VA is a much more complicated rollout since there are so many different interactions and configurations of VistA. In addition,…
Parker Hinshaw is CEO and co-founder of maxIT Healthcare.
What made you move from the provider side to running companies?
I’m a service-oriented kind of a thinker. It always felt like one of my strengths was surrounding myself with really talented people because I need people around me that could make me look good, I suppose. It was successful for me working in hospitals.
It seemed like there was just a real need for that out in the marketplace. The software vendors always struggle with how they keep their costs down. They end up hiring a lot of young people who take awhile to really be productive. Also, generally speaking, they don’t have a real hospital experience, so they’re learning on the job. And they’re overpriced.
So when I looked at it, it seemed like there was just a real opportunity to do two things. One was to create opportunities for people who ran up against the ceiling at a hospital, as a really good technical person or functional application person. You can get bored at some point in time if you’re really somebody who needs to be learning new things all the time. In a hospital, you’re going to run out of new things to do.
It’s just interesting that you can hire folks that are underpaid at a hospital, pay them better, and still have a really positive, wholesome, healthy culture that you get at a hospital. Most people that work in healthcare are all about taking care of the patient in the end. That’s what drives us all, and the opportunity to do that even on a larger scale.
It’s those two things, I guess, and just a desire to create a company culture that’s very, very positive, because I’ve worked in many that weren’t. [laughs] It just seemed like if you were spending that much time working for someone, it ought to be a good thing. If you were going to spend that much time going to work, you should feeling good about going to work.
So I left the provider side and went to the software companies. That was bizarre. They were just so political, so aggressive in their treatment of people, so callous. It just didn’t work for me at all. I had to find something in between the two, I guess, in the end. This seemed to be a good thing.
Where were you working?
I spent time working for Compucare in the early 80s when they were going from an outsourcing firm — which is what I thought I was doing — (laughs) to becoming a software company. That was during the Baxter years. Baxter had acquired five good companies and messed them all up, in my opinion. [laughs]
Are you gearing up for new business because of ARRA?
Yes. To me, it’s just the next wave. I’ve been around a long time now. When you do something for 35 years, you start to see the patterns. If it hadn’t been this, it would have been something else, is my view of it.
This one seems like a really good one, though. I think this one is very exciting, because those of us who’ve been around a while always figured something had to change in a major scale, because we’ve been doing everything the same way, in reality, from the beginning of IT in healthcare.
I think it’s time. I don’t know how it’s going to shake out. I don’t think anybody does. But something had to change, and I don’t think they’re doing this because there’s not a problem. I’m very excited about it.
We’re also starting to get involved in the payer space primarily for those reasons, because something’s got to change. It seemed like a good opportunity in several different areas. It’s not just the hospitals and the ambulatory centers. It seems like a great opportunity to me.
So what type of things are you looking to do in the payer space?
It’s really very similar. It’s got an IT bent to it. It’s really all about the systems, change. You really look at what ours are about; it’s all about facilitating change. So most of the time IT is in the depths of all of that.
We fundamentally track the customer base of the software vendors because of what we were talking about before. The software vendors, because of the way they are reimbursed with delivery points ultimately, there is a parting of ways in the goals and objectives of the customer versus the goals and objectives of the software firm. That’s where firms like ours come in and fill that void, because they need to go on to closing their next deal and make sure the people keep their pipeline full.
Then they turn it over to the service organization of the software company. Then you’ve got all those dynamics that we were talking about before, the politics of the organization, those things, the churn that goes on with people trying to cover more than they could possibly handle. Those are the profit requirements of a for-profit company.
How does a consulting firm add value other than simply marking up the hourly rate of its consultants?
I think the way that we add value is that the IT side of the work that we do is almost secondary. What we really have is clinicians and financial folks first who happen to be really good with IT. I think the way that we really make a difference is — and hopefully, what we’re doing is hiring the cream of the crop, right? I mean, if we hire those people that hit the ceiling in a hospital because they’re better and they need more work, that kind of thing, then hopefully we’re better than the folks that are traditionally happy and satisfied staying at a hospital level.
So it’s really all about knowledge transfer. I talk to my folks all the time. “Your job, really, is to work yourself out of the job in every engagement that we do.” It’s all about knowledge transfer, right? If you do that really well, then that hospital that you’re working for is going to give you another job to work yourself out of.
So perpetual knowledge transfer is really what this is all about. Elevating the skill sets of the people in the hospital that use those products and understanding it.
People get satisfied doing the same job over and over and over again. Some people do. When they have to change and do something different, it takes a special person, I think, to help them understand that they can still get to that comfort zone that they’re used to. But it’s got to change. You have to move forward. Those people that like the process of change need to help those that don’t. I think that’s where we fit.
You’ve got eyes and ears all over the hospital IT business. What are the most interesting and innovative things being done out there right now?
I think there’s an awful lot of exciting things happening in cardiology, radiology. Lot of the clinical departments that we’re seeing a real need for that really aren’t the traditional spots that firms like ours work in. It’s usually about nursing or lab or pharmacy, all the traditional things that we spend most of our time on.
But right now, we’ve decided that what our role could be as a transitional thing and also to make work interesting for people, is to do departmental management consulting. I wouldn’t call it strategic in any way, but really it’s a lot about helping departments in a hospital do assessments, figure out how to better utilize the equipment that they have, improve on the work flows, all those kinds of things.
To me, it’s those kinds of areas where the technology is really improving, and we’re trying to figure out how to adapt to that and then tie it in to the traditional information system. It’s all related to the EMR; that’s where it’s all heading. Those areas that we may not even have thought about historically. “What’s going on in the OR?” “What’s going on in the ER?” and all those things.
Who do you admire in this industry?
Fundamentally, I’m an entrepreneurial guy, so I would say people that find an angle that’s different and new that really adds value, and they do it not because they want to make a bunch of money, but because they want to provide a service. The money will come as a result.
I admire people who have a real passion to do something that benefits us all, and in the end, they made it. Most entrepreneurial guys are still thinking about the dollars, but it should be secondary to providing a service that makes it valuable so you can make a dollar.
I’ll tell you one person that I really have learned to admire, and I find her to be really different — it’s Judy Faulkner. She has taken a stance that is kind of counter-culture to what the typical software vendors are about relative to customer service. She has happy customers. It’s very hard to find software companies in this industry that have happy customers.
I have admired Jim Reep, who founded First Consulting. I thought he created a really positive culture, and really fit that description that I mentioned earlier. When he went away, I think bad things happened in that company. [laughs] I guess I admire leaders fundamentally, people who see something, pursue it.
I also admire people who do it without somebody else’s money. The people who go to private equity firms and borrow — I’m a bootstrap thinker, I suppose. Those people who do it for the right reasons. That’s what happens if you’ve got a bunch of investors involved and you borrowed their money. Now, all the sudden, you’re more worried about keeping them happy than you are about your customer and taking care of your employees. So people who take that approach, I admire.
It’s always been exciting to me. I’ve always felt good about being in healthcare. I’ve felt very blessed to be somebody that was lucky enough to fall into the IT side of the industry that’s always doing the right things for the right reasons. Not always competently. [laughs] But it’s always an interesting place to be.