Healthcare is one of the most collaborative industries I know. Granted, my entire professional career has been in health IT, so maybe that’s a bold but uninformed statement. Healthcare organizations are very open, transparent and willing to learn from one another. Whether it’s sharing best practices, hosting site visits, or the many collaborative groups that leaders participate in, we are constantly learning from one another.
Our upcoming Epic go-live at the University of Vermont Health Network is no exception. Of course, we rely on the experience that our implementation partner and vendors have had at other similar organizations. That’s why organizations utilize their services.
But there’s also the professional networks that we develop and nurture over the years to draw on. When our CIO, Adam Buckley, asked me to look at an area that he was concerned about as we approach the go-live, I did what I do. First, learn from the people doing the work and find out their concerns and what they think we need to do to ensure success. Then, turn to colleagues who have gone before us.
While I wasn’t close to this specific area when I was CIO at University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers and we implemented Epic, I knew I could talk to someone who was. I reached out to my CIO successor and one of the executive directors there to get a contact to talk to. Within an afternoon I had gotten a good sense from them of how they handled that function and insights from colleagues at two other large healthcare organizations. And then a follow-up call to drill down further with someone who manages the function. That’s the power of having a strong network and being able to learn from others. I owe them one!
User group meetings and customer focused websites are also important resources – you can get answers and see presentations on what others have done. But being able to go directly to someone and drill down on your specific questions is invaluable.
When I was a CIO, I was fortunate to be part of a roughly 30-person group of healthcare CIOs from all over the country who met annually to network and share ideas. But what about the rest of the year? We had a sort of “covenant” that we would help each other out. For example, if I or one of my IT leaders ran into a situation or was trying to figure out something new with a technology or vendor, I could put a query out to the group. Within 24 hours I could count on at least 2/3 of them getting back to me with an answer. When I started doing interim management, having that “go to” group of colleagues was one of the things I missed the most.
Fortunately, I have built a strong network over my many years in this industry and can still pick up the phone and get an answer or advice. You never want to feel like you are on an island. It’s rare that you are doing something for the first time that no one else has done. Unless you are one of the few top tier forward thinking earliest adopter innovative organizations that we all can name. And even those organizations don’t do everything first and at times look to learn from others.
While I will miss the CHIME Fall Forum this year for the first time since 2001 due to our upcoming go live, I know that my colleagues there will be learning and sharing as they always do.
Speaking of healthcare conferences and peer learning, my oldest daughter called me on the way home from the airport recently full of enthusiasm, inspiration and grand ideas for what she could do to advance healthcare. She’s the Chief Nurse Practitioner on a busy ortho unit at a Boston area hospital. She had just attended the AANC National Magnet Conference. I loved hearing her describe all the innovative programs she had learned about from nursing colleagues around the country. It reminded me of all the days we walked together to and from work when I was CIO at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and she was a staff nurse. There is no end to what we can accomplish if we keep our minds open and curious learning from one another.
And let’s not forget learning from ourselves. While our Wave 1 Epic go live is still ahead of us, planning for Wave 2 has started. The Wave 2 project director has been named. She is starting to shadow and learn from the final weeks of Wave 1 activity. As we approach the go live, we all have lessons and observations on what we could have done better or differently. If it’s a small adjustment we can still make, we do it. If not, it goes on the list for the mega lessons learned session to come.