It takes a certain personality type to be able to walk into an organization and start making changes right away. When Bill Bishop took on the role of CIO at Colquitt Regional Medical Center, he knew that there were “antiquated processes” that needed to be revamped — and that there was going to be some resistance, but he didn’t let that stop him. And although he lost a few people with his “double-edge approach” of pushing for improvements while also being transparent, the core group remained largely in place, and is now working toward becoming an integrated system.
In this interview, Bishop talks about the strategy his team used to implement Meditech 6.1 in the hospital — and how they’ll tweak it to roll it out in the clinics; why he believes engagement from both physicians and nurses is paramount to a project’s success; and how his past life in product development provided him with insights into the vendor world.
- Pushing portals through word-of-mouth
- Using consultants “as an extension of our staff.”
- Coming to Colquitt: “It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”
- His approach as the new CIO – “I’m not scared to make changes.”
- Importance of open communication
- Cutting transcription costs with Dragon
- Past life on the vendor side: “It gave me insight.”
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My IT staff really likes the new platform better — it’s easier to support it. For the people that were accustomed to what I call the green screen environment, it was a little bit of a transition because they were used to buttons being in the same place every day.
We didn’t want to ramp up and then have to cut staff, so we got a consulting firm to help us with training and help us with building, and they really served just as an extension of our staff.
There were some very antiquated processes. There were a lot of things that were just not running efficiently. So I approached it first with a lot of changes — you push and push and push, and when employees are hitting their breaking point, you try to roll in and mesh with the environment. It worked well.
A lot of times I will say no, but I do listen, and I encourage my managers to listen and to really foster a good relationship with their employees, because most of these people are here for the long haul, and I want people to enjoy coming to work.
Having that vendor experience and the programming experience to know what is possible with some systems and what’s not possible and be able to tell people realistically ‘you can’t make the system do that,’ has been really effective for me, every step of the way.
Gamble: It’s interesting that you the word ‘push,’ because when you’re talking certain populations, it does seem like health systems are having to push patients toward a portal when they don’t necessarily want to go there. And there’s not one way to do this; patients can have so many different preferences and needs.
Bishop: It’s tough. One strategy is we really encourage our employees to use the patient portal, and we encourage the employees to talk about it with their family and with other people they speak with. In a rural community, it’s a pretty good strategy. The day before yesterday, I had some lab work done, and yesterday I pulled it up online and saw what the results were, which would normally take a few days for the doctor to call them in. And so we really try to explain that you can get the information very quickly — within 48 hours — if you’re willing to sign up for our portal.
Gamble: Right. Earlier, you talked about moving to a web-based platform and how it was almost like a recruiting tool for some of the physicians and nurses. What about some of the other employees and even IT staff — is it a challenge sometimes to either recruit or hold on to people when you’re in a rural area?
Bishop: No, I don’t think retention is a big problem. My IT staff really likes the new platform better — it’s easier to support it. For the people that were accustomed to what I call the green screen environment, it was a little bit of a transition because they were used to buttons being in the same place every day. A lot of people could do their jobs without really completely paying attention to the screen, with the point and click; but it really wasn’t a retention thing. Another thing that’s really unique about Colquitt Regional is that people really want to be here. So unless someone is looking to go try to make a lot more money somewhere else, we have good retention for IT, nursing, and physicians. Once you get here, we normally keep people. We have some people that have been 50 years.
Gamble: That’s impressive. You also mentioned using consultants — was that for the inpatient Meditech migration?
Bishop: We’re doing it with both. We use consultants as an extension of our staff here. For inpatient there were more consultants, and then we recently signed up another consulting firm to help us with the ambulatory part.
Gamble: So it’s about having additional resources to help throughout the training process?
Bishop: Yes. We did not want to add staff, and then cut people because we really didn’t need them anymore. We didn’t want to ramp up and then have to cut staff, so we got a consulting firm to help us with training and help us with building, and they really served just as an extension of our staff. For the inpatient side, they were here for two years. For the Web Ambulatory side, they’re going to be here about a year and a half.
Gamble: Okay. So enough time to really be able to provide at-the-elbow support and make sure the knowledge is passed along.
Bishop: Yes. They honestly felt like they were part of our team. I think many people felt they were employed by the hospital.
Gamble: That sounds like a good thing. And now you’ve been with the organization for about four years?
Gamble: What was your previous role before coming to Colquitt?
Bishop: I was about 30 minutes up the road at Archbold Medical Center. My title, I think, was director of Applications. I was over all of the applications at the hospital. Archbold is a four-hospital medical center, but I was over all of the applications — clinical, financial at that hospital, and physician practice.
Gamble: What was it that drew you to Colquitt? Was it the opportunity to hold the CIO role?
Bishop: Actually, the CEO called me. I wasn’t looking; I wasn’t even considering a move. I was 30 minutes up the road. I was already living in Moultrie, which is in Colquitt County, and worked outside the county. He gave me a call and I came in, and he sold me on Colquitt Regional Medical Center, and it’s probably one of the best decisions that I’ve ever made in my life.
