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Katie the Intern 11/20/20

November 20, 2020 Katie the Intern 1 Comment

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


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Katie the Intern 11/13/20

November 13, 2020 Katie the Intern 1 Comment

My learning this week consisted of interviews with readers of HIStalk. These readers also work in healthcare IT and either use HIStalk to some capacity for their job or rely on HIStalk updates to stay in-the-know for work updates. I’ll be summarizing one of those interviews and some of what I have learned about healthcare IT from it as well. 

This interview was with a gentleman I’ll call Steven since he prefers to remain anonymous. Steven works at a hospital as an Epic data architect. As he described to me, his job revolves around how to best make use of the reporting software that is in the hospital’s contract with Epic. Steven says that the hospital’s contract is structured under a strict fee, so the more the hospital uses it, the more benefit the hospital receives. Value is maximized when benefit is increased without a cost increase. All right!

When Steven started at his position, his hospital was just beginning to implement Epic. He had gained experience with Epic from his previous job with a pharma-related company. That is where he was introduced to HIStalk, as he started on the vendor side and moved to the provider side, where he has been for more than five years. 

“That was kind of like a dream of mine, to switch out of the vendor and onto the provider side,” Steven says. “Now I work on the provider side, and it’s kind of a glorious, wonderful thing. It was super meaningful even before the virus hit, and then the virus hit. All of a sudden my job changed dramatically and took on even more meaning.” 

Steven uses HIStalk to understand the general direction of where to take Epic at the hospital. HIStalk helps him understand the direction of the healthcare IT industry in general, allowing his team to make decisions about when to invest in additional effort in Epic or consider using another vendor. 

Before going too much into the interview, I wanted to write about what I learned about Epic and other EHRs (electronic health records, point for me) vendors. I’m sure HIStalk readers understand Epic and EHRs, but for me, this interview revealed a lot about how some of Epic’s programs are used by architects and applied to patients, staff, and hospital data. 

Epic has a software package called Cogito, an analytical database that allows the analysis of patient data as a whole rather than one patient’s data. Steven touched on Epic’s systems known as OLTP (Online Transaction Processing) and OLAP (Online Analytical Processing) and their different uses inside of Epic. The OLTP is useful for looking at one single point for data references, such as a single patient or a provider’s schedule. The OLAP makes it easy to search across an entire population, Steven says. These processes are the analytical tools that he uses to increase the value that his hospital gets from using Epic. 

Steven’s job revolves around understanding certain sets of data to ensure the hospital is able to get the information they need. He uses that information to answer the hospital’s questions, such as which doctor has the most expenses, how financials are doing, or how efficiently the hospital has vaccinated patients.

“I lead a team of 12 and I call the technical shots on how we are going to meet the businesses needs in being able to understand the data across the whole environment,” Steven says. 

This is where HIStalk comes back into play for Steven. He often uses HIStalk to guide his arguments for or against the renewal or discontinuation of programs for his hