff members, offering them extensive training and chances to grow their careers. “We’re honored our clients trust us to manage their systems and their associates,” Garcia said. “Ultimately, we work in partnership to deliver value from their IT investment.”