Community Profile: For NVRH’s Shawn Burroughs, Vermont’s health data sharing is personal

January 22, 2024


To native Vermonter Shawn Burroughs, Chief Information Officer (CIO) of Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital (NVRH), they’re three ways to “take care of people like they’re our neighbors,” said Shawn.

“In addition to data sharing, NVRH is heavily invested in community success projects right down to housing, right down to warming shelters — important initiatives led by our CEO Shawn Tester,” he added. “The patients we see and care for are members of our community, and oftentimes they’re family, they’re related to our employees or to our close contacts. We’re really dealing with friends and family the majority of the time because we’re involved in a community effort.”

After graduating from Lyndon State (now NVU Lyndon), Shawn launched his career path in computer information systems in Massachusetts working for an electronic health record (EHR) vendor. One of his earliest projects was a go-live of that EHR at NVRH. “I pulled up NVRH’s website and saw they had an opening. I sent them my application. They called me 20 minutes later. It was like one of those preordained sorts of things,” explained Shawn on being called back to the Green Mountain State nearly 20 years ago.

As CIO, Shawn leads all aspects of data aggregation, connectivity, security, and analytics for the hospital located in rural Northeast Kingdom. NVRH is a 25-bed critical access hospital that supports a wide health service area geographically. “Most everybody that lives in our rural setting comes to the community hospital for most of their needs,” he said.

“We’re a solid community hospital,” continued Shawn. “We have a certain level of care that we can provide, and then if needed, we pass you on to get your appropriate care at the next stop. We do a lot of things locally — we are that community partner.”

The power of health IT continues well after the workday for Shawn, who was recently at the gym chatting with a woman who was also working out. “She was telling me about how she couldn’t get information from her patient portal, and she really needed this for herself and her husband,” said Shawn. “I said, ‘By chance, do you go to our hospital?’ And she said, ‘Yeah, right up there at NVRH.’ I said, ‘I might be able to help you out with that.’”

Shawn tapped his team and colleagues on NVRH’s health information management team to help the woman access her patient portal so she could effectively transfer her records electronically to another facility where she was seeking care. A casual conversation with a neighbor before a workout turned into an opportunity for Shawn to make it easy to access health data to improve her health.

Successful, secure health data sharing is important to Shawn. It’s a big part of why he chairs the VITL board’s technology committee and serves on the executive committee. The health data utility has been NVRH’s partner for more than 12 years, he said.

“For me, it’s really about helping people. I think oftentimes people look at IT or informatics and feel like it’s a couple of rings removed from what they do to help the patient, but we don’t feel that way at all. We’re in every single interaction of patient care, in multiple ways between different pieces of technology, the EMR, the end-user support.”

NVRH and VITL work together to ensure that patients have the best care and outcomes possible, whether they’re seeking care at NVRH or another health care setting. Contributing continuity of care documents (CCDs) is a crucial step in the process, he explained. In addition to CCDs, the hospital also shares admission, discharge, and transfer (ADT) messages, immunization messages, as well as laboratory, radiology, and transcribed reports with VITL.

“A patient’s chances of a better outcome are increased because we want to share that information with whoever may see them,” said Shawn. “Another hospital can pull up a patient’s information quickly and say, ‘Oh, okay, Mrs. Jones has this condition. I know that she may be unconscious in our ER, but we can identify that she has four preexisting conditions, and we can give her a better care plan that is going to make her recovery that much faster.’”

This commitment to information sharing to improve the health care experience of Vermonters should come as no surprise. “We are all nonprofit hospitals in the state of Vermont,” said Shawn. “We really do work together and try to maintain that sense of community even in the health care sector.”

Where can you find Shawn when he’s not at NVRH making health care better for Vermonters? The husband and father of two daughters is an avid outdoor enthusiast. “I completely unplug,” he said. “I go as far out into the wilderness as I can, maybe not should, but can!”

Next time you run into Shawn in the community, in addition to tapping into his wealth of information on all things health IT, be sure to ask him about his close encounter with a wolf outside his tent on Prince of Wales Island in Alaska.

To learn about NVRH’s impact on the community it serves, visit