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CIO Unplugged 1/1/10

January 1, 2010 Ed Marx No Comments

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are mine personally, and are not necessarily representative of Texas Health Resources or its subsidiaries.

Think with your Heart
By Ed Marx

Will it bust your view of me to know I cry at work? It’s true. Whenever I give a tour or visit staff on a floor, at some point I excuse myself and cry. I can’t help it, especially after talking with skilled clinicians who demonstrate sympathy. Seeing the patients overwhelms me, and starts me thinking about the sanctity of life. My heart swings between brokenness and compassion, between impressed and thankful. And this all drives me to keep doing what I do.

I never want to forget that I’m here to serve those in their most vulnerable, and often dire circumstances. One benefit of no longer having an office is my increased time spent in our hospitals and on our patient floors. My weekly leadership meetings—when we do meet in person—are often held at one of our medical centers.

Why do I make my team do this, you ask?

A few years back, I realized that what separated the top performers from the average worker was neither skill nor experience but talent. Further analysis revealed compassion as the key talent. Top performers connected skills with compassion. They linked their hearts to their brains.

I had to help others understand that what they did daily affected a patient’s life. But how? A motivational speech might nick their emotions for a day or two, so that wasn’t good enough. I needed an approach that transcended their mental understanding, a connection so strong that synapses would rewire and link the brain to the heart and infect their souls forever.

Since realizing this need, I’ve employed several strategies. The single most effective method is the annual Connections program. This spring will mark my 7th year of Connections. The remarkable happens when you remove the physical barriers between clinicians and those that support them. When a programmer sees the impact of his code on a patient, his heart is changed. When a service desk agent sees the face of the physician she’d helped navigate through the electronic health record, her heart grows a size. Sympathy wakens in the data center engineer when he learns from a nurse that patient outcomes improve because of the technology delivered without interruption. And an administrative assistant understands the urgency of communication when she personally sees the life and death stress.

Their brains tap into their hearts.

Here’s how it works, and then I’ll show you the outcomes.

· Everyone must participate, especially you the leader. (Given how easy it is to revert to insular ways and become ingrown, I keep my connections fresh)

· Speak with your hospital leadership and identify points of contact

· Develop a schedule and begin registration into clinical areas

· Allow employees a choice according to their interest such as ED, OR, Lab, Nursing, Pharm, etc.

· Spend a minimum of a half day with a clinician, full day optimal

· Set up an interactive site to have employees post feedback on their experience

· Follow up immediately on any items clinicians need help with

· Send thank you notes to all clinicians involved

· Repeat yearly


· Transformations-

“I must admit I hated this idea but did it because I had to. I have worked for the health system for 20 years and for the first time I realized we have patients. Of course I knew what we did as a hospital but really, this was incredibly impacting and I will never be the same.”

“I am not the same today as yesterday.”

“I volunteered to observe in the OB unit. With clinician and patient permission, I witnessed the birth of twin babies. I never realized all the behind the scenes coordination required and it opened my eyes to a whole new world.”

“I never saw myself as part of the patient care process until now.”

“My life is changed; I always wanted to be care giver but didn’t like blood so chose a different path in technology. Now I tell people I am both.”

“I run marathons. I was more exhausted shadowing a nurse today. I never knew.”

“In one day I witnessed the joy of healing and the pain of death. I now see how critical IT is and why we need to be the best that we can be to support the front lines.”

“I am a nurse and did not see why I had to take part in this program. After today, it was like I was hit by a ton of bricks! Wake up call! Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

· The clinicians shadowed learn more about technology. They learn that we care and that they have this incredible support structure surrounding them. This aspect is almost as beneficial as the Connections themselves.

· Respect from operational leaders increases because they see that you care.

· While not scientifically validated, there appears to be an overall correlation between organizational outcomes and Connections.

· As Connections form, employee engagement rises and new talents are created and nurtured.

I love a great speech, giving out raises and bonuses. But evidence suggests these have fleeting influence on performance. In fact, some studies indicate the enthusiasm over a raise lasts two weeks. I speculate this is because money only engages the brain. Conversely, transforming a person’s way of thinking and view of themselves results in long-term effects and a new person. Even the hardest of hearts and the most gifted intellectual will begin to view things differently. Once they’ve connected.

Ed Marx is senior vice president and CIO at Texas Health Resources in Dallas-Fort Worth, TX. Ed encourages your interaction through this blog. (Use the “add a comment” function at the bottom of each post.) You can also connect with him directly through his profile pages on social networking sites LinkedIn and Facebook, and you can follow him via Twitter – User Name “marxists.”

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