Who do we want to be?

While I try to stick to the topics you would expect in a professional blog, there are times when I can’t ignore the events we all witness. Whether they are joyous or tragic, they all leave a mark on us. Last July Icanstockphoto6283939 wrote about marriage equality sharing the story of my Aunt Dorothy.

During the fall as a US presidential candidate repeatedly talked about building a wall along the Mexican border, my post “Build bridges, not walls” was a message about the importance of embracing diversity. In that post, I quoted a church hymn that really struck home for me. “Our World is One World” by Cecily Taylor included this verse:

Our world is one world, the thoughts we think affect us all. The way we build our attitudes, with love or hate, we make a bridge or wall.

I closed that post with this statement: “Let’s continue to work together to build the kind of world we want for our children and grandchildren and generations to come.”

My fourth grandchild is due next week. I look forward to holding this new baby and welcoming him into our family. I am busily crocheting his baby blanket trying to get it done in time. While I crochet at night, I watch hours of television news about the worst mass shooting in US history – 49 people were killed in a gay nightclub, a place they considered safe and welcoming.

My maternal grandparents were born in Slovenia and came to the United States as immigrants in the early 1900’s. My grandfather was one of 11 children. One of his sisters had 10 children; two of her sons and one of her son-in-laws were rounded up and executed along with 30 others in their Slovenian village by the Fascists in 1942. They were my mother’s cousins. Continue reading

What upgrade?

This past weekend we did another major upgrade – this time the ambulatory EMR. It went extremely well and was met with smiles and kudos from our senior executives. While we’ve done several major upgrades canstockphoto13469755recently including revenue cycle and acute EMR, this one had a lot of eyes on it. Those same senior executives have been rightly concerned about the performance of our ambulatory EMR while we worked through some significant issues during the past several months, including software, hardware and infrastructure. So, kudos to the team that turned the corner on those issues and pulled off a very successful upgrade with minimal issues and disruption to our physician providers and operational practice teams.

We called our 200+ physician practices before the upgrade to make sure they felt prepared.  A few actually said “what upgrade?”. Apparently they had not read the any of the advance communications. So we worked with each of them to make sure they were ready.

The command center was open all week and will close early today as we have fewer and fewer calls.  Over 62% of the reported issues had been resolved as of late yesterday. Our users gained a lot of new functions and features which has made everyone happy.

In addition to a strong and collaborative relationship with your vendor, here are some critical success factors for any major software upgrade: Continue reading

2 years later

With this post, I’ve reached a key milestone – 100 published posts in 2 years of blogging. I have maintained my discipline of writing a weekly post except for one or two vacation breaks and a short gap canstockphoto13207113as I migrated to a new hosting service earlier this year.

With over 650 regular subscribers and more than 52,000 views to date, my writing is reaching a wide audience. In addition, many of my blogs are re-published on various health IT online sites for an even greater reach. And I’ve been named to various social media influencer lists. Knowing that I’m having a positive impact is what keeps me finding the time to write each week.

The most read blog was “New year, next chapter“.  Many people were interested in the professional and personal transition I was making in leaving the University of Michigan Health System. I decided to go on my own offering consulting, coaching and interim management so I could live near my daughters and grandchildren. I also wanted more flexibility in my life at this stage in my career. Many colleagues have said they are watching me and hope to learn from me as they reach a similar stage in their career.

As the interim CIO at University Hospitals in Cleveland, I have had plenty of new topics to cover, similar yet different from my previous experience. In my first four months, I’ve written about IT governance, lean, innovation, customer service and project ownership. Continue reading

Just breathe

Our quarterly IT Town Hall was this week. It’s a chance to bring all staff together, welcome new employees, and recognize promotions and special individual accomplishments. Each IT leader highlightedcanstockphoto15842113 3 successes in their areas this quarter and their 2016 priority projects. I commented on the changes we’ve made: re-establishment of IT governance, process improvements to ensure a more stable production environment, and our new visual management board.

We squeezed all of that into the first half hour so we could get to our guest speaker, Dr. Francois Adan, Medical Director of UH Connor Integrative Health Network. She gave us something we could all use: techniques to manage stress.

In 50 minutes, through very compelling stories, we learned what seemed like relatively simple techniques. It’s all about breathing, mindfulness, positivity, and gratitude. Basic practices we can apply every day. With Dr. Adan’s engaging speaking and teaching style, it was a delight to learn from her.

So what did we learn? Continue reading

Happy Sesquicentennial!

Most of us won’t live to be a 100. Yet organizations that are the foundation of our communities celebrate 100 year or more anniversaries. I have been fortunate to be part of 225 and 150 year anniversaries at my canstockphoto16622580churches in Worcester, MA and Ann Arbor, MI. Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston was making plans for its 100th anniversary celebration when I left there in 2012 for the University of Michigan Health System, yet another institution with a long and rich history. And now as a member of the University Hospitals team in Cleveland, I am joining in celebrating our 150th or Sesquicentennial anniversary.

The UH history dates back to May 14th, 1866 when a single hospital in a two story wooden house was established. As noted on our new UH 150th website, “For 150 years, the people of Northeast Ohio have looked to University Hospitals as a trusted health care provider. Our roots date back to 1866, when civic leaders established a hospital in a small Cleveland home to care for the sick and disabled. From these humble beginnings, UH has grown into a multihospital system, serving 1 million people annually. The medical advancements made at UH touch lives worldwide, yet we remain true to our roots as a community health care provider.”

