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Advisory Panel: Keeping Peers Informed About IT

October 16, 2013 Advisory Panel No Comments

The HIStalk Advisory Panel is a group of hospital CIOs, hospital CMIOs, practicing physicians, and a few vendor executives who have volunteered to provide their thoughts on topical industry issues. I’ll seek their input every month or so on an important news developments and also ask the non-vendor members about their recent experience with vendors. E-mail me to suggest an issue for their consideration.

If you work for a hospital or practice, you are welcome to join the panel. I am grateful to the HIStalk Advisory Panel members for their help in making HIStalk better.

This question this time: What methods do you employ to keep your executive peers informed about IT initiatives, spending, and plans?

Regular face to face meetings (or a call) are always the best. 

Annual work plan development. Capital budgeting, especially the part of the process where business execs say yes/no to requests and as a result prioritize investments. Monthly leadership report of IS accomplishments to plan.

It’s all about governance. You have to have the structures in place to meet with your peers and have the decision making process completely transparent. I also use our executive meetings as opportunities to get on the agenda on a quarterly basis to give updates regarding IT activities.

Routine updates at Exec Team meetings. Lots of meetings. Annual report.

Multi-year IT roadmap, status reports, status meetings.

Our admin team is right down in the weeds with us since HIT is such a big expense. They have been reasonably agile and able to understand what we are doing, and actually ask good questions. Sorry, not a very Dilbert response.

Historically, there has been a disconnect between what IT sends out the end-user leadership and what actually gets communicated down to the folks in the trenches. If I had a dollar for each time I’ve rounded on floors during downtimes on the weekends and heard, “No one told us the system was going to be down”, I’d be typing this from a warm sunny beach somewhere. To bridge the gap, we have started publishing, at a minimum once a month) a newsletter focused on the team members and what they need to know about  IT initiatives. The plea I have made is for each department leader to discuss the contents at their respective huddles and to place it on the communication boards each department maintains. Thus, any team member who works has an opportunity to review it. (Are they up on all the boards in the hospital? What do you think? ) IT Updates are now a standing agenda item at the Friday weekly leadership huddle attended by senior leaders and department heads. I have two agenda items with the hope that repetition will help them connect the dots: (a) Here is what is happening one to two months out, and (b) here is what is going on next week. Beginning this budgetary cycle, I’m meeting with each department head (instead of their vice presidents) to discuss their goals / dreams / hopes for 2014. Many times IT has been backed into a corner by surprise requests coming from senior leaders that were unaware for whatever reason what their reports were considering. The hope here is if we can deal directly with the department head, we can set up a win/win experience for them and for us in terms of managing expectations.

Monthly updates in executive meetings if within organization – outside organization at regional and national meetings. Email within organization when appropriate. Newsletters to executives when appropriate.

IT leadership directly involved in system leadership councils and directly report to most senior leadership to be sure efforts are aligned with strategy. Involvement of clinical leadership in IT prioritization, governance bodies.

Monthly meetings, inclusion in the distribution announcements, phone calls on surprises, etc. This is most effective if the executive understands the importance of IT and informatics. When they don’t, it’s pretty useless.

IT participates in strategic planning sessions with health system executives. This was not true a few years ago, but is now. IT produces and sends out a monthly dashboard to executives of all key projects, which includes project status and barriers to completion. Each project has a health system executive as the key sponsor.

Lots of financial reports, for one. Those are what matter really, cost projections and cost actual. Outside of that we have a very simply way of showing project statuses. The classic green, yellow, red with only 5-10 lines of detail. There are also numerous meetings with different members of the executive suite on any given week as well. 

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