What to expect from your vendors

You are past the big go live. You and your team are focused on optimization, enhancements, ongoing support issues, and upgrades. So, what should you expect from your vendor in this ongoing relationship?canstockphoto10856287

I have worked with all the major EHR players and many other IT application and infrastructure vendors over the years. I have worked with three of the major EHR vendors just in the last 18 months given my interim CIO engagements.

My post “Keys to successful vendor management“ covered the importance of the product roadmap, service, total cost of ownership, reputation, contract, implementation, and escalation.

It’s time to look at the ongoing vendor relationship that clients should expect. Vendors, take note. I assume most of your clients would share this view. There’s a reason that the KLAS Research reports carry a lot of weight for CIOs, they are vendor evaluations from their peers.

Whether it is a large, proven vendor or a small start-up, here’s what you should expect: Continue reading

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

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

Great techspectations: can we find a way?

I have lived and worked in Ann Arbor for 3 years now and have made many trips to Lansing and Detroit for meetings and events. In Lansing I go to about 5 different locations: my car is almost on auto pilot. I have been to various locations in downtown Detroit and the surrounding suburbs. What would I do without the GPS technology we all take for granted?

I have a built-in navigation system in my car, but you probably have the same ability with a map app on your smart phone. My daughter warns me though, to not depend on GPS when you are down to the last mile; “Use your eyes,” she says. That’s what I do when I’m going to the Ren Center in downtown Detroit. My biggest concern then is that I will be in the wrong lane and end up taking the tunnel to Windsor, Canada. You can’t just do a U-turn on the other side; you need your passport with you. Unless I carry my passport in my car, it would be a major delay.  I have heard about people who missed events by an hour just by making that mistake.

And there is a lot of road construction with detours on my way out of Detroit these days. I must rely on my GPS to adjust my route and use my eyes to keep track of the detour signs.

Do you remember those thick spiral-bound books of maps for a metro area?  You needed a magnifying glass to read it. You also needed a co-pilot in the passenger seat. A real challenge if driving alone at night!

I remember when we stuck add-on Garmin devices to our inside windshield or tried to somehow balance them on the console.

I still sometimes use the online Mapquest or Google Maps service to print out the directions in advance; sometimes I want the big picture visual with me.

But the convenience of a built-in navigation system with voice directions in my 2008 car is far better. I rely on it whenever I’m headed someplace new.

But what about when you are inside a large building complex?  Wayfinding in hospitals is a challenge for both patients and staff, especially in large academic medical centers with old and new buildings connected on a sprawling campus. Continue reading

Safety hurts, service heals

Patient safety is at the top of our list as health care providers. My experience on a recent flight from Boston to Detroit reinforced the importance of “safety first.” We left an hour late due to weather. But, twenty minutes into the flight, the pilot told us there were problems with the landing gear; the safest thing to do was to return to the Boston airport. He told us he’d know more after we landed. Problems with the landing gear but we were going to land OK? Of course the next half hour was one of the longest ever. We did land safely, de-boarded and waited for news of when we’d depart.

The first word we got was via text and email notification – we’d depart on a different plane around 11:20PM. We originally were to arrive in Detroit at 9PM. In the next few hours, the departure notifications got worse and worse – 11:45PM, 12:20AM, 12:45AM, 1AM, and back to 12:45AM. Passengers with connecting flights tried to get re-booked on other flights that night or in the morning. Some decided to fly to other cities first adding to the number of connecting flights they’d have. I was on a direct flight heading home so I waited patiently for whenever we would eventually leave.

We finally departed at 1:45AM. I got to my house at 4:30AM – about six and half hours later than planned.

What amazed me during all this was that Continue reading

Snow days and everyday heroes

If you live in the north, you know about snow days. Your kids feel cheated if there aren’t a few each winter. Parents juggle to find backup plans when school closings are announced. If your employer is quick to close when there is a major storm or tells you to work from home you may breathe a sigh of relief.  You’re just glad that you don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn to shovel out your driveway and try to get down your unplowed street.

But hospitals never close, nor can they or should they. The everyday heroes I want to recognize are everywhere at the University of Michigan Health System. The nurses who pulled a double shift because their colleagues couldn’t make it in to relieve them. The support staff throughout the hospital who ensure patients are cared for, in a safe, clean environment. The diligent teams who ensure there are meals for patients and staff.  There are too many to mention but just think about all the hospital staff you see on a normal day – they all keep the hospital operating like nothing happened. Continue reading

Go beyond the golden rule for great customer service

We’ve all had those bad customer experiences: rudeness, “not my problem” attitude, bounced from person to person, being left on hold too long, not hearing back from someone as promised. You know what I’m talking about.

And we’ve all had those excellent customer service experiences: think about the difference. Was it the smile, the caring attitude, the problem solving focus, the level of ownership, the offer to help before you could even ask for help? These are just some of the attributes of good customer service.

If you provide a product or service to anyone in the work you do, it’s a good idea to look at your own customer service and how you stack up. And,who doesn’t provide some kind of product or service to others? You may have both internal or external customers.

When I started this position in late 2012, I laid out my core principles and values to my staff. Customer Service was one of them – as I said then, “while we don’t touch patients directly, we are all part of the extended care team; clinicians and caregivers rely on the systems we provide and support to care for patients in a safe manner. Excellent customer service in all our interactions is critical.” Continue reading

Great techspectations for the inpatient experience

Everywhere you turn technology makes our lives easier. Yet we take it for granted – until it’s not there.

I spent the holiday week in Boston with family. I observed every day, commonplace technology in my travels, our hotel stay, shopping, eating out, and more. We booked our airline tickets online. We check-in online or at an airport kiosk. We pass through security and find our current gate info on large screens conveniently located. Barely any human contact except when the flight attendant checks our seat belts and offers us pretzels and a drink. The safety information is a video and when we arrive we find the right baggage carrousel on another large screen. Continue reading