I wrote weekly editorials for a boutique industry newsletter for several years, anxious for both audience and income. I learned a lot about coming up with ideas for the weekly grind, trying to be simultaneously opinionated and entertaining in a few hundred words, and not sleeping much because I was working all the time. They’re fun to read as a look back at what was important then (and often still important now).
I wrote this piece in January 2007.
Happy 2007 – Now Get Back to Work!
By Mr. HIStalk
Happy New Year! Considering the alternative, be glad that you were alive and well enough to eat and drink too much over the past couple of weeks. Now get back to work!
You’ll notice your local newspaper, having slyly given many of the real news staff time off for the holidays, is padding out their already-slim editions with time-insensitive material written in advance or copied off the wire services: witless phony New Year’s resolutions for local politicians, tired rosters of the biggest personalities and celebrity deaths of 2006, and pleas for donations to community causes.
I can see why. Healthcare IT news is sparse this time of year, too. No one wants to bring out new products, start implementations, hire or fire people, or make changes in the strategic plan when no one is paying attention (hmm: this would actually be a good time to announce bad news, wouldn’t it?)
If our industry was a sport, the season would begin at the HIMSS conference in late February. It sets the tone for the upcoming year, as companies save positive announcements to coincide with the annual bacchanal. Vendors who make a bad impression at HIMSS will find it difficult to recover throughout the year, with attendees critically evaluating their demonstrations, booth size, staff attire, and cheery spirit or lack thereof. No wonder that even those companies in imminent danger of collapse spend the equivalent of a small country’s gross domestic product on one glorious, go-for-broke HIMSS splash, hoping against odds to get their money’s worth in new business.
Hospitals, too, get busy after months of letting IT projects lie fallow. No wonder ROI is hard to come by — projects come to a screeching halt because of non-IT staff refusal to get involved during (a) the November to January holiday block; (b) summer vacations; (c) school spring breaks; (d) impending JCAHO or state inspection visits; and (e) local, state, or national conferences involving anyone remotely involved in projects. No wonder implementations take forever – they’re on hiatus half the year.
CIOs have plenty of work to do. All those clinical systems projects still need to be finished. Celebrate the completion of major phases with some downtime and reflection, don’t forget to keep pushing at needed process changes and system improvements, and then jump into the next round of work. Clinical systems projects are like painting the Golden Gate Bridge: they’re never finished.
Speaking of clinical systems, if you haven’t yet made a commitment to bedside barcode verification of medications, then now’s the time. Same, too, with tightening up your Pyxis access with biometric security, override vigilance, and double-checked stocking procedures. Your patient safety experts aren’t sitting in IT, so get them involved and listen to their recommendations.
Microsoft has a new operating system and Office version – yay! Users will be upgrading at home, scornfully wondering why your IT department is holding them back in the Stone Age with systems they shamefully underuse anyway. You needed that non-strategic headache, right? At least PC hardware keeps getting cheaper, right about the time Vista will neutralize the benefit by requiring more of it.
RHIOs will want your attention in 2007. Your data, too. Maybe now’s the time to catalog all the electronic data elements you have available and to develop a plan to move important paper-based ones to electronic formats.
If you haven’t already, let one of your computer geeks play around (officially) with Linux, both server and desktop. If you aren’t running it at all now, you will be soon. In fact, you might as well encourage your nerds to bring in whatever compiler, software, scripts, tools, or websites they’re fooling around with because the gap between hobby computing and work computing is narrowing. At least you’ll be able to explain to youthful users why your hospital doesn’t need an official MySpace page.
Stark relaxation means you may need to support a new class of impatient, computer-illiterate users: doctors in private practice and the inconsistent employees they hire. Keep stats to get budget dollars since those support hours have to come from somewhere. It’s a warning you don’t need: office EMRs are going to be hot for the foreseeable future, which means lots of newbies are going to need help.
Lastly, if you’re in management, please make sure to recognize and reward those who work for you. When you get too full of yourself, make a list of which essential personnel would be needed in case of system failure, natural disaster, or clinical emergency. You’re probably not on it.
I hope our industry and all of us working in it have an excellent 2007. If in doubt about a particular course of action, remember WWIWAAP (which you may pronounce WEE-WEE-WAP, since I just made it up): what would I want as a patient?