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Readers Write 12/19/11

December 19, 2011 Readers Write 2 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!

View from the Healthcare Recruiter’s Chair
By Don Calhoun

Happy Holidays! As this year comes to an end, I thought I’d share some insight into the job market, hiring trends, tips for candidates, and tips for clients. Not to mention some observations that may or may not have anything to do with any of the above. The following are educated opinions with some fact sprinkled in.

The Job Market

We continue to see strong demand for implementation consultants, project managers, and practice directors. Shocking, right?

Instead of just trying to find one of the 1,000 Epic Certified “X” consultants to fill one of the 4,000 Epic Certified “X” consultant openings, we have employed a new strategy. Starting in 2012, we will be working with George Lucas on a controversial project. I can’t say a lot more at this time, but DNA will be involved.

Tips for Candidates

You may be looking for a better position, going through RIFs, or just putting EMR on your resume in the hopes that will create a bidding war for your services.

Tip #1. Recruiters see hundreds of resumes per week. They can become lazy. If you have experience with a vendor product, a particular system, or an integration tool, make sure it is on your resume. This is a world of keyword searches. If you don’t list these, you could be missing out.

Tip #2. If you have been at the same firm for sometime and have a feeling that they are underpaying you, talk to a recruiting firm. Some companies pay below-market value, and if you get comfortable in that role, you may be shortchanging yourself.

Tip #3. If you don’t mind travel, put that on your resume. If we stick with the theory that recruiters see hundreds of resumes per week and need to prioritize who to call first, the biggest slam-dunks will get that call. The slam-dunk has all of the pertinent information available – skills, software, general idea of rate/salary, and ability to travel.

Tips for Those Laid Off

Tip #1. Get on LinkedIn and make it known that you are looking for a new position. Put all of your skills, training, etc. on your profile.

Tip #2. Network like crazy.

Tip #3. If you have the drive and ability, think about starting your own firm. It doesn’t cost much to get incorporated in most states. You may be surprised about local work you can pick up.

Editorial Comment Section

When are large companies who think they can buy their way into healthcare going to learn that they are five years late to the dance? And that IT NEVER WORKS?? I wouldn’t be surprised if General Motors is a “healthcare” firm next year. Sorry – had to be done.


(Not ours — they already know this.)

Tip #1. Being thorough and expedient is a difficult trick to pull off when hiring, but it is a must in this market. Whoever dies with the best healthcare consultants wins. You must make this a priority in order to grow, create a great reputation, and have a happy work force. A couple of phone interviews are great, but at some point it is time to lock all decision-makers in a room with the candidate and make a decision. Some companies are hiring people two weeks after starting the process. Are you able to compete with that? If not, talk to HR/Recruiting and figure out a way to streamline your process. You will save yourself lots of recruiting dollars, disappointment with candidates you missed out on, and will ultimately have a stronger workforce.

Tip #2. Before deciding on a hiring initiative, reach out to some people in the recruitment business to see what the market is commanding in terms of salary, bonus, travel, time off, etc. Salary surveys run by third parties don’t seem to be in line with the real healthcare market (just my opinion). Ensure that you are making strong offers. I view the current healthcare market like NFL free agency. The best players want the top teams, the most dollars, and the best situation. Everybody wants the top free agents. Playing the lowball and hope they accept game isn’t going to get you anywhere.

Tip #3. If you decided to engage a search firm, make sure you know who is actually conducting the search and talking to candidates. You need experienced healthcare people talking to these candidates. I may get threats for saying this, but some firms put the big gun on the phone with you to sell you their services and then turn the search over to a “just out of college, took a recruiting job to pay the bills until my band makes it” recruiter. Make sure you talk to the people that are going to talk to your future employee.

I hope some of this provided some value. We’re off to an undisclosed location to meet with Mr. G. Lucas. An update should be coming soon.

Don Calhoun is founder and managing director of Executive Search Recruiting, LLC of Cornelius, NC.

Breakfast of Physician Champions!
By Daniela Mahoney

12-19-2011 6-51-53 PM

Culture eats strategy any day.

I think we have all heard this saying. More than ever, it proves to be true when I think of any initiative that involves providers, changes to their workflow, perceived loss of autonomy, and the sacrifice of something very, very precious — TIME.

Yet when introducing a new initiative, hospital and project leaders must somehow get everyone on board in a relatively short time frame and also convince them to embrace the new way of doing business.

So, you ask, where are the challenges?

Unwritten Rules

The relationship between organizations and their providers varies based on structure, history, leadership culture, and vision of the future. Therefore, for any organization, every new initiative is challenged by implicit unwritten rules that define and govern certain expectations, organizational design and behavior.

And moreover, initiatives that involve the introduction of advanced clinical systems to providers — particularly CPOE — are subject to the greatest scrutiny. These projects subsequently pose serious challenges to the unwritten rules because they raise a very fundamental question from providers: “If our present rules will no longer support what we know and feel comfortable with, what will it take to change these rules so we can create an environment that better aligns with the new vision of the organization?”

