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CIO Unplugged 6/29/11

June 29, 2011 Ed Marx 14 Comments

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are mine personally and are not necessarily representative of current or former employers.

Why We Need Transformational Leadership

The labor and delivery room filled quickly with physicians and nurses. The walls turned inside out, revealing sterile equipment. The transfiguration from birthing suite to operating theatre was complete. I figured this was not a good sign.

Despite numerous inducements, my wife’s body refused to give up the gift inside. I went from active coach and participant to frightened bystander. Moved aside, I worked my way behind my wife, out of the path of clinicians and equipment, yet close enough to stroke her hair, hold her head in my hand, and whisper prayers in her ear.

While I wasn’t familiar with all the technology, I knew to keep an eye on the fetal heart monitor. Fluctuating wildly, the bottom kept falling out until the heart rate eventually registered as zero — and stayed there.

Seconds passed like minutes, minutes like hours. After cutting, vacuuming, forceps, and physical manipulation, our baby appeared. “We’ve got a floppy,” the doctor announced. He handed the bundle over to his partner, who whisked our child to a nearby table for resuscitation.

Nightmarish thoughts invaded my mind. Instead of returning home and rejoicing over a new life, would I be planning a funeral? Picking out a tiny casket? Mourning? Wondering if it would be worth trying again? While clinicians huddled around our daughter, we changed her name from Kirsten to Talitha.

Seven forever minutes later, a nurse displayed our child, swaddled in a blanket and breathing on her own. “Here’s your daughter,” she said, before they took her down the hall.

Talitha is an Aramaic word used by Jesus in the Gospel of Mark. A father chased after Jesus and pleaded for Him to heal his recently deceased daughter. Impressed by the man’s faith, Jesus went to his house. Upon seeing the lifeless body, He commanded “Talitha Kuom” (translated “young woman, arise!”). The girl awakened. Ours did also. Miracles still happen.

Talitha slept in isolation in the newborn intensive care nursery. We could look at her, but not touch. Strep B had caused the trauma, but she was also fighting pneumonia and a hole in her stomach. Physicians forecasted long-term physical and mental damage.

In our shocked state, we reviewed options with the clinical team. We signed releases, willing to assume any risk that might help Talitha survive. Our church pastors loved on us, praying for wisdom and healing. We gave thanks for the hospital and dedicated clinicians.

The biggest decision lay ahead. Should we undertake a risky “flight for life” transfer from our hometown hospital Level 3 NICU to a Level 1 NICU 90 minutes away? Adding complexity, Julie was not physically well after the trauma, and I did not want to separate her from Talitha. The receiving hospital specialists said they could consult remotely if there was an automated way to collaborate. But this was the early 90s.

I had been serving as the physician relations coordinator for this hospital. A year prior, I had been given an additional responsibility related to IT. The IT staff was struggling with physician adoption of a clinical system application module that allowed them to dial in (on a 2,400 baud modem) and have real-time access to clinical data. Because of my track record in working with physicians, I took the job of evangelizing this tool to the medical staff. We went from 5% to 90% adoption in one year.

What if?

What if we gave the consulting physicians direct access to the clinical record and they could treat my daughter from afar? Two hours later, they had access. Care coordination and collaboration began. This defining moment made my calling and career crystal clear. I knew I was to combine my leadership talents with my technical skills and apply them to healthcare information technology.

Eight long days later, Talitha was released, albeit on oxygen. The strep was treated, her pneumonia was resolved, and her stomach had healed itself. No physical impairment. Today, because of her high IQ, no one could ever know of the fight Talitha endured to be a part of our family. (Well, perhaps with the exception of her “Goth” period around age 14. LOL.)

And Julie? She, too had a miraculous recovery. The quarter-sized hole connecting her uterus and bladder (caused by a 9.5 pound baby) closed without surgical intervention.

This story is one example that illustrates the power of technology when it’s paired with leadership and harnessed to share clinical data. As we mash up transformational leadership with emerging technology, we will hear many more stories like Talitha’s that inspire us to do greater things.

