Do you know your big rocks?

April is a mixed month for me. No, I’m not talking about the fact that we had snow this week. In April, I celebrate many happy milestones, including my birthday and my wedding anniversary. Andcanstockphoto25793802 now, both my daughters have April wedding anniversaries. And the blooming daffodils along the road remind me that spring is finally here. 

Yet, there is always a sad part of April for me. My father died from Hodgkin’s disease on April 23rd, just a few days before my fourth birthday. Losing a parent as a child leaves a hole in your heart and shapes who you are.

Stephen Covey has a great story about “big rocks”. If you’re not familiar with it, just google it. Our families are our big rocks and my daughters remind me of that. And as little as they are, my grandchildren are also big rocks for me.  Every time one of my daughters calls me on FaceTime and I see a cute little toddler smiling at me from my iPhone, I fall in love with them all over again. Continue reading

Making the invisible visible

The whiteboard in my office has become a working draft for our IT leadership visual management board. And it’s become a focal point of discussion as I socialize the idea with our IT VPs, directors and canstockphoto26356044managers. I’m encouraged that everyone who gets the walkthrough supports the idea and sees the value in it. They see the potential it has to address some fundamental problems in how we work as a department.

Ownership of the board is shifting to the team. I’m using color coded sticky notes to add ideas and pose questions. I’ve encouraged IT leaders to stop by and put their own sticky notes up as we develop it together.

Some have asked if they should do something similar with their own team. The answer is yes! We need to commit at the leadership level and model behaviors. But to truly be effective, each team should have some kind of visual management and huddle that rolls up to the leadership huddle. Continue reading

Being in between

My husband and I are in that in between space. We have gotten our house ready for market – making it look like a showcase, and not the house you actually live in. We’ve had the pictures taken – the wide canstockphoto8356068angle lenses they use make every room look bigger than it is. Our house is now listed; anyone can peer into our house through any of the online real estate sites. We’ve had the first open house this past weekend. I hope it is the only one; every home seller hopes for an offer within the first few days. Even better would be more than one offer and a bidding war.  That would truly be good house luck for us!

You’re supposed to “stage” your house so it looks like you don’t live there. No personal photos as though you are an orphan from nowhere. No garbage cans or recycle bins visible as though you don’t produce waste. Nothing on your closet floors so they look spacious. Nothing on your kitchen or bathroom counters as though you never cook a meal or use any products. It is as though you have already moved out.

Being “in between” for us also means staging our house for selling and moving into temporary housing in Cleveland where I am doing a temporary engagement. What will we need in Cleveland and what should we pack to eventually go on the moving truck.

Like you, we have more stuff than we need. Continue reading

Lessons from an aspiring lean leader

This week I will be sharing lessons I’ve learned as a lean leader and champion – in particular around visual management. The Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI) holds an annual Lean Transformation Summit canstockphoto16267629where experts and practitioners come together from all industries to learn from one another.

My talk will cover a multi-year journey that has involved learning from others both in and out of healthcare, site visits, training classes, lots of reading, and experiments with my leadership team. Most of my talk is based on my experience and lessons learned at the University of Michigan Health System.

I was delighted to see that University Hospitals where I’m currently the interim CIO has been on their own lean journey since 2011. At our hospitals you will see huddles and visual boards throughout. Thousands of staff have been trained in lean concepts and methods. In contrast, there have been limited experiments with lean at the corporate office. I have a few allies in my IT leadership team who have experience with lean in other organizations. A good start!

I would have been making a mistake to arrive at UH as the interim CIO and start introducing lean methods week one. I needed to see and hear the problems that need to be addressed. Continue reading

Apps aren’t enough

Health care organizations are focused on increasing patient engagement and improving patient satisfaction. As consumers, our expectations are high. We are used to doing many tasks online with an canstockphoto29459472end to end digital experience in the retail, financial, and travel industries. Health care is clearly playing catch up.

But can we blame software limitations and hope for technology solutions when talking about what we need to do? I’ll be the first to say there is probably an app for any problem. But, it’s not just about technology.

Health care is a high touch business for clinicians and support staff. The processes and workflows have to work hand in hand with technology. Think about your experience seeing your doctor. Making the appointment, checking in, checking out, handling your co-pay, and getting referrals scheduled should be simple, consistent, and most importantly patient centered.

Culture is critical. Every person you encounter in your health care journey should have your best interest and satisfaction as their priority. After all, we care for people. It’s all about basic customer service, it’s not rocket science. Continue reading

Innovation – who owns it?

I’m back from HIMSS16 and the sensory overload of Vegas. Like every year, the conference and exhibit hall was filled with new vendors and products. Trying to find the really new, new that is a breakout canstockphoto19831405innovation can be a challenge with thousands of exhibitors. I expect to soon read many post HIMSS articles that will highlight the new innovations and the promising start-ups there.