These days, most hospital leaders encounter this challenge when implementing a new system. Regardless of motive —whether implementing CPOE because the organization is on the fast track to meeting Meaningful Use or, more nobly, because “it is the right thing to do” to improve patient care and outcomes— the reality is that the unwritten rules must be rewritten upfront and early to successfully transform the staff culture and ensure quality and predictable patient outcomes with the new system in place.

Great Expectations

It’s about inclusion from the get-go. The staff culture has to be given serious consideration and be honestly and fully included in implementation plans from the time you begin talking about these new initiatives to the time they are executed and realized. I have witnessed noticeable and successful changes in culture only when the majority of the providers are aligned with the vision of the organization (I say “majority” because in most cases, non-academic organizations have difficulty achieving 100% buy-in from all providers.)

How do we go about learning what is important to your providers? What are their expectations and what are their fears? The answers to these questions are the elements that eventually create the adoption strategy map. And the pursuit for these answers is a concerted effort executed in the early phases of the implementation (although sometimes we get pulled in at the tail end of an implementation when things do not go as planned. This makes the recovery efforts more difficult and at times delays the initiatives!)

If done well, this initial Q & A or interview exercise yields a fairly clear plan, yielding one strategic decision to make about it:

  • Should things be mandated and, if so, when and how?


  • How will the support and training strategies need to be structured to make things manageable?

Constant Compromise

To me, the decision is a basic balance of give and take, a constant compromise where the art of negotiation reaches amazing peaks. This is when it is important for the CEO to have a close relationship with the medical staff and be actively involved and visible with these new initiatives. The CIO needs to think outside the box and not lead with the technology as the value proposition. A strong CMIO or physician champion should truly understand his/her peers and their workflows and master the art of negotiating.

The unwritten rules have to be explored. These are the rules that might imply that “nothing can be mandated to physicians”, that “physicians must always have individual choice and prerogative”, that if “I am not involved in a decision, I will not support it”, or that “variability is desired.” It reflects the true art of medicine and the uniqueness of every individual patient, that the art of medicine always trumps the science of medicine.

Understanding the unwritten rules from the beginning helps establish the appropriate path to implementation. For example, in one of our cultural assessments this year, we learned that the initial plans included a very aggressive deployment of CPOE, house-wide at once, with rapid expectations toward universal adoption (“mandate” is an ugly word.) As much as this approach is desired, it is more important to know if it could be executed successfully. In this particular case, the expectations of the medical staff were not integrated into the original plan. During the cultural assessment process, these expectations surfaced and were far from being consistent with the original plan.

Now, one can push and try to keep the plan as defined initially but, in the long run, this would alienate many (or probably most) of the providers. Why not take another look at the plan? And by employing a much more collaborative approach, see how it can be adjusted and eventually executed —successfully — while still attaining the same goals. Also, by doing this, the unwritten message from the CMO and other organizational leadership would be clear: “We do care about what you [providers] are telling us. We know it will not be easy to implement CPOE. But we are committed to working with you for all of us to succeed.”

Personal to Us, but System Agnostic

Culture is something personal to all of us —to any organization. CPOE touches clinicians at many different levels and inarguably creates significant disruptions in everyone’s routine. I truly believe that CPOE is the best thing we can do for our patients, but as I say this, I know that not all CPOE outcomes are the best. With a failure rate somewhere in the neighborhood of 30%, along with a long list of unintended consequences, it makes us realize that technology is only 15-20% of the challenge. The rest is all the change and optimization that needs to be done for this to work as intended.

We should also recognize and accept that provider culture is system agnostic. We can hope that the more advanced systems become easier to design solutions that support clinical processes. But it is naïve to believe that CPOE will be an easy project simply because you install the Cadillac version of a system. We have seen many successes with more modest versions of clinical systems and failures with very sophisticated ones and vice versa.

A system alone does not guarantee a successful outcome. It needs much more than that. As part of the team planning clinical initiatives for your hospital, please listen to your providers and understand your organizational history and its culture. Many of the answers to what it takes to succeed are right in front of you— you just have to look to see them.

12-19-2011 7-00-17 PM

Time for Breakfast!

I just returned from a visit oversees and came across this wonderful blini (Russian pancakes) recipe. I guarantee the entire family will love them, especially on cold winter mornings. I serve mine with 1 cup ricotta cheese, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and a scant ½ cup golden raisins added at the end once all other ingredients are mixed well.

Till next time, when we will talk more about the CPOE value proposition to providers. Safe and happy holidays to all!

Daniela Mahoney, RN BSN is vice president of Beacon Partners of Weymouth, MA.

By Vince Ciotti

An interesting week of news for our EMR world.

On Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) called for the first-ever nationwide ban on driver use of personal electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle. According to NHTSA, more than 3,000 people lost their lives last year in distraction-related accidents. NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman stated, "It is time for all of us to stand up for safety by turning off electronic devices when driving. No call, no text, no update, is worth a human life."

The heart of their argument can be found in a few statistics:

  • Globally, there are 5.3 billion mobile phone subscribers, or 77% of the world population. In the United States, that percentage is even higher – it exceeds 100%.
  • A Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study of commercial drivers found that a safety-critical event is 163 times more likely if a driver is texting, e-mailing, or accessing the Internet.

Hersman concluded, "The data is clear; the time to act is now. How many more lives will be lost before we, as a society, change our attitudes about the deadliness of distractions?"

On Thursday, an article on the front page of The New York Times caught my eye while driving my RV down I-4, As Doctors Use More Devices, Potential for Distraction Grows. Wow, doctors? That’s our business! Reading on (while occasionally checking my mirrors before changing lanes), I read these amazing factoids:

  • A peer-reviewed survey of 439 medical technicians published this year in Perfusion, a journal about cardio-pulmonary bypass surgery, found that 55% of technicians who monitor bypass machines acknowledged to researchers that they had talked on cellphones during heart surgery. Half said they had texted while in surgery.
  • Scott J. Eldredge, a medical malpractice lawyer in Denver, recently represented a patient who was left partly paralyzed after surgery. The neurosurgeon was distracted during the operation, using a wireless headset to talk on his cell phone. “I’ve seen texting among people I’m supervising in the OR,” said Stephen Luczycki MD, an anesthesiologist and medical director in one of the surgical intensive care units at Yale-New Haven Hospital. “Amazon, Gmail, I’ve seen all sorts of shopping, I’ve seen eBay,” he said. “You name it, I’ve seen it.”

So who am I to pontificate on this seeming bit of common sense? Some of you may know I am also an avid vintage motorcycle buff (not loud Harleys, but quiet Hondas) and have published a few articles in bike magazines. My most recent was last year in Motorcyclist entitled Driven To Distraction. In it, I admonish my fellow bikers to wear bright clothing, flash headlights, etc. — anything so their 500-pound motorcycle gets the attention of the driver of a 5,000-pound SUV.

So after all our Herculean efforts the past few years to get our RNs to use BMV and eMARs and to coerce our MDs to use CPOE and EHRs, now some of them are over-using the technology! I guess it had to happen in this world of cell-phonies.

What’s a CIO to do? My suggestion: send the Times article to your CMO and CNO. They’ll do the rest. Clinicians are such consummate professionals, all they need are a few facts like the above and they will caution their staffs in a hurry. Will it be a total cure? No more than I’m likely to stop keying on my GPS while dodging semis. But it will make them aware of the problem, which is always the first step to addressing one.

Vince Ciotti is a principal with H.I.S. Professionals LLC.

My Christmas Wish
By Chip Perkins

12-19-2011 6-47-04 PM

I’ve been reading quite a bit lately about how important sharing data is to improving healthcare quality and outcomes, and reducing costs. The ability to share health data between patients, providers, specialist, and health plans is a key building block for patient centered medical home (PCMH) or accountable care organization (ACO) initiatives. 

But there is one more thing about data to consider. The data needs to be discrete. The data needs to be actionable. The data needs to be standardized. The data needs to be semantic. 

As healthcare systems ramp up their efforts to transition to ICD-10-CM/PCS, launch clinical documentation improvement projects, report Meaningful Use quality indicators, implement electronic lab reporting (ELR) to public health, and build analytic tools to monitor improvements in health outcomes, organizations will recognize the importance of leveraging controlled clinical vocabularies and terminologies such as SNOMED CT, LOINC and RxNorm. 

The standards exist. The standards turn raw data into semantic data. Now we have to build the use of standard terminologies into our health information technology infrastructure. 

I’m hoping Santa will put a little semantic interoperability into everyone’s stocking for Christmas.

Chip Perkins is managing director, CAP STS of College of American Pathologists of Deerfield, IL.

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Currently there are "2 comments" on this Article:

  1. Re semantic interoperability (Mr Perkins).
    Amen, sir.

    But with a caveat: We clinicians should start with a limited library of basic and broad before expanding to the full code set. Nothing will kill ICD10’s utility faster than making it the clinician’s job to figure out which of 1,000+ PCS angioplasty codes is the right one. As computers get better, we can fine-point the coding. But right now what’s killing interoperability is not the paucity of standards. It’s the proliferation of terms before we’ve figured out how to apply them at the point of workflow without disrupting it.

    Unfortunately, it’s not the case that “standards turn raw data into semantic data.” The reality is that present systems turn clear stories into truncated code terms, and documenters into (incompetent) coders. The way forward is to start with a core library, universally implemented, for the most important terms. If we don’t, the splitters will ruin it for everyone.

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