Teamwork at its best

If you are an IT professional supporting major production environments and applications, you have most likely experienced a significant system outage at some point. We had one of those events thiscanstockphoto16328410 week. As in previous experiences in other organizations, I saw people at their best come together as a team working diligently to restore systems. This team included IT, clinical and operations staff.

I know CIO colleagues who recently managed through a week long outage of their business systems in one case and a multiple day outage of their electronic health record in another. They could probably share similar lessons following those experiences. 

In the spirit of teaching and learning from one another, I offer these key points if you have a significant event: Continue reading

Equal pay, who can argue?

My mother had to go to work to support four children after my father died from cancer. I was active in the women’s movement in my college years. So, I can’t imagine women not having a career outside the homecanstockphoto6033421 if they so choose or if they have to support themselves and their families.

Although I was very interested in math growing up, I got into IT somewhat by accident; I had wanted to be a math teacher. But in the late 70’s the field of computer science was exploding and there was an easy entry path. I went to a technical school and got a certificate in programming.  I learned to code in 7 different languages. I doubt that any of them are still remotely useful.  I didn’t work as a programmer for long but stayed on the IT path. I worked as an analyst for a while and then moved into management in 1984.

Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day (TODASTW) is coming up soon – April 28th. Last year, we had a very successful event at University of Michigan Health System and I’m hoping they are doing it again even bigger and better this year.  I’ve learned that we don’t do any TODASTW programs at UH. With everything else on my plate, I wasn’t going to try to start it in our IT department.

Technology is a significant part of our future – as workers and consumers. Technology jobs are some of the highest paying jobs. 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

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

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

Spreading hope, 21st century style

1 in 9 people in the U.S have used it. Its reach extends to 236 countries. In 2014, 2.2 million new people joined communities. 300,000 people visit every day. More than 72,000 families created a website in 2014. Any idea what I’m referring to?

Those are some of the key stats for a social media tool called CaringBridge. It works like this: patients set up a private and secure website where they post journal entries about their health journey. They invite close family and friends to join their site, creating a caring and supportive community. Family and friends are kept up to date and they can post encouraging and supportive messages. It takes the communication burden off the patient and their immediate family so they can focus on healing.  It replaces the black hole of not knowing for those who care and worry.

I first learned about CaringBridge many years ago when I was the CIO at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. We jointly sponsored it with Dana Farber Cancer Institute and encouraged our cancer patients to use it. At the University of Michigan Health System, we make patients and families aware of this service and another similar one called CarePages.

For all my years working in health care and using the main social media platforms, I’m finally experiencing firsthand the healing power of CaringBridge.  Continue reading

Back to the future

It’s back to school time! College bound students and their parents are having a lot of mixed feelings. There’s the excitement and anxiety of starting something new, maybe far from home. And for the parents, the goodbyes and the reality of being an empty nester may just be sinking in. Parents sense that they’ve done their job and now, it’s launch time.

There are questions college students hate to hear – “what are you planning to study?”; “what do you want to do when you graduate?”  They need to find their passion first. And who knows what kind of jobs will be there come graduation time.

Many of today’s jobs didn’t even exist 5 or 10 years ago. If you are on social media at all, you will see tons of job opportunities for just that – social media experts. But it’s just over a decade for two of the giants – Facebook and LinkedIn, and less than 10 years for Twitter.

And at the intersection of cars and technology, do you suppose the people working at Mcity thought 10 years ago that this is what they’d be doing? Continue reading

Investing in the success of others

What do @TheWomenRising, @digitaldivas3, and #HITchicks have in common? They are some of the Twitter handles and hashtags that young women professionals in technology are using on social media to encourage Women around CR tablemore women to go into the field. I recently did a fireside chat with Kate Catlin, the organizer of Women Rising, and about 30 young women in downtown Detroit. It was the first in a new UpRising series where they invite in “high-powered women in technology” they want to learn from.

The questions covered a broad range of concerns, and not just about working in technology. We were scheduled for an hour but could easily have continued for several more. I answered their questions with advice and lessons from my own experience.

Some of their questions:

How did you get started in technology?  Continue reading

At work and at play: IT leaders connect with patients

Monday was the 42nd annual  C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital Golf Classic. While the golfers have a lot of fun, it is a significant annual fundraising event that makes an important difference in the lives of children and their families at Mott Children’s Hospital. Over the years, individual and organizational sponsors have provided support for computers at patient bedsides, medically safe camps for children with serious health issues, assistive devices for children with special needs, and many more important projects and services.

The Mott Golf Classic is committed to advancing pediatric medicine and enhancing the care experience for patients and their families. It supports unique initiatives that distinguish Mott Children’s Hospital which is ranked as one of the best children’s hospitals in the country by U.S. News & World Report.

Reminding all of us in health care why we do what we do, each year a child and their family are recognized as an honored guest and we hear their story.  This year Larry Prout Jr. and his parents, Larry and Kathy, along with his five older siblings and other family members were the guests of honor.  Larry Jr. was born with three birth defects – Spina Bifida, Cloacal Exstrophy, and a massive Omphalocele. His parents didn’t know if he would make it through the first 24 hours after birth and there were many times during his first six months that he had to fight for survival. With their love and the specialized medical care of a multi-disciplinary team at Mott, Larry Jr. overcame many setbacks. He is celebrating his 14th birthday on June 11th.

One of my IT leaders, Joe Kryza, Executive Director of Infrastructure and Systems Operations, has made significant contributions over the past 10 plus years to the Mott Family Network, a non-profit volunteer organization that many of our IT staff contribute time to. Continue reading