UH has a long history of care and caring. To continue that commitment to our community, Continue reading

Who’s on first?

Picture this. One of your IT leaders tells you they have been pulled into a project by a senior executive; they are trying to figure out who in IT owns it. You tell them that another of your leaders owns it. They arecanstockphoto2538045 working out the specific issues with yet another leader. The first person says it’s still not clear. So you pull all three of them together for 15 minutes and try to sort it out.

With a collaborative team that works well together, that 15 minutes is relatively easy. Your first question is who’s on first? You want to know who owns it and what’s going on.

My team has learned that one of my questions about problems is “who wakes up in the morning worried about it?”  Not that I want people worrying and losing sleep. But, it’s a way to identify who owns something and is accountable for it. “Who’s on first?” is another one of those questions. It may be a messy, complex project. It may be off to the side or on the fringe but it still needs a clear owner.

After just 15 minutes, my three leaders and I confirmed the right roles for each of them, and next steps. And of course we talked about lessons learned. So what did we learn again in this situation?

Role clarification – this is critical for all projects, small or large, high priority or not. Clarifying and communicating sponsor, business owner, project manager, and decision makers is key.

Communication – proactive communication throughout the life of a project to all members of the core team and the stakeholders is another key.

Setting and managing expectations – this is especially true when dealing with many concurrent efforts with the same set of users and stakeholders. It’s also important when a project that seems simple actually has a lot of complex issues:  technical, operational, legal or something else.

I’ll bet you can think of a messy project in your experience that swirled or stalled. You might have some bad memories. Most likely, what went wrong ties back to one of these basics. So clarify roles, communicate, and manage expectations, but make sure you know who’s on first.

Putting a face on IT

As IT leaders, we get used to hearing complaints about IT: we are not being responsive enough; our systems are unstable; too many clicks in the applications; not knowing who to call. The list goes on and canstockphoto20456258on. There are times when you think you can’t possibly please everyone. It’s may be why so many people have sat across my desk and said they’d never want my job. But I have learned that proactive, honest communication with your users is critically important.

One step is to survey your users about their issues and their satisfaction with your solutions and services.  This can be an extensive survey about a particular system or of one group of users. Or it can be a simple, few question survey after calls to the service desk. Regardless of the type of survey, make sure to let your customers know you’ve heard them. Publish the results and action steps to address problems. No matter how negative some of the results may be, you have to be transparent. And re-survey at the right interval to check if you have moved the dial.

Another step is to make the IT leadership team very visible and accessible. Provide easy to find information on who is responsible for what and how to contact them. Get out to the right leadership meetings and forums to provide IT updates; solicit feedback and concerns. Show you care and are listening. Continue reading

IT governance – basic but critical

The first three months of my interim CIO engagement at University Hospitals has flown by. I’m fortunate to be working with a very talented IT team and we recognize there is always room for improvement. We canstockphoto22767750have already made some very positive changes and improvements. We are tightening up how we manage and monitor the production environment to reduce preventable incidents. We do a root cause analysis on every major incident and review them as a team at our bi-weekly leadership meeting, tracking all subsequent action items. We are making progress on numerous major priority projects and there have been several system upgrades and go lives during this period. We are doing detailed planning for our new hospital integration efforts. We are launching our visual management board and leadership huddle next week as part of our lean efforts. And we have re-established an executive level IT steering committee addressing the critical need for IT governance.

Our third IT steering committee will be Monday evening. Our CEO and other senior executives are engaged – exactly what we needed. They are developing a deeper understanding of our current work and the many new requests we have received since this year’s budget was approved. We have reviewed with Continue reading

Equal pay, who can argue?

My mother had to go to work to support four children after my father died from cancer. I was active in the women’s movement in my college years. So, I can’t imagine women not having a career outside the homecanstockphoto6033421 if they so choose or if they have to support themselves and their families.

Although I was very interested in math growing up, I got into IT somewhat by accident; I had wanted to be a math teacher. But in the late 70’s the field of computer science was exploding and there was an easy entry path. I went to a technical school and got a certificate in programming.  I learned to code in 7 different languages. I doubt that any of them are still remotely useful.  I didn’t work as a programmer for long but stayed on the IT path. I worked as an analyst for a while and then moved into management in 1984.

Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day (TODASTW) is coming up soon – April 28th. Last year, we had a very successful event at University of Michigan Health System and I’m hoping they are doing it again even bigger and better this year.  I’ve learned that we don’t do any TODASTW programs at UH. With everything else on my plate, I wasn’t going to try to start it in our IT department.

Technology is a significant part of our future – as workers and consumers. Technology jobs are some of the highest paying jobs. Continue reading

Corporate functions, local service

Mergers and acquisitions in health care have been common in recent years. Small community hospitals are becoming part of much larger integrated health systems.  One of the common challenges these canstockphoto34427718systems face is providing effective local service from central corporate departments.

Health systems may span a large metropolitan area, a portion of a state, or a multi-state region. And there are systems with a national footprint.

The health systems I’ve worked for are mostly the first; they have covered a large metropolitan area. Local hospitals may be as much as 100 miles apart and the corporate office somewhere in the middle.  While much of the work goes on every day without face to face interaction, people are often expected to drive to key meetings either at the corporate office or at the hospitals. But the distances and the traffic can challenge support models for corporate functions. Continue reading