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

What to expect from an interim CIO

I am now networking for my next opportunities and need to update my resume. This week someone offered to make an introduction for me and asked me to send a current one. So I did a quick pass and canstockphoto11333368added a section for my interim CIO engagement at University Hospitals.

I went right to my CIO focus areas that I had documented back in week 5. I added a few more focus areas a month ago, in response to some new needs.  Good news; with the help of my IT leadership team I either finished or made great progress on all of them.

Interim CIOs can just keep the seat warm and make sure things are running smoothly. Or they can be change agents who shake things up. Or they may help set a new strategy and direction for the permanent CIO to execute.

Basically, University Hospitals wanted an experienced CIO with a fresh perspective to run IT while helping to find the next permanent CIO. The work has been a combination of operations and consulting. Operations means a lot of meetings, long days and plenty of issues. Consulting means there’s an opportunity to look at things differently and make incremental improvements. Continue reading

Being in between – part 2

My husband and I are as in between as anyone who has ever done a long distance move.  Our possessions are on a truck somewhere between Ann Arbor, Michigan and Providence, Rhode Island. canstockphoto0356593Stuffed into our cars is everything that can’t or shouldn’t go on the moving truck.

This is the fifth long distance move we’ve done together and we hope, the last. We are headed back to New England, the part of the country where we wanted to end up.

I will continue working at University Hospitals in Cleveland during the week as the interim CIO until we hire a new permanent CIO but my home base now shifts east.

We made some close friends in a few short years in Michigan. We did a long goodbye with them on weekends over the past few months. And we promised to continue what we started by keeping in touch any way we can.  We issued an open invitation to our guest room.

We started this move in March getting our house ready for market. We thought (and hoped) we’d sell quickly. Instead, we found ourselves buying in a hot market where houses were gone before we could see them but selling in a slower market. Once again we’ve learned that you can’t count on the market being in your favor.

As we packed and purged, we found goods that others could use and filled the cars with donations. We donated lots of clothes in good shape but in sizes we’ll never see again. This included business clothes that women needing a fresh start can use for interviews and getting back into the workforce.

I’ve once again learned about making tradeoffs and letting go. 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

Keep it simple and visual

CIO Board 11-2015The past month has been a particularly busy one for me. I have spoken locally a few times and gone out of town on business several times as well. I’ve been to the CHIME Fall Forum, made a site visit at Duke, and attended an AAMI board meeting. During that same period, I’ve given a talk on “Women in Technology” and participated on a CIO panel at the Midwest Fall Technology Conference in Detroit. I spoke on “High Impact IT” at the 2015 ICHITA Conference sponsored by the Center for Health Information Technology Advancement at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. I was one of two CIO guests on the CIO TalkRadio Show last week. And we published our monthly newsletter and held one of our twice a year department all staff meetings.

I have a busy schedule of meetings at multiple UMHS locations every day, so how did all these commitments come off without a hitch? The visual board my support staff and I started some weeks ago has made the difference! The only commitment that I scrambled on at the last minute was the one that hadn’t made it onto the board. That’s telling.

Prior to our visual board, I sometimes scrambled at the last minute to finish a presentation or finalize flight arrangements in time to get a reasonable price. Now, as a team, we can see into all the major events and commitments and take an organized approach to the shared tasks involved.  Continue reading

Surfacing problems, prototyping solutions

According to Wikipedia, “a hackathon (also known as a hack day, hackfest or codefest) is an event in which computer programmers and others involved in software development, including graphic designers, interface designers and project managers, collaborate intensively on software projects”. Hackathons are a great way to surface problems and prototype solutions in a short time period.  I just participated in my first hackathon and what an eye-opener it was.

Last week, four different IT groups participated in “Hacks with Friends”: central campus, school of medicine, school of dentistry, and the hospitals and health centers.  It was a grassroots event organized by staff. It was great to see such talent and creative energy in one room.

Every available surface was used to brainstorm and organize ideas.

For two days, over 100 participants in 20 teams worked to develop projects in 3 categories  – gamification, collaboration, and play (which turned out to be the catch-all category for a problem you wanted to explore or experiment with). Projects could be either externally focused on our customers or internally focused on improving processes for technical staff. Many teams included members from the multiple IT groups solving common problems.

Each team was to develop a minimally viable product (MVP). An MVP is a simple way to address a problem that adds value, is demonstrable. An MVP can be an improved process, a new way of doing things, or an old tool applied in a new way.

Poster presentation proposing FitBit integration with UM’s wellness app.

Each team had to create a winning presentation in three stages. First they needed to create an elevator description of the project, including problem statement, solution and differentiators. Then, they needed a five minute poster presentation. If chosen as a finalist, the team needed to prepare a seven minute demonstration of their product.

To succeed, the team needed to understand the strengths of their team members and welcome a broad range of experiences into the team. Best ideas come from co-design. A great reminder that hackathons are not just for people who can code!

Laura Patterson, the UM CIO, Ted Hanss, the Medical School CIO, and I were the judges. We applied these criteria:

  • Fit to category – how well does the project fit the selected category?
  • Feasibility – would this work in the real world?
  • Completeness – how far did the team get in the allotted time?
  • Documentation – did the team document what they learned?

The winning team, “Magic Mirror,” hard at work.

The products proposed were creative and exciting.  Some examples:

World of Workcraft – a game to track what we are learning everyday – books, articles, courses, conferences.

Active You – integrating FitBit with the ActiveU mobile app. I think a high percentage of the 11,870 participants in this UM employee wellness program would love this!

Rundeck – a way to automate system administrator tasks using the Rundeck tool.

The winner of the Hacks with Friends event was Magic Mirror – putting student photos in their profiles in the new learning system to help faculty get to know students and students get to know one another. The runner-up was Go Phish – an interactive training tool to help people recognize phishing email leveraging gaming technology.

The coveted “golden hard drive” trophy.

But from another perspective, Activity in Motion (AIM) was the winner for me.  This was a team led by Sally Pollock, Manager of IT Service Management from my IT department, that developed a multi-platform application to capture and centralize major incident activity real-time.  Benefits include: providing real-time information, minimizing distractions during the major incident call, minimizing the duration of the major incident, capturing a list of participants, making activity highly visible and storing it in a database, where it can be used for reporting and the post incident review process.

The team’s presentation helped me realize the current state of managing major incidents and how a simple app like this could improve the process. I jumped on it.  I asked the team to present to my leadership group meeting on Wednesday and we gave directional support for this solution. They will come back in a month with recommendations on how to fit this solution into our current major incident process.

A great example of how a hackathon opened one leader’s eyes to a problem that needed to be solved.

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