The early 90s was an exciting time in healthcare, to say the least. Technology was poised for major growth, and IT leaders faced mounting pressures to make sure their organizations weren’t left behind. Navigating this new world of “application parades” and sky-high expectations, however, proved tricky, and the need for a professional organization quickly became apparent.
“The way we get things done is through partnerships,” said John Glaser, PhD, Executive in Residence at Harvard Medical School and one of the founders of CHIME. “We wanted to create an organization to help our CIO colleagues step up their game, because it was clear this was coming, and they had to be able to handle this. They had to be able to lead that conversation.”
Thirty years later, it’s safe to say that the goal was achieved.
During a discussion at the CHIME22 Fall Forum, Glaser and co-panelists Theresa Meadows (SVP & CIO, Cook Children’s Health Care System) and Andrea Daugherty (Interim CIO, Dell Medical School at UT Austin) shared perspectives on how they’re managing the biggest challenges in healthcare — and in doing so, demonstrated the spirit of collaboration that was set into motion decades earlier.
“That’s the power of CHIME and other professional organizations,” said Daugherty. “We can have those conversations and come together and advocate for change that will hopefully make things better.”
And while there’s no shortage of challenges that require the time and attention of CIOs, perhaps none is more acute than the workforce crisis, which was a primary point of discussion for the panel, which was moderated by Liz Johnson.
“We’re all really struggling with this,” said Meadows, whose team current has 90 open positions. “This is an opportunity for innovation and thinking differently.” One way is by conducting surveys, which can provide “rich data about why people are burned out and why they’re leaving.”
Another is to create job share programs and leverage virtual nursing capabilities, she said. “A lot of the departments that support clinical care are great places to innovate and maybe free up some of the workforce.”
“It starts at home”
What can’t get lost in the shuffle, however, is the emotional toll that the past few years have had on both IT and clinical staff, noted Daugherty. “It starts at home. We’re in the business of healthcare, and sometimes we forget that as we manage our workforce. We’re so focused on outcomes and delivery, and we don’t always take the time to do a pulse check on our people.”
Mental health, Daugherty noted, needs to be at the forefront for all leaders, whether that means ensuring staff have access to internal and external resources, or simply offering support. “We need to look at ways to encourage them and keep them engaged.”
Glaser agreed, noting that he believes it’s not necessary the “great resignation” that’s affecting the industry, but rather, “job flipping.” Resignation rates have remained relatively flat over the past 20 years; what has changed, he said, are the expectations. “I don’t care if you’re a doctor, nurse, or teacher. People have more on their plates than ever before. And it’s not just a healthcare issue — it’s bigger than that, and it’s not going to be easy to solve.”
Stepping out of the box
And while there’s no silver bullet, there are steps leaders can take to improve the outlook. One idea is to look outside of IT, said Daugherty, who started her career as a pharmacy technician, and hopes to encourage others to expand their horizons.
But it takes more than just posting an ad. “I’ve started going out into some of the non-traditional departments and asking, ‘have you ever thought about joining IT? Here’s how your skills are transferrable.’ It’s amazing to see how excited people get; most of the time, they don’t realize they have the skillsets. There’s still this misconception that you have to be a technical person to be in technology, but you don’t.”
Meadows agreed, encouraging leaders to venture even further to find talent — especially those who aren’t bound by the conservative thinking that has hindered healthcare. “Bring people into your organization who challenge you,” she said. Although hiring an assistant VP of digital from the consumer side has led to numerous discussions — and some frustration — for her team, she has no doubt it was the right move. “You need to be open to people who will challenge you and be accepting of those challenges,” she added. “Those ideas are how you move an organization forward.”