Culture matters in mergers   

If you live in a large metropolitan area, chances are you have been either a patient or a visitor in an academic medical center that has 500 to 1000 beds. If you live in a rural area, you are probably more canstockphoto8191068familiar with a small local community hospital with less than 100 beds.

Because of healthcare mergers and acquisitions, these two different kinds of hospitals are likely to be part of one integrated health system. While different in size and scale, they both deliver healthcare to their community 24×7.

Small, independent hospitals are often very agile, extremely customer service oriented and supported by a loyal community. In IT, the staff are often generalists and less specialized. They may have a single integrated system from one vendor with basic functionality and limited integration points with other applications.

In contrast, large academic medical centers can be slow to make changes and appear more bureaucratic. They provide advanced medicine with subspecialists and clinical services not found elsewhere. They have to work harder to create a culture of customer service. Their community is broader and they attract patients from greater distances, including international patients. And their IT teams are larger with many specialized roles. In addition to their core electronic health record, they have many specialized departmental applications, many interfaces. Overall, it’s a far more complex environment.

So how do these different profiles mesh at merger time? Continue reading

8 tips for telehealth success

Telehealth or connected health as some call it, takes different forms depending on the provider organization and their strategy. The primary driver may be extending geographic reach by providing canstockphoto40754495telehealth services to rural areas. Or it may be largely a focus on consumer engagement.

Regardless, there are common themes for successful initiatives. Based on my experience in several healthcare systems in recent years, I offer these tips for success:

Strategy is key – The organization must first determine what the key drivers are for the initiative. Is it to extend reach or provide an easier patient experience or a combination?

Tactics and specific programs will follow – Once the strategy is clear, which specific clinical services and offerings are needed the most will become clear.

Physician leadership is needed – If the focus is on extending reach of certain clinical services, physicians are at the center and must provide overall direction. For consumer-focused services, ambulatory services or strategic planning leadership may play a more central role.

Operational issues and decisions must be considered early on – There are legal and billing factors along with workflow issues for clinicians and staff to work out before any implementation. Continue reading

Different organizations, common IT challenges

I had the opportunity to participate in the CIO panel at the New England HIMSS Chapter Spring Conference this week. The questions for the panelists covered a range of issues that currently challenge canstockphoto5451287healthcare CIOs.

Some were:

  • how mergers and acquisitions impact IT;
  • how to improve patient engagement given the move to accountable care models;
  • how to provide growth opportunities for our teams and;
  • how to find time and resources to drive innovation.

I have been a CIO in a few different healthcare organizations recently, so I could describe multiple experiences with these challenges. While we have similar internal drivers, and face similar external constraints, no two organizations are the same.

These questions connected well with some of my focus areas during this current interim CIO engagement at Stony Brook Medicine. After about a month in the role, I summarized what I thought to be my focus areas and shared them with the executives. The feedback was that it was ambitious but on target.

Here’s that list. It’s generalized so you can consider it a good sampling of what interim CIOs can do for an organization, and what other CIOs may be focusing on: Continue reading

A tale of patient advocacy

We have two little dogs. Pepe is a 10 year old Shih Tzu/poodle and Coco is an 8 year old Shih Tzu /Bichon.  Pepe had been getting frailer and weaker throughout the Fall months. IMG_2946 (002) waiting at the bus stop

We thought this might be her last year with us. But her blood work in November showed that she has a thyroid problem.  She now gets a daily medication and has more energy and no longer sleeps most of the day. The name Pepe (as in peppy) is fitting her again.

She had also been losing weight and getting very thin. So, we started her on canned food. Maybe she had  a problem with the dry food she has always eaten. Or maybe Coco, who is dominant, wasn’t letting her get to the food dish. What dog or cat doesn’t love canned food??? Pepe loves it and has been gaining weight. While my husband and I are still getting used to that nasty moment when you first open the can of wet food, we do it because we love her and want her to gain weight and get strong. It’s working.

When we recently took Pepe to the vet to deal with a digestive problem, the vet found she had a broken tooth and the area around it was inflamed. She would need surgery to have it pulled. That happened this week and all is well. She is even back to eating treats that take some chewing. In hindsight, the broken tooth could have been the reason she stopped eating the dry food.

Animals can’t talk or “use their words” as we tell small children, so it’s hard to know when something is wrong. And it’s hard to know the interconnections between all these issues. Continue reading

HIMSS17 – It’s a wrap

There could be as many different wrap-ups on HIMSS17 as there were people there – over 42,000. No one sees the same vendor exhibits, hears the same presenters, or talks to the same people. There are HIMSS17 sign ver 2conferences within conferences. So here’s just one wrap-up – mine.

The first speaker I heard did a great job of scaring all the CIO’s. Kevin Mitnick, the world’s most famous hacker and security consultant, and author of several books including his most recent one, The Art of Invisibility, was the opening keynote at the CIO Forum on Sunday. His talk, “The Art of Deception: How Hackers and Con Artists Manipulate You and What You Can Do About It”, included real-time demonstrations. He drove home the point about how vulnerable we are as individuals and organizations.  I highly recommend checking out his website to learn more or get scared yourself.

Dr. B.J. Miller was the final speaker at the CIO forum. His talk, “What Really Matters at the End of Life”, was a very sobering view of palliative and hospice care yet strangely inspiring at the same time. As he said, “Spending time thinking about your time on the planet while you have time is important – don’t wait.” I highly recommend listening to his Ted Talk with this same title.

