For today’s leaders, it really is all about collaboration — both with vendors and the executive team, says Cindy Peterson, who has been CIO at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital since 2001. With vendors, it means engaging in ongoing communication and being involved in each other’s strategic planning processes, and with the executive team, it means earning trust by being consistent and delivering what is expected. In this interview, Peterson talks about how her team is working to deliver data more effectively to clinicians, the one question leaders should ask with any application, and what she has found to be the key in maintaining a successful partnership with Meditech.
- Showing value of IT — “It’s my team’s responsibility.”
- Consistent results
- “You have to give stakeholders what they expect.”
- Workflow analysis
- The lean journey — “It doesn’t end.”
- Growing leaders from within
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It’s my team’s responsibility to make sure that they show value and make sure that the projects we bring forward are truly going to have a positive impact on the facility.
You have to look at it like you’re not just implementing the system and training on that system, but you’re actually looking at the workflows and how you can improve them. Are there opportunities to reduce costs? Are there opportunities to improve care? You have to really analyze it to that level.
You think once you get everybody trained, then it’s just going to be part of the process. And you want that to happen, but it doesn’t happen that way. It’s slow to kick in and a little bit happens at a time, so it truly is a journey, and it’s a journey that doesn’t end.
It’s like I tell all of my team, they all are leaders. No matter what position they hold, they’re a leader in some way, shape or form. We need to all have that mindset that we are all leaders and that what we do affects others, and so that’s how we try to move forward with the development of leaders.
Gamble: When you talked about everything that’s been done on the IT side, it’s a big commitment and a big spend. I wanted to talk about how it changes the perception of IT — and the CIO and other executives — when the organization is making a significant investment in IT?
Peterson: I’m lucky that the executive team here has always supported IT and has always supported the dollars being spent, because they’ve seen value. I think it’s my team’s responsibility to make sure that they show value and make sure that the projects we bring forward are truly going to have a positive impact on the facility. And so, I’ve been fortunate to be able to get a lot of projects approved because they have been able to see the value.
I think it’s also important to be very consistent with your ability to be on time and on budget, where you’re truly taking the time to analyze and plan out those projects so that it doesn’t look like every project’s over budget or takes longer than what was planned. You have to really plan those out appropriately so that expectations can be met and you are giving all of your stakeholders what they expect to receive.
Those are the type of items that we try to follow through with. We have an IS steering committee here where projects are approved through the steering committee. They review the changes and give updates on our projects, and all of our projects are measured at 6, 18, and 36 months to make sure that we were effective with those projects. So I think it’s having that collaboration as well with your stakeholders and understanding what their needs are, but also bringing to them systems that are going to add value so that IT is perceived as a value added to the organization.
Gamble: Right. In the industry, we’re hearing more about CIOs being more closely aligned with the business, but it seems like at least in your organization, that’s the way it has been.
Peterson: Right. We’ve had this for a very long time; not to say it’s perfect — I don’t think anything is perfect. But I think we’ve had a good process for reviewing projects. Sometimes there’s a feeling that there’s too much bureaucracy, but in the end, we see that when we don’t follow those processes, the end result isn’t as good as it might have been. So we try to stay consistent with those processes.
Gamble: When you talk about things like reducing costs and improving the patient experience, these are areas where IT plays as big a role as other departments. Maybe that’s not how things were traditionally, but it’s the way things seem to be going.
Peterson: I think that when you’re implementing systems, you have to look at it like you’re not just implementing the system and training on that system, but you’re actually looking at the workflow and how you can improve those workflows. Are there opportunities to reduce costs? Are there opportunities to improve care? You have to really analyze it to that level, because that’s what makes the difference. Just to install a system and train on it and say, ‘okay, here’s your new system, go ahead and have at it,’ I think you limit yourself. You’re not maximizing the use of the software. And so, it does take longer on an implementation process when you take that approach. But in the end, you have a much better result because you’re analyzing all aspects. Are there workflows that no longer need to be there? Can we change to a new future workflow that improves the efficiency and productivity? Can we incorporate maybe a subsystem we used to have into our main system and eliminate some of the paper flow in that? Analyzing all those aspects can truly have a huge impact on what it is you end up implementing in the end.
Gamble: Right. So obviously you have a lot going on. What are some of the other big priorities for your organization in the next year or so?