This fall, we’ll celebrate our beautiful daughter’s 18th birthday. She is the reason I serve in healthcare information technology. I can’t imagine having any vocation outside of healthcare. I am a direct beneficiary, and it changed me forever.

Ed Marx is a CIO currently working for a large integrated health system. Ed encourages your interaction through this blog. Add a comment by clicking the link at the bottom of this 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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Currently there are "14 comments" on this Article:

  1. Many of us have stories about what inspired us to choose Health IT as a career, albeit probably not as dramatic as yours. Thanks for the reminder. And after 35 years in the business….it’s good for me to be reminded that we have been called “for such a time as this”.

  2. Good story with a great outcome! Thanks for the telling. I think that we mostly need transformational leadership because we so desperately need transformation.

  3. Thank you, Ed, for sharing your incredible story. Talitha is a beautiful name. Having a young daughter ourselves (almost 2 now), I can just barely begin to imagine how painful and heart-wrenching the whole experience was…but also what an amazing testament of God’s hand at work in you and in your family.

    I thank and praise God for this miracle and the talents He has blessed you with so that we may all be inspired and encouraged by your writings, your work and your faith.

  4. Ed – that is a great story and great background on you. You an Neil from Cerner need to pair up and figure out how to make these systems continue to get better based on real life scenarios like this. (no i am not a cerner employee – i just appreciate Neils real life application to how he is creating a vision for healthcare and cerner)

    As a technology professional i am still amazed at how far behind my real life healthcare scenarios are – but also excited about where its going because of people like you driving real changes in your organizations by incorporating technology processes that we know exist!

    keep sharing –

  5. Beautiful story, and early birthday wishes to a no doubt fabulous kid. A powerful example of why we have chosen to be here, and why healthcare is not banking. Any place I ever served, I kept an archival photo of the old TB ward at my hospital right up in front of my computer, as a reminder. The HIT transformation we are going through right now needs leaders like you who understand and remember our core mission, and have the courage to effect change with it in mind. Thanks Ed.

  6. Your writing skills are equal to your technology and leadership skills. Thanks for the inspiring stories and please keep them coming.

  7. Enjoyed it a lot, but had a quick question on this item:

    “The biggest decision lay ahead. Should we undertake a risky “flight for life” transfer from our hometown hospital Level 3 NICU to a Level 1 NICU 90 minutes away?”

    My question: My understanding is that NICU levels go from the lowest level of I to the highest level of III (typically with an a, b, or c designator after the III). As such, I couldn’t see why one would contemplate a transfer from a Level III to a Level I. Could the numbers have gotten transposed?

  8. That is a miracle indeed. As part of a large family with four kids of my own and with many siblings and siblings-in-law that have given birth to over 30 babies in the last 10 years, I have rejoiced in the miracle of life many times over and for four of those babies, have given thanks to God for the miracle of modern medicine that saved their lives.

    Thanks for sharing. Indeed, technology is making an exciting difference in healthcare.

  9. Please bring your family out to Scottsdale one year so we can meet them! Your story is unforgettable, thanks for sharing it!

  10. Ed,
    As you speak from your heart, you really are a great writer! I suppose so many of us that are still so passionate about HIT can weave a personal story around why we stay….because the Lord knows it is a rocky road. As for me, I have often heard myself say that I am working to make our healthcare system become what I know it needs to be, should I ever have to cash in on it! And if I don’t, then I’m sure many family and friends likely will!

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  1. I share your concerns about a lot of similar projects, but I think this one's an outcomes comparison thing, not…

  2. "Ascension Via Christi sent several ICU nurses home after they raised concerns about inadequate staffing." Nice. That'll show em.

  3. Thank you for sharing the full HIStory file. What a great tribute to Mr. Ciotti. “Those who cannot remember the…

  4. "Epic will roll out a “patients like this one” type tool to its users in Indiana this summer. It will…

  5. I don't see Cerner winning employee satisfaction surveys. I can't see VHA pivoting to Epic. It's going to be some…

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