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Readers Write 5/16/11

May 16, 2011 Readers Write No Comments

Submit your article of up to 500 words in length, subject to editing for clarity and brevity (please note: I run only original articles that have not appeared on any Web site or in any publication and I can’t use anything that looks like a commercial pitch). I’ll use a phony name for you unless you tell me otherwise. Thanks for sharing!

The Four Principles of Getting Things Done Well
By Mark Johnston

5-16-2011 5-58-09 PM

There are thousands of self-help and business books out there, each promising to change your life with the author’s “new” and “revolutionary” ideas. But when it really comes down to it, most of these books are based on fads or the repackaging of old knowledge, and are not worth the cover price.

In my experience, someone who’s looking to get more done in their professional and personal lives (and to do it better) can do so by practicing four simple things until they become habit: organization, prioritization, execution and discipline. Let’s take a quick look at each one:


Is your desk a mess? What about your car? If you answer yes to either of these, chances are your work life is messy, too. To be effective, you must become more organized. My advice? Go clean your desk. Tomorrow, clean your car. The next day, clear out your garage (or, if it’s really that bad, this next weekend).

Then start on your paper-based and electronic documents. Create a logical file structure so that you can find any piece of information you need within seconds. Do you travel a lot? Then keep a pre-packed bag of travel-sized toiletries in your carry-on bag.

Indentify other areas of your business and personal life that are disordered, and do the necessary! Sounds simple, but you’ll be amazed at how much productivity you’ll gain by weeding out disorganization.


In business, particularly at a small company where everyone wears a lot of hats, there are always 101 things to get done. If you think every one is of equal importance, you’ll never get anything done, let alone to the best of your ability.

Instead, write weekly and daily to do lists, with the most crucial things at the top. This crosses over into organization, showing how these principles are closely connected. Again, this may sound patronizing, but to make an impact, you need to get your daily activities in order.


All the organization and prioritization in the world is useless if you don’t follow through. Know you’ve got to finish writing a report? Block off two hours on your calendar and set your IM status to “busy” so you won’t be disturbed. Create a distraction-free work environment that lends itself to focusing on your priorities, and start checking items off your to-do list.

Procrastination will kill your productivity and decrease your effectiveness in business and in your personal responsibilities. As Nike ads say, “Just do it!”


To regain control — over your workspace, your documents, your to dos, your life — takes discipline. Is it fun to reorder every file on your computer and put them in logical folders and subfolders? Is it fun to write detailed lists of your daily and weekly priorities? What about cleaning your desk, garage and car?

No, no and no, but such tasks are effective because they remove mental and physical clutter.

Discipline is the daily practice of doing what needs to be done, and is the umbrella that overarches organization, prioritization, and execution. Discipline doesn’t just apply to work, but also to eating right, working out, and making time for your family. If practiced for a few weeks, discipline becomes a habit that will apply to most situations for the rest of your career and lifetime.

It is all too easy to confine the combination of organization, prioritization, and execution to your office, and to focus so much on work that it becomes the only thing in your world – to the detriment of your family, friendships, and other non-work commitments. Equally, it is possible to let the many responsibilities of your personal life (particularly when you have kids) minimize your efforts in your job.

Both scenarios are examples of imbalances that prevent us from being all we can be. That’s why discipline is so crucial. It enables us to regulate each aspect of our lives so we’re living out a commitment to excellence in everything we do.

The first time I shared these principles with a younger team member I was mentoring, his wife came up to me at a company event and said, “I don’t know what you did to him, but he picks up after himself, our car is clean, and he cleared out the garage for the first time in 10 years!” So, even beyond what they will do for your work life, these principles can make you more popular in your home. And that’s got to be worth something!

Mark Johnston is president of Access of Sulphur Springs, TX.

Building a Healthcare Storage Archive
by Charles Mallio, Jr.

5-16-2011 6-03-36 PM

The healthcare storage archive is a centralized repository managed by IT, but made available to all departments throughout the organization. It is home to the approximately 80% of hospital data that is static, unchanging, and best managed in a centralized repository that provides the appropriate protection based on the profile of the data.

This healthcare archive should have the ability to store the data intelligently and to leverage the mix of media assets available in the organization. This includes reserving the highest cost storage assets — typically fiber-channel disk in a storage area network — for the dynamic data and managing static data on more cost-effective media, such as lower-cost disk, optical, tape, or even cloud.

With its storage archive in place, an organization can eliminate storage silos, optimize existing storage assets, facilitate data interoperability, and provide a level of data protection that enhances its disaster recovery strategy. And it does all this while delivering a strong return on investment in existing and future storage infrastructure.

Data Interoperability

With a truly healthcare-aware archive in place, the CIO can collaborate with peer department heads to facilitate enhanced data interoperability of systems. To do this effectively, the archiving solution must leverage healthcare standards by which these systems can interact and fully exploit the benefits of shared data. These standards include:

  • HL7 (Health Level 7), for the exchange, integration, sharing and retrieval of electronic health information.
  • DICOM (Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine), for the storage and transmission of medical images and medical imaging data.
  • XDS/XDS-I (Cross Enterprise Document Sharing / for Imaging), for the sharing of clinical documents, images, diagnostic reports, and related data.

