For healthcare IT leaders, ensuring teams are engaged and feel connected to mission is becoming increasingly critical. “It’s always been important for me to make sure I can translate for my teams how the work they do supports our patients and clinicians, and contributes to the strategic success of the organization,” said Maureen Hetu, AVP of IS Operations at Penn Medicine.
The most effective way to do that, she said during a recent interview, is to go right to the source by inviting clinicians to tell their stories and help IS teams realize “the tremendous positive impact they have.” During the interview, Hetu talked about how her team is leveraging storytelling to improve satisfaction, why relationship-building and collaboration are more important than ever, and how her guiding philosophy has evolved through the years. She also discussed the benefits of being with an academic medical center, what attracted her to Penn Medicine, and the qualities she finds most valuable in future leaders.
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- One of Hetu’s key priorities is migrating finance, supply chain, and HR functions to Infor CloudSuite across the organization, which she hopes will provide an opportunity to “take advantage of much more complex tools so we can improve processes.”
- Penn Medicine’s IS team was able to “adapt quickly” during the early days of the pandemic and ensure remote workers had the telecommunications support they needed. “They’re a pretty agile group.”
- Having tools like Microsoft Teams has proven invaluable in facilitating collaboration — not just between managers and teams, but among team members.
- “It’s not just a matter of making sure projects occur on time and on budget, but making sure we’re providing the right talent for those initiatives that are most important to the organization.”
- As an IT leader, “you rely on your relationship building skills to understand the organization, and you use your experience and expertise to make sure you’re addressing challenges.”
Q&A with Maureen Hetu, AVP, IS Operations, Penn Medicine, Part 1
Gamble: Hi Maureen, thanks so much for taking some time to speak with healthsystemCIO. Let’s start with a high-level overview of Penn Medicine.
Hetu: Penn Medicine includes six acute care hospitals and hundreds of outpatient locations throughout the region. Several of our hospitals are located in the city of Philadelphia, but we also have a hospital in Chester County and one in Princeton, N.J., so we’re spread out a bit geographically.
In terms of my role, I have responsibility for IS operations. That covers a range of functions, including the service desk, IS project management office, corporate applications, IS finance and contracting, and oversight of our ERP deployment that’s currently underway.
Gamble: In terms of the structure, who do you report to?
Hetu: I report to Mike Restuccia, who is the senior VP and CIO at Penn Medicine.
Gamble: You mentioned ERP. What are you doing in that area?
Hetu: Penn Medicine decided several years ago to move from Lawson S3 to Infor CloudSuite. And so, an implementation effort is currently underway to migrate all of the finance, supply chain, and human resource functions to the cloud across all of our hospitals. It’s also an opportunity to integrate Lancaster General Hospital, which is one of Penn Medicine’s facilities, onto a common application. And so, it helps complete the business transformation, as well as doing an upgrade of the software.
Last year, human capital management components went live across all of the facilities except for Lancaster General. We’re currently in the process of migrating the financial and of supply chain functions across all of the entities onto Infor CloudSuite. That will go live in July of 2023.
And then ultimately, we’ll bring human capital management for LGH in subsequent phases onto Infor CloudSuite as well. In doing so, we’re providing an opportunity to take advantage of much more complex tools so that we can improve processes, and also complete the integration for Lancaster General.
Gamble: In terms of the service desk, I’m sure it’s been affected quite a bit in the past two years. Can you talk about what you’re doing in that area?
Hetu: Traditionally in the IS service desk, you’re supporting the internal customers. You’re supporting all of the employees and clinicians using the systems. One of the things that was interesting as I came to Penn Medicine is that our service desk also provides support for patients using myPennMedicine, which is our portal.
There’s a constant influx of patient calls as we continue to add functionality to it. And so, we’re always looking to make sure we’ve got the right resources, that they’re well educated, and that we connect them back to the clinical and operational areas that need to be involved if the concerns a patient has aren’t necessarily related to the technology they’re using. Obviously, we get a variety of calls that require input from the clinicians, and we make sure to connect them back to the clinical spaces.
“They didn’t skip a beat.”
Gamble: Is the service desk mostly remote at this point?
Hetu: They are. Actually, other than our desktop support and clinical engineering staffs, the majority of the IS function is in hybrid mode right now. And so, while there are some days when staff may be on site, the majority of time they’re working remotely. The service desk is using that model as well.
