A passion for health care

Doctor Talking To Senior Female Patient In Hospital Bed

I have worked in health Information Technology my entire professional career. In high school, I worked as a part-time nurse’s aide in a nursing home. In college, I worked in a hospital as a unit secretary, back before there were computers at the nurse’s station. I never wanted to be a nurse or physician,
but I am passionate about health care and what we do to improve people’s lives.  I found the path for me is through health care IT.

But I still remember some of the elderly people that I cared for back at that nursing home: Anna, who never had a visitor but was the sweetest and most grateful little old lady you’d ever find. And Hilda, who was as demanding as any but turned on the charm to make sure you liked her and met her requests.  Oscar, who was as grumpy and mean as anyone could be. And Ida, who fought us every time we tried to give her medicine; it took two people most of the time. In spite of their varying personalities and needs, we cared for all of them as best we could, with empathy and support.

My daughter used to joke when she was upset with us that she would put us in a cheap, bad nursing home far away. But for many, it’s no joke. My heart breaks for elderly people alone and without family visitors. I applaud a retired friend who has found “Meals on Wheels” to be his volunteer focus – what a wonderful way to show up for someone. I also applaud a recent retiree from the UMHS ambulatory services leadership team; I saw her in the hospital recently wearing a blue volunteer smock. She is there twice a week as a communion minister.

I remind my IT staff we are part of the extended care team – we don’t touch patients directly Continue reading

A year of blogging. . .

People often ask me, “How do you find time to write”? I have been writing this blog every week for over a year. A very senior leader in our organization who always compliments my writing told me recently, “If you can find time to write it, then I can find time to read it”. I appreciate all the comments on the posts where people share their own perspective and stories.

It is a weekly discipline. But knowing that the content is appreciated and has an impact keeps me going. Writing has also been a great method of reflection for me – Hansei as the Japanese call it.

I guess with over 450 subscribers and more than 27,000 views to date, it’s more than just my family and closest friends who are reading it – that’s all most bloggers ask for.

Regular subscribers get an email notification for each new post. Beyond that, how do I reach readers? I promote each post through the usual social media channels – Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter — each of which has its own particular audience. I also promote my posts through Next Wave Connect, a social media platform focused on health care.  I’m grateful to Anthony Guerra and Kate Gamble at HealthSystemCIO.com for re-posting most of my blog entries; my CIO colleagues who aren’t connected on social media will see them there. And now I publish some posts directly on LinkedIn at the request of one of my connections. He said it would make it easier to share with all of his connections. Continue reading

Marriage equality, it’s personal

I usually stay away from politics here, but last Friday was just too monumental.  On June 26th, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled definitively in favor of marriage equality. It’s now the law of the land, and for me, it’s personal.

Many families have secrets. Something everyone knows but nobody talks about. But that sounds so yesterday. And yes, for many it is. Yet many families still struggle with acknowledging that a loved one is gay or lesbian. Yes, family secrets – we all have them.

My family is no different. My Aunt Dorothy was born in 1914 and died in 1997 at the age of 83. She lived her entire adult life with her partner, Teal. There was never an open discussion in our family; to us, they were just “life-long friends”. Dorothy and Teal met while serving in the Women’s Army Core (WAC) during WWII, and lived together until Teal died in 1990.

Dorothy, a life-long Roman Catholic never heard a Pope say, as Pope Francis has, “who am I to judge?”

The pain of same sex couples to be accepted and respected in our society was never more evident for me than when Teal was in her final days. Dorothy had cared for her at home as long as she could, but once Teal was hospitalized, the hospital staff ignored Dorothy.

Dorothy was there all day every day and managed all of Teal’s care, but when Teal died the hospital didn’t call her. They called Teal’s nephew instead who had visited her only once or twice while there.

Dorothy walked into Teal’s room to find an empty bed.  Continue reading

Our collective interoperability journey

If you remember the CHIN (Community Health Information Network) attempts in the 1990s or the next incarnation in the mid-2000s referred to as RHIOs (Regional Health Information Exchange), you know we’ve been on this interoperability journey in health care a very long time. And it’s not over.

Creating sustainable Health Information Exchanges (HIE), not to be confused with a Health Insurance Exchange, is what we are all focused on now. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) published “Connecting Health and Care for the Nation: A Shared Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap” for public comments earlier this year. There has been progress over the years but we still have a long ways to go.

The ability to easily access and share data with other health care providers in Michigan is critical for UMHS – we are the only provider in the state that serves patients from every county. But HIEs are important for all providers regardless of their reach.  For example, when a patient shows up at an emergency room away from their primary hospital and physician, basic information should be readily available.  This includes a patient’s current problem summary list, allergies, chronic conditions, and medications.  Having this kind of information can make a qualitative difference in their care. And knowing that a certain test or procedure has recently been done along with the results can avoid duplication, saving both time and money.

Yet, unlike other industries where basic information is easily accessible and shared, health care lags far behind. Continue reading

In a bow: HIMSS15 wrap up

The biggest HIT event of the year is over – more than 43,000 attendees, over 300 education sessions, and over 1,200 exhibitors. Say what you want about the long taxi lines at the end of the day, all in all the service provided by HIMSS, hotel and convention staff was great. Say what you want about the slow performance of the HIMSS15 mobile app, there were many other ways to find out what was happening and where you needed to be. I will say though that our UMHS users would be all over me if our systems had such slow performance – I guess for an app that has the life cycle of a 4 day conference, you can get away with it. But let’s hope for improvements next year!

I’ll leave the deep analysis on market trends, vendors, and big announcements to the professionals who write for a living. I have a day job to get back to. But I will share a few highlights and thoughts after my time in Chicago: Continue reading

If not now, when?

How often have you put off scheduling a doctor appointment or preventive test because you’re just too busy? Do you keep up your exercise routine when you’ve got a big project and key deadline looming?  Do you have someone who helps keep you honest on these basic “taking care of yourself” things?YourHealthYourChoice

Have to admit I’m not the best but I am turning it around. Learned many years ago I’m the only one who can take care of me. No one is going to come into my office and say go home, you’re working too hard.

I have a gym membership and dogs that need to be walked. And it’s gorgeous here in Ann Arbor these days so I love being outside.

But I’ve also learned
that I do best at taking care of myself when I’ve got people who keep me honest. Some ideas from my recent experience: Continue reading

HIE merger for the greater good

Common goals are a key to success for any business venture. But for a merger, negotiating common goals and how best to achieve them is especially critical. I saw this again in the case of the Great Lakes Health Connect (GLHC) – a very recent merger of two major Michigan substate HIEs: Great Lakes Health Information Exchange (GLHIE) and Michigan Health Connect (MHC).

Michigan has had multiple substate HIEs organized by regional markets. While this was a conscious Win-win puzzlestrategy several years ago, many health care leaders had come to question it over time. However, the obstacles seemed too difficult to overcome, and inertia prevented change. So the two major HIEs grew and became stronger and more competitive. Provider organizations in some regions were torn between the two and faced limits in the data they could access. Other organizations sat on the sidelines waiting for one to prevail.

Continue reading