Peterson: We’re currently working on a huge construction project, building a 120-patient bed tower. So that’s huge project. And, we’re looking at replacing our Pyxis system with Omnicell, so that’s another one. We started our journey on Lean, and we’re going to continue that journey and start to really enhance it and start rolling it out more and more over this next year. So we’re on that journey.
Of course we’re on the journey of patient safety and a cultural safety; that’s an organizational commitment that we have as well. So we never stop having a lot of projects on our plate. We continue to always drive ourselves and push ourselves to be the best hospital we can, and we’ll continue to do that. Even though we might try to lessen the amount of IT-specific projects during this implementation, we won’t stop. There will still be other projects that come along and will be included even though we’re working on this huge project with Meditech.
Gamble: Lean is interesting to me because it gets incorporated into all the processes and it seems like something that can really make a difference, but it’s just a matter of investing that time upfront with training.
Peterson: Right. It truly is a journey. When we were looking into it, other organizations would tell us, ‘It’s a journey.’ But somehow you think once you get everybody trained, then it’s just going to be part of the process. And you want that to happen, but it doesn’t happen that way. It’s slow to kick in and a little bit happens at a time, so it truly is a journey, and it’s a journey that doesn’t end. So that’s the difference that I see with Lean. But I see so many positive effects of it. For us in IT, we try to incorporate some of those aspects as we’re implementing new systems, but probably not to the level that we need to. So that needs to continue to grow.
Gamble: Have you brought in third parties for Lean, or is it something that you’re just doing internally?
Peterson: We’ve done various elements of training through organizations, but I think now we’re going to the next step. We’re going to bring in a firm to analyze where we’ve been, assess what we’ve been doing, and determine how do we take it to the next step and how can they help us get it to the next step. That that’s where we’re at right now. We’re looking at some companies to come in.
Gamble: In terms of the IT department, what’s the approximate size of the staff?
Peterson: In addition to IT, biomedical engineering, information governance, and informatics all report to me. So when I look at the total, I think it’s around 65 people.
Gamble: One thing I find interesting is the idea of growing leaders and how that’s one of the core responsibilities of the CIO. I want to talk about how you work to grow leaders and what qualities you look for the most in people with potential.
Peterson: We try to grow leaders within, and we try to give people the opportunity to continue to advance themselves within the organization. We not only team-build within the team, but we also offer Southern California Hospital Association leadership classes to people that have potential to become leaders. And then we’ll also send people out to one or two-day sessions like accountability training and those types of things.
And of course we have internal training for leaders, and we expose them to that. Our approach is to try to move people within the organization up the ladder, and grow them. With performance reviews, we always have a personal growth goal for them so that they can focus on specialized training, schooling, or whatever, and we try to work with them on determining what are their goals for the future and helping them to try to reach those goals. But it’s like I tell all of my team, they all are leaders. No matter what position they hold, they’re a leader in some way, shape or form. We need to all have that mindset that we are all leaders and that what we do affects others, and so that’s how we try to move forward with the development of leaders. We’d rather promote within than hire from outside. We have to do that too sometimes, but our approach is trying to grow within.
Gamble: Are there any particular characteristics or qualities that you really find valuable?
Peterson: I think attitude and behaviors play a lot into who’s going to make a good leader. People who are engaged, who are self-motivated, who have a positive attitude, and go above and beyond — they seem to always make pretty good leaders. They want to do the right thing; they have that drive. And I think a positive attitude is key as we move forward. I can train you on skills, but I can’t train you on behavior. Sometimes, those type of elements are already built within you, and so those are the characteristics we look for.
Gamble: Right. Now, the last thing I wanted to ask was about being at the organization since 2001. That’s pretty rare in our industry, and I wanted to ask, what has kept you there? What’s made you want to stay with the organization through all these changes?
Peterson: I think it’s the constant growth of the organization — not being stagnant, but being able to grow and continue to implement new and exciting projects, and to be involved with our great executive team. And I report to a great leader — that’s huge. He’s been here that long as well. Having that kind of relationship, having the respect from the executive team, and the support from them is the key element in staying at an organization.
Gamble: Right. Well, this covers what I wanted to talk about. I really appreciate you taking some time to chat. I know you have a thousand things on your plate, so thanks very much.
Peterson: You’re welcome. I’ll talk to you soon.