It happened pretty quickly. As Covid infection rates started to rise, we not only moved the majority of the IS staff to remote, but also supported the organization in moving a significant number of our back-office staff into a remote model.
The service desk was dependent on having the right telecommunication services in place — having a call center that could help support them remotely and having the technology that they needed. But they’re a pretty agile group. They adapted very quickly. They didn’t report to me at that point, and so I can’t take credit, but they did not skip a beat.
Gamble: It was an enormous change. We’ve spoken with some CIOs about what it took to make sure people had what they needed, especially in the beginning, and check in on them. What has the experience been like for you?
Hetu: We rely on Microsoft Teams and video conferencing pretty heavily at this point, which means check-ins are happening virtually. I think having a collaboration tool has helped significantly, both in having access to chat and video conferencing, and also being able to find creative ways to have team meetings and still build relationships — not just between the managers and teams, but between the team members themselves.
One of the nuances we recognized recently is that we have staff at this point who haven’t met all of their team members because they’re primarily remote. And so, it’s important to make sure we give them an opportunity to get introduced to their teams. As cases start to level out, we want to create opportunities to bring them onsite so that they can connect with people personally, while also recognizing that there’s a significant desire on the part of employees to work remotely, at least part of the time. We’re very careful that we remain in a hybrid, flexible environment so that the staff can come onsite when they want to, but also work remotely when it’s necessary.
Continuity through remote teams
Gamble: Having that flexibility is so important. Peoples’ lives have been turned upside-down, and so it’s really important for leaders to be able to accommodate that as much as possible, which is not an easy thing to do.
Hetu: It definitely creates some complications. If you think about the burden that all of that staff took on during the roller coaster that was Covid-19, the pace of change and the new requirements — all of those things required a significant amount of effort and commitment from the teams to make them happen, whether it was adjusting the EMR to be able to support the treatment for Covid, or it was standing up testing sites, expanding ICUs, and eventually dealing with vaccines, the teams delivered. Remote or not, they delivered.
We recognized that although there had been hesitation across the industry to support a remote workforce in the past, we’ve seen that the back-office functions that don’t directly provide patient care and support caregivers onsite can be done just as effectively offsite. And it provided us a continuity that we may not have had otherwise, if you think about all of the areas that were shut down to protect the health of employees. We were able to do that and still provide that service.
Never a lack of opportunity
Gamble: Right. Let’s switch gears a bit. Your role has changed since you first arrived at Penn. Can you talk a bit about that?
Hetu: Sure. When I came to the organization, I started as associate CIO of entity services. I had responsibility for the entity information officers, which is the role within our individual hospitals and for our outpatient physician practice organizations. Because of my background as CIO, I was used to dealing with hospital executives and I was familiar with hospital operations. And so, it was a natural place for me to be able to support those leaders as they provided that service to their individual hospitals, um, and our other entities. Several months ago, there was an opportunity in the IS operations area to move into the AVP position for IS operations. That was the next level for me to be able to support the organization and expand my impact across Penn Medicine.
It’s a lot of back-office functions, and so it’s little bit different than being on the front lines and providing support for the clinicians. But given the rate at which change happens at Penn Medicine, there’s never a lack of opportunity to be able to make a difference. I’ve enjoyed being able to work with the corporate applications group and participate in ERP deployment, as well as interacting with all our professionals in the project management office, especially within IT. It’s not just a matter of making sure projects occur on time and on budget and meeting objectives, but, on a broader level, making sure we’re providing the right talent for those initiatives that are most important to the organization, at the right time. It’s working to make sure we stay in lockstep with clinical and operational leaders on what’s important to the organization.
Relying on past experience
Gamble: How did you approach that transition?
Hetu: It’s interesting; if you think about our careers as IT professionals, one of the things that we face constantly is change. You’re constantly dealing with new technologies that are coming down the pipeline. You’re dealing with industry changes within healthcare, and you are dealing with a variety of functions across the organization. Having been a CIO in the past, I had a broad background, and I find I rely on that experience a lot.
Of course, you need to take into account that every organization is different. This is my first experience working in an academic medical center. And so obviously there are going to be differences. You rely on your versatility, you rely on your relationship building skills to understand the organization, and you use your experience and expertise to make sure you’re addressing individual challenges as best you can, whether it’s within entity services or within IS. I think I rely on the versatility that attracted had attracted me to healthcare IT in the first place to be successful in any of these roles.