The HX360 program was co-developed by HIMSS and AVIA, an innovation partner for more than 20 forward-leaning health systems. The program is an attempt to carve out during HIMSS an innovation focus for senior leaders. This year I attended the one-day HX360 Executive Program.

The highlight for me was a panel of CEOs and Chief Innovation Officers from leading health care organizations – Providence Health and Services, Dignity Health, Christiana Care and University Health Network in Canada. The panelists were forward thinking health care leaders and organizations. Continue reading

Shattering the glass ceiling

No more hitting it, or even breaking it – let’s shatter it!

I’ve been vocal in urging more women to pursue technology careers and in supporting women as they face challenges moving up the ladder.canstockphoto28787142

HIMSS16 attendees can focus on many topics this year. I will be pursuing my passion for developing the next generation of leaders, especially helping women deal with barriers they face as we try to level the playing field.

I’m happy to be a voice for women – but I’m not alone.

  • On Tuesday at 10AM at the HIMSS Spot, the annual #healthITchicks meetup is happening. I’ll be one of the guest speakers along with Rebecca Freeman, Chief Nursing Officer at ONC and Dana Sellers, CEO at Encore. Jennifer Dennard, #healthITchicks founder, organizes monthly TweetChats on a range of topics as well as this annual meetup at HIMSS.  Join us for some interesting Q&A and networking!
  • On Wednesday at 2PM, I will be one of two female executives speaking at the Views from the Top Session – “Shattering the Glass Ceiling – Lessons Learned for Aspiring Female Executives”. I’ll be joined by Deanna Wise, Chief Information Officer at Dignity Health. Carla Smith, EVP at HIMSS will be the moderator. A similar session last year was a big hit with a large crowd so let’s make this year even bigger and better! Kate Gamble with HealthSystemCIO.com wrote an excellent preview of the session this week.
  • And in a two hour closed session on Monday morning, I will be one of six executive women that Carla has pulled together for a Women in HIT roundtable session. More than 900 women responded to a recent HIMSS / Healthcare IT News survey on the women’s professional needs in the health IT field.  According to Carla, those responding overwhelmingly wanted more recognition of female leaders, and more gender-focused resources that support networking, mentoring, and educational and career opportunities. She hopes that the roundtable will give HIMSS valuable input towards developing a year-round, comprehensive, and meaningful program to empower women, and to nurture the next generation of women leaders.

Continue reading

Get started by asking the right questions

If you are drinking from a fire hose, you need to focus or you will drown. When so much new info is coming your way every day, you need a framework.  When I started my present interim CIO engagement, canstockphoto16518323I knew I needed to understand some key areas right away. They included strength of the leadership team, staffing, system performance, user satisfaction, budget, vendor relations, security, and IT governance.

Issues with system performance and dissatisfied users will find you even if you don’t go looking. Without solid system performance for your production environment, it’s hard to discuss anything else with your executives. If the issue affects your clinicians and their ability to see patients and manage their workload, you need to pay close attention. And you need to work with your team to figure out what’s going on and resolve it. System performance affects user satisfaction.  Whether users love or hate a system they depend on, it has to be fast and reliable.

To quickly assess the IT leadership team, you need to understand their background and experience, their current scope of responsibility and their primary concerns. What are they struggling with?  What help is Continue reading

Interim management is different

I am wrapping up week 3 as the interim CIO at University Hospitals in Cleveland, Ohio and I’m drinking from the fire hose. I have to learn a new organization, a new team, a new set of projects and priorities, canstockphoto3961050 (1)and a new set of tools. This much change takes patience – first with myself. I realize I can’t learn it all in one day or one week.

The good news is that there are many common themes and issues between health care organizations. With so many years of experience in health IT and leadership roles, I can jump right in. Imagine trying to learn this industry for the first time at this level!

I meet with other executives for the first time in “meet and greet” sessions. I want to get to know them and understand what they need from IT.  So, I’m asking each of them 4 key questions:

  1. What’s working well?
  2. What’s working not so well?
  3. Considering I’m interim, how can I have the greatest impact?
  4. What are the key requirements for the next CIO?

I’ve asked all of my management team in IT to consider these same questions. More good news, Continue reading

Making time for reflection

“Hansei” is the Japanese word for reflection. One of my UMHS colleagues, Dr. Jack Billi, told me he’s impressed that I am writing a blog and sees it as an example of Hansei. He says as leaders we don’t take enough time to reflect. I agree.

A typical day for me is running from one meeting to the next, driving back and forth from my office to the hospital campus, and squeezing in email when and where I can. Evenings are more email and prepping for the next day’s meetings.

The practice of writing a blog has indeed caused me to be more thoughtful about a range of topics. I find myself observing things differently. I reached out to one of my industry colleagues, Anthony Guerra, Editor-in-Chief of healthsystemCIO.com, for advice when I first considered writing a blog earlier this year. He encouraged me to do so. He told me that through the practice of writing a blog I’d start looking at things differently, observing things in new ways. He was right. Continue reading