In addition to the above, the archive should have the ability to index both metadata and content to make that data easily searchable, by both applications and end users.

Data Protection 

The healthcare archiving solution must provide safeguards against data loss and security breaches. It may do this by methods inherent to the solution, by leveraging the features of specific storage devices, or by a combination of both. However it achieves these objectives, it should accommodate the following features:

  • Multiple copies of data, stored on disparate media types in separate locations, will ensure survivability of data in the event of a disaster. The healthcare archive should employ a user-configurable, intelligent policy engine to determine the optimal number of copies and locations
  • Data replication complements the multi-copy strategy by facilitating mass duplication of entire repositories of data to a secondary location.
  • Encryption prevents unauthorized access to data in the archive. This is critical for Protected Health Information (PHI), as well as financial records and sensitive communications.
  • Digital fingerprinting technology ensures that data retrieved from the archive is identical to data committed to the archive, safeguarding against deliberate or accidental data tampering.

The data protection characteristics of the healthcare archive also complement IT’s disaster recovery strategy. While backup is necessary for whole-system retrieval, it is not optimal for the more granular recovery allowed by an archive. Furthermore, backups do not protect against file corruption, whereas an intelligent archive ensures the integrity of the data committed to it.

Return on Investment

By investing in a healthcare archive, hospitals not only gain the aforementioned benefits, but can also realize substantial cost savings. By eliminating storage silos and consolidating expensive primary storage, tier-1 storage assets are no longer underutilized. Thus, hospitals do not pay for expensive storage that sits idle.

Organizations also have more flexibility to employ cheaper storage where the data access profile or data value supports that decision. And by employing intelligent data management policies to move infrequently accessed data to lower-performing, but more energy-efficient devices, they can be more “green” with their storage strategy, which translates into costs saved on power and cooling.

Charles Mallio, Jr. is vice president, product strategy and business development, of BridgeHead Software of Surrey, UK.

IT Governance Remains a Top Organizational Challenge
By Dan Herman

5-16-2011 6-12-12 PM

IT governance has been topic of interest for many years. Even though the concept has been embraced within the healthcare industry, the reality is that it’s still not operationally working well within most healthcare organizations.

According to the 22nd Annual HIMSS Leadership Survey released in March 2011, the metrics regarding IT governance look strong at first glance. The majority of respondents (87%) reported that there is a strong level of integration between the IT strategic plan and the organization’s overall strategic plan. In addition, nearly three-quarters of senior IT executives reported that they sit on the executive committee at their organization. 

The HIMSS Leadership Survey does a good job of tracking the pulse of the industry, but our industry needs to reevaluate how we measure the effectiveness of IT governance. IT governance should be looked at holistically and not merely whether the IT plan is integrated with the organization’s business plan and whether the CIO sits on the executive team.

Strategic alignment is definitely an important element of IT governance, but having effective committee structures, well-defined roles and responsibilities, specific processes and workflows, and a project portfolio management structure to drive value delivery, measure performance, and manage risk and resources are critical success factors for IT to help the organization achieve its objectives.

In the past three years, we have assisted over 30 clients with their IT strategic planning efforts. In 80% of the cases, enhancing existing IT governance, decision-making, executive sponsorship, and project prioritization processes have been a key focus of the planning effort.

There is a finite set of variables to control: funding, resources, and scope. It’s important to focus on a limited set of major projects that support the organization’s strategic goals. Appropriate alignment of IT resources ensures that IT is spending the organization’s money prudently, and effective IT governance is essential to making that a reality.

Critical success factors for effective IT governance include the careful definition of who is responsible and accountable for decisions. Executive involvement is critically important for holding the clinical and business sponsors, as well as IT leaders, accountable for project success. Executive involvement is also vital for assuring that resources are actually available until projects are completed.

IT should not be the primary sponsors of projects, so clinical and management sponsors must be involved from the beginning as well as the clinicians who will actually use the systems implemented. Executives must also assure adherence to the governance process, so that the benefits of governance are received.

While executive and board involvement is always cited as important in IT governance, translating that into specific roles and responsibilities isn’t easy or obvious. The task is to define roles and responsibilities that result in the effective allocation of resources and in successful projects.

There are a number of considerations in determining committee structure. Authority, time, and expertise are important considerations.

IT governance requires the definition of a process for project proposal, consideration, approval, and management. This process is often closely related to or integrated with the capital budgeting process, especially in terms of the timeline for project approval.

IT governance will not result in successful projects unless effective project management is in place.

In conclusion, governance remains one of the biggest challenges of healthcare IT. Organizations continue to battle with the dilemma of having much more demand for IT services than supply and budget to service. Requests for new projects arrive with typically no effective mechanism to control how projects get prioritized, funded, and resources allocated. IT then gets put in the position where they’re overwhelmed, under-budgeted, and under-delivering.

With the number of competing initiatives on the priority lists of hospital executive teams such as Meaningful Use, ICD-10, and Accountable Care Organization structures and their IT implications, it’s even more essential that a strong governance model be deployed to prioritize initiatives, align projects and capital spend with key organizational priorities, establish the appropriate champions and sponsors to successfully drive the top priorities forward, and define ways to measure results.

Dan Herman is founder and managing principal with Aspen Advisors of Pittsburgh, PA.

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