Gribbin first became a major champion of IT in 1997 when as CEO of the Medical Center of Ocean County, Brick, N.J., he was tasked with merging the IT platforms of three hospitals, a responsibility he says gave him a more granular understanding of IT departments.
Nonetheless, the former pro soccer player—he played with the Baltimore Comets in the North American Soccer League for a season and a half before taking his first “real job” as a hospital's statistical analyst—says he's not technologically sophisticated but is interested in the computer's role as “the disruptive technology of our lifetime.”
“With IT, I'm not fascinated with the technology itself,” Gribbin says. “I'm fascinated with how it's transforming our society—and how it can help us serve people better.”
“He sees IT as another critical care tool—like a stethoscope,” Ganguly says.
Gribbin encourages business units to bring in their own IT proposals, present on what value they will deliver and then fully embrace whatever technologies they adopt. The units are then continuously responsible for showing how the technologies produce value—either in dollars, time saved, work intensity reduced, patient safety or provider affinity.
Having staff units take ownership of their technology programs has helped dispel the myth that the IT division is “some back office operation that fixes your computer,” rather than a partner in helping make clinicians' lives easier and performance better, Ganguly says.
“If you can show nurses how IT helps them deal with patients—because they care only about that—they will get on board,” Gribbin says.
Gribbin, a fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives, has held leadership positions with the New Jersey Hospital Association, the Central Jersey Blood Center, Monmouth-Ocean Hospital Service Corp. and the American Heart Association.
Ganguly, a member of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives and a fellow of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, says Gribbin encourages staff members toward professional development opportunities. “John believes we should be connected to our peers because there's no single source of a great idea,” he says.
No matter who brings in an idea—whether it's Gribbin or a staff member—each proposal is run through the same set of questions: How can this improve safety or productivity? What will the return on investment be? How do we benchmark and continually measure improvement? How will this be paid for?
Gribbin has several plans on CentraState's IT horizon: the examination of meaningful-use criteria, increasing adoption of mobile technology, participation in a health information exchange and improving the user-friendliness of its computerized physician order-entry platform to drive up the percentage of computer-entered orders.
Under Gribbin's direction, CentraState also recently hired its first full-time hospital informaticist, a physician executive who is meant to bridge the gaps between the clinical and IT standpoints.
“We want systems designed so physicians use them,” Gribbin says. The new informaticist will “be able to bridge the communication gap, anticipate what doctors will need, and carry the water both ways—to the doctors and from the doctors.”
That focus on his staff's needs permeates Gribbin's every decision—down to his request that the executive team use iPads or other tablet devices during management meetings to get a feeling for how mobile devices affect clinicians.
Gribbin says that to him, IT is a means to an end for his greater goal.
“What I like seeing is people succeed at what they do and seeing the way my staff develop—knowing I laid the groundwork for them,” Gribbin says. “Taking an organization and redefining what it means to be a community hospital—that's a lot of fun.”