Gamble: Wow. It’s nice when that happens; it doesn’t usually happen getting a direct call like that.
Bishop: It was kind of strange, but it worked out well for me.
Gamble: Right. And as far as stepping into the CIO role, did you have any hesitancies, or did you reach out to anyone for advice?
Bishop: I was really close with the CIO at Archbold, and so I had some advice. But I really just took the ball and ran with it when I got here.
Gamble: What was your approach with the staff? I imagine it can be tough, especially with an organization like Colquitt where a lot of people have been there for a long time. How do you approach that being the new person?
Bishop: Unfortunately, right at the beginning, I had to approach it with a lot of changes. There were some very antiquated processes. There were a lot of things that were just not running efficiently. So I approached it first with a lot of changes — you push and push and push, and when employees are hitting their breaking point, you try to roll in and mesh with the environment. It worked well.
There were a lot of employees here that really wanted change, so it made it easier, and the changes weren’t really fought very much. But there were a lot of changes that had to be made. I did lose a couple of employees after I started because of the push, but we’ve gotten to the point now that we’re pretty much a family, with open communication. Any problems and any successes, we all talk on a daily basis, round on a daily basis with each other. So it was kind of a double-edged approach to push and push, then get the team environment together.
Gamble: Right. Do you think that was one of the reasons the CEO thought of you — because you were willing to drive change?
Bishop: I really don’t know what got him to call me. They needed change and yes, I am a person that’s not scared to make some changes. I imagine that had something to do with it. Also, I lived in Moultrie. I had the background and the experience, and I wanted to live here. I think that had a lot to do with it too. There aren’t a lot of people with the experience I have that live in Moultrie. I’m sure there was a lot of factors, but I think part of it was because I lived here and wanted to be here.
Gamble: Sure. So it seems like you’re close with your staff, and there’s a lot of communication. Is that how you would characterize your leadership style — as someone who’s very open?
Bishop: I am very direct, but I’m also very open, and I don’t mind listening to anybody. A lot of times I will say no, but I do listen, and I encourage my managers to listen and to really foster a good relationship with their employees, because most of these people are here for the long haul, and I want people to enjoy coming to work.
Gamble: Right. Getting into vendor relationships, Meditech is one that has been a long-time partner of the organization. I would imagine the CIO has to have a really deliberate strategy with talking with vendors, but in your case, Colquitt had already been a Meditech shop.
Bishop: Yes, we had been in Meditech shop for many years before I got here. At a previous job, I had looked at several other vendors, including Meditech. Even before I got here, it stood out as a really successful choice, monetary-wise and functionality-wise for a hospital our size. So I had already done the research, and with Meditech already being embedded in here, I really thought it was a win-win to upgrade and keep it here. Meditech and I have a really close working relationship. I do site visits for them. That relationship is very good.
Gamble: Right, and then you mentioned Nuance too. When you have vendor partners especially being a rural organization, I would think that it’s especially important to make sure that your team is getting everything you need from a product.
Bishop: I call it Nuance, but it’s actually Dragon. That actually started when I got here, I noticed we had an inordinate amount of transcription costs. So that was a financially-based decision to move to Dragon, but it really turned out to be something that the physicians really liked. You have two schools of thought: either I’m going to type out my notes, or I’m going to use the dictation with Dragon. It’s really worked well, and fortunately, it saved the hospital a lot of money by making that change. It’s not often that you save money and get good results with a change like that.
Gamble: Right, definitely true. Going back to your career path, you had some experience on the product development side in your past?
Bishop: I did. I worked in Jacksonville, where I started out as a developer and then senior developer, and then I was a development manager for a company that started as First Coast Systems, then was purchased by Keane. My development career actually started because I want to live at the beach out of college, so that’s what I did. I wrote software for financial, clinical, scheduling — pretty much everything that we had at some point. I was in that role as a development manager for roughly 11 or 12 years in Jacksonville, and that gave me a lot of insight from a vendor perspective that I really use today.
Sometimes, I don’t feel like vendors are completely honest with what’s happening, and with my vendor perspective, I can kind of read into some of that. Having that experience and the programming experience to know what is possible with some systems and what’s not possible and be able to tell people realistically ‘you can’t make the system do that,’ has been really effective for me, every step of the way since I left Jacksonville.
Gamble: I’m sure that’s good background to have, and hopefully you got to spend some time at the beach.
Bishop: I did. I actually lived a block off the beach for about five years.
Gamble: Very nice. All right, well, I think that covers what I wanted to talk about. Really interesting. It’s great to hear from CIOs from independent hospitals about your experiences and everything you guys are doing to remain that way. So thanks so much for your time. I really appreciate it, and I think this will be interesting for our readers.
Bishop: No problem. Thank you.