Howdy, HIStalk readers! I’m back with another interview column that covers a HIStalk reader who is a professional in the field. On top of learning about the healthcare industry and the consulting side of IT, I also got some great advice about how to take a deep dive into learning about the ecosphere as a whole. Buckle up!
I interviewed Zack Henderson with Pivot Point Consulting last week. Zack is a senior consultant who works in the implementation of Epic’s different modules and programs. “I work really closely with their analysts, their users, the operational leadership to develop training programs,” Zack said. “Specifically, for their emergency departments, their obstetrics, their long-term care, and case management control.”
I asked Zack to explain to me a little about what Pivot Point does, as I am unfamiliar with the term “consultant” in its application to healthcare IT. Zack said that his company works with several clients in a five-hospital health system in Illinois where he is based, but also across the United States. Pivot Point works on EHRs, ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning, yes, it has been added to my Google doc of abbreviations), analytics, telehealth, and other projects. He has been with Pivot Point for about a year.
Before Pivot Point, Zack worked for Epic. Zack, like most Epic employees, was brought into Epic with little experience and no history as an HIStalk reader.
“I came across HIStalk when I started working at Epic. It was one of the online sources that they [Epic] recommended we visit and try to go explore,” Zack said. “It was a great source for a lot of us, and it continues to be. Being able to read those stories and asking, how is that going to change the work that I am doing in a year? In five years?”
I found it fascinating that Epic encouraged employees to read HIStalk and other IT blogs to gain experience. It is eye-opening for someone who is new to the field and new to HIStalk to see the reach of HIStalk and its impact. Zack said that HIStalk helped him become familiar with how many different aspects there are in the healthcare IT world.
“Having moved on and into the consultant world, every day I feel like I learn about a new app or a new regulation or a new feature to try out or a new product that is being brought to market,” Zack said.
There were stories and discussions that were used for training at Epic, Zack said, but much of his HIStalk reading was used to look at the macro level of the health care industry — where the industry is going, new tech such as AI and voice activation, and cool things that are happening. HIStalk keeps Zack in the loop of what is new to the industry.
“I visit HIStalk about every other day and find it to be a great one-stop shop for keeping up with everything going on in the world of healthcare IT,” Zack said. “I pay particular attention to news about EHRs, specifically news about Epic customers as well as stories about mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, and strategic HIT efforts by health systems.”
Zach also talked about how he appreciates the variety of pieces that HIStalk covers, sharing his love for the various interviews that help him understand what problems and solutions are being solved with technology. He also said that Dr. Jayne’s columns remind him of the impact that technology has on and with patient care.
“The world of healthcare IT is so broad and there’s always something new and cool being worked on,” Zack said. He’s not exaggerating, as I am just beginning to learn the intersections of healthcare and technology and their interconnected impact on each other and on the world. I asked Zack for some advice about learning and understanding these things better as I become more immersed in the industry. His main piece of advice was to research some of the historical aspects of the healthcare IT world. He mentioned researching Dr. Plummer at Mayo back in the 1900s, so I did just that.
Dr. Henry Plummer was a scientist and engineer who entered the healthcare field as a physician’s assistant in the late 1800s. Even before working in the health field, Dr. Plummer took an interest in the endocrine system at the age of 16. This lead to a medical degree from Northwestern University, which fueled his impactful medical career.
Dr. Plummer was hired by Dr. William Mayo, director of the fledgling Mayo Clinic, in 1901. Dr. Plummer wanted to create a streamlined system of patient information access because doctors originally only kept single notes on separate patients. Alongside his colleague, Mabel Root, Dr. Plummer initiated a chart system of patients so that doctors could easily access information in one place. The medical record was born on July 1, 1907, and has only grown from there. Dr. Plummer served Mayo Clinic until his death in 1936.
Zack’s advice to look at this history led to more research about how quickly the EHR developed over time. Hardware became more widely available as early as the 1920s, and though the internet was not created until the 1960s, the growth of the health records system was consistently exponential. While there was only one health record in 1907 at just one clinic (Mayo), as of 2017 86% of office-based physicians use or have used an EHR.
Understanding an important piece of the healthcare IT world, EHRs, has given me a strong foundation into the impact of technology and how it can literally change and save lives. I enjoyed learning about Dr. Plummer and the growth of the health records system, now electronic, and want to continue this kind of historical study. The technological advances we know in this industry today were developed from a single idea, and as Zack said, Dr. Palmer “…really set the course for where we are now.”
I think the best piece of advice I received from this interview is something that I am coming to find as I learn. I’ll let Zack’s quote end us out, as he says it best.
“Healthcare IT is just really cool. The macro-level work that we get to do in this field is really, really cool and we get to impact millions of lives.”
That’s it for today! Hope you all have a great weekend. Thanks, as always, for reading and for welcoming me.
Katie The Intern