For Yale New Haven Health, one of the key components in being able to successfully launch a hospital-at-home initiative was maintaining “the simple connectivity and continuity of the medical record,” said Lisa Stump, SVP and Chief Information and Digital Transformation Officer, in a recent podcast interview. The others, which are just as critical, are appointing the right people to help lead the project and identifying an outside partner that can provide the missing pieces.
During the discussion, Stump also talked about the challenges Yale New Haven Health is facing with retaining IT talent; how her team was able to draw on relationships and trust during the most difficult days of Covid-19; and why it’s so important for leaders to be able to tie the everyday work teams are doing to the mission of healthcare.
LISTEN HERE USING THE PLAYER BELOW OR SUBSCRIBE THROUGH YOUR FAVORITE PODCASTING SERVICE.
- It’s not the tenured staff who tend to pose the flight risk, but rather, those who spend a year with the organization, get the training and experience, and look elsewhere. “Turnover is one of our biggest challenges right now.”
- The big advantage healthcare organizations have over other industries is the mission. For leaders, the task is to make individuals feel “like we’re part of something bigger.”
- For Yale New Haven Health, being able to “draw on relationships and credibility you build over time” was critical in getting through the early stages of Covid.
- “Innovation isn’t just about spinning up a company and intellectual property; it’s about making care better for the people who provide it.”
Q&A with Lisa Stump, Yale New Haven Health, Part 2 [Click here to view Part 1]
Gamble: You touched on recruiting, which is something that so many leaders are struggling with right now. How are you approaching this?
Stump: It’s really difficult in terms of attrition. The ability for people to work from home for just about anyone in the world led to an exponential increase in the competition for our talent. Our IT workforce already had been utilizing remote work for a while before the pandemic, but it was one or two days a week to help people with work life balance. Now, many of my team now are 100 percent remote.
And we have found that people who have with the organization for 10 years are loyal; they’re not as much of a flight risk. What we’re seeing is the people who come in new to the organization, we’re spending all of that investment on training them and building their skill set working in a big, complex place. And within a year or two, they’re leaving. That turnover, I think, is one of our biggest challenges right now. Like many organizations, we’re trying to maintain competitive wages and benefits when the hospitals are under significant financial challenges, and it’s been very hard. Talented IT people can go work for industry or banking or tech companies that are able to pay more than most of us can in healthcare. I’ve got more vacancies right now than I want.
Gamble: When it’s difficult to compete and you can’t offer the same salaries as other industries, is that where you try to tie in the mission of healthcare?
Stump: Yes. And we find that the grass is always greener. Folks will leave and then come back and say, ‘This really has a better upside.’ It’s that mission-driven commitment to healthcare in their local community — their mom’s healthcare system or their child’s doctor — there’s that loyalty.
We’ve also tried to bring flexibility and the ability to work from home, although many can offer that. And I’m not promising anything, but we’re starting to explore a 4-day work week. Many folks on my team have asked for it. It comes back to mission and culture. As I was doing open forums, a member of my team — who was one of the people I hired when we were initially building our Epic team in 2010 — said to me, ‘When you hired me onto this team, you made us feel like we were part of something special and bigger than ourselves.’ He said, ‘It’s still true today and that’s why I’m still here.’
And then one of the other people on my little Hollywood squares zoom screen, who had been on my team officially for about six months (after being a consultant for year), told me that the culture we’ve built is the reason he’s now an employee.
Gamble: I’m sure it helps having initiatives like the hospital-at-home program, which is such a huge step for patient care.
Gamble: How long have you been with the organization now?
Stump: It was 26 years in August. For about half of my career I was in pharmacy as a pharmacist, clinical pharmacist, director of pharmacy, and then for half I’ve been in healthcare IT.
Gamble: Having been with the organization for a while and having that history, do you believe it was an advantage in getting through Covid-19 and leading through that difficult time?
Stump: Yes. It’s the relationships and the trust that you build. Everything was very uncertain, and so, being able to draw on those relationships and the credibility that we built over time was a tremendous help. When we needed all hands on deck, it made a difference to know who was out there. And it might not be their day job, but they still brought the heart and hands and minds that we needed, which was pretty helpful.
Gamble: Looking at this now, as we’re moving past Covid-19, what are your biggest priorities? I imagine it’s always evolving and shifting, but what are the key objectives for your team?
Stump: We’re working through some difficult financial challenges, and so I think the top priority right now is to continue to find opportunities to take costs out of the organization. And we’re doing that in two ways; first, the traditional route of reducing IT expenses — working with vendor partners and contractual relationships, and the ongoing portfolio management and consolidation. It’s not the most exciting thing in the world. I don’t get wake up and say, ‘Let me sharpen my pencil and do that again.’
The more exciting piece is looking at workforce automation opportunities — where we can leverage robotic process automation and more advanced digital capabilities to reduce our reliance on a very expensive workforce across the organization. And it’s not just that; it’s also addressing burnout. Everyone in these hallways is feeling that burnout, physically and cognitively. Automating work to ease that is really important.
The supply and demand isn’t balanced right now around the workforce. And so, anywhere we can get a bot or other technology to do work that today relies on people, we’re going to take advantage of that.
Gamble: It does seem like there’s a lot of potential. So, the last thing I wanted to talk about is having an innovative mindset — how do you work to foster that culture?
Stump: I think it’s about bringing that focus back to why we’re all here. Innovation is not just about spinning up a company and intellectual property. It’s about making care better for the people who provide it and the people to which we deliver it. When we can keep people focused on that, and not get caught up in all the minutiae around contracting and the technical relationships, but instead bring forward ideas that will make things better, that’s how you keep the spirit alive. We’re doing a lot of that.
I would say our third priority is around access and capacity management. And so, part of that financial turnaround is truly to ensure we can continue to bring patients and volume in, but in a way that’s easy and enjoyable. I always say, none of us want to be patients, and so, the easier we can make it to get the services you need and the care you need, the better off we are.
And it requires people to think differently. We tend to be very focused on, ‘this is how this building operates.’ Instead, let’s think about what patients need. The hospital at home is a key example of that.
Gamble: I think it’s going to be interesting. We’re going to see more developments in that area, but that’s not going to happen overnight, but I think it’ll be really interesting.
Stump: Exactly. And we have folks Amazon, Walgreens and Walmart all looking to get into this space. So, we do need to think very differently.