I have been asked to serve on the CHIME Education Foundation Board again so Monday morning meant a board meeting. Continue reading

Countdown to HIMSS17 – Part 3: Networking

The countdown to HISS17 is in the final days. As I wrote the past two weeks, the best way to think about your prep for HIMSS17 is in three ways – education, vendors, and networking. This post is the last in a canstockphoto6370084three-part series – focusing on networking. It has to be the last, you’ve probably finalized your schedule for education and vendors. Now, you’re thinking about what to pack at this point. For us Northerners that means pulling out some summer like clothes and shoes – I’m looking forward to that part!

Have you been to HIMSS conferences before and know tons of people in the industry? If so, networking is probably not an issue for you. Are you relatively new to HIMSS conferences and want to make a lot of new connections? If yes, then this post might be useful.

I know a few things about networking.  After all, one of my daughters’ nicknames for me is the “network queen”. Here are some tips to consider:

Scheduled receptions and meetups – There are plenty of these including an orientation for first time attendees, opening reception for all attendees, local chapter events, vendor receptions, and topic focused Continue reading

Countdown to HIMSS17 – Part 2: Vendors

The countdown to HISS17 continues. As I wrote last week, the best way to think about it is in three ways – education, vendors, and networking. This post is the second in a three-part series – focusing on vendors.canstockphoto10546354

If you already registered, you have been inundated with vendor emails and snail mail since then. The ginormous exhibit hall beckons when you get to Orlando. So how do you make the vendor aspect of HIMSS17 as productive as you can?

Here are some tips to consider based on many years of navigating the exhibit floor:

Meeting with your current vendors – I’ve talked with colleagues in the past who always start here. They schedule meetings in advance or stop by just to say hello at all their primary vendors’ booths. I never fully understood this. Maybe I was a CIO in an organization with mostly internally developed systems for too long. You can connect with your primary vendors throughout the year so do you really have to spend a lot of time with them at HIMSS? It’s up to you and your specific needs and issues. If you want to see the Continue reading

Countdown to HIMSS17 – Part 1: Education

The countdown to HIMSS17 is on. It’s less than 3 weeks and if you’re anything like me, you’ve not figured out your HIMSS schedule yet. You’re getting those emails from HIMSS and vendors about what to do. canstockphoto20735537And you’re starting to see the “HIMSS preview” type articles in your favorite publications.

As the conference website says – 5 days | 300 session | 1,200 exhibitors | 45,000 colleagues. It’s as overwhelming as it sounds.

The best way to think about it is in three ways – education, vendors, and networking. This post is the first of a three-part series – focusing on education. After all, you’re paying a hefty registration fee and travel expenses so you should get some education time in, right? It’s not just about the massive exhibit hall and seeing all your friends in the industry!

Bottom line, you need a strategy and a focus. No more getting a big thick conference book to page through in advance – it’s all online for you to peruse and develop your plan. The conference website has education organized by topics, professional roles, specialty education, and types of session.

Here are some tips as you plan your education at HIMSS17: Continue reading

Learning from the annual industry list ritual

Holiday gift lists, baking lists, family fun lists while kids are out of school and “honey do” lists while off from work…..we have personal to do lists everywhere. But as the year ends, it’s interesting to canstockphoto18647021look back on some of the industry based 2016 lists and look ahead at what to expect in 2017.

I’ve compiled some of the most interesting health care and technology lists to share as we approach this annual turn of the year. You’ve probably seen some of them already.

There are the best places to work lists where we can all learn best practices to attract and retain talent in a competitive market: Modern Healthcare’s Best Places to Work in Healthcare 2016 and Becker’s 150 Great Places to Work in Healthcare 2016. And more specific to IT, there is Healthcare IT News’ Best Hospital IT Departments 2016. Check out their profiles and possibly get some new ideas to apply in your own organizations. Continue reading

Cuban healthcare, an emphasis on prevention

You will be hearing a lot about Cuba after the death of Fidel Castro. I am certainly not an expert on Cuba, but I learned a lot about the country and its people recently on an 8-day Road Scholar tour. canstockphoto21968575And I was particularly interested in learning about their healthcare system.

“I wanted to see and experience Cuba before it drastically changes with American influence and investment”. That was the sentiment from many of our fellow travelers.

The trip was called “People and Society: Cienfuegos to Havana”. It included day trips to Trinidad and Santa Clara plus a stop at the Bay of Pigs on our way to Havana. Everywhere we went, we experienced the cultural arts first hand – music and dance from young grade school age students to seniors well into their 80’s. We heard a chamber orchestra and saw a contemporary dance show.

We heard lectures on history, politics, and religion as well as how Cuban millennials view the  future. We learned how negatively the U.S. embargo has impacted the people of Cuba. And how they want the embargo fully lifted but with future U.S. investments and development managed.

We had a chance to sit and talk for an hour with a young man who works in a telecom job in health care. I asked about electronic health records and he said they are in the process of implementing a system they have developed.

When I got home and caught up on my email, I learned that a 15-member delegation of healthcare executives visited Cuba while we were there. That delegation was led by former HHS Secretary and Governor Mike Leavitt, and included Dr. David Blumenthal, former National Coordinator at ONC and Stephen Lieber, HIMSS president and CEO. Stephen wrote an insightful blog on the experience. The delegation was a mix of vendor, consulting and provider executives who had gone to see the Cuban healthcare delivery system up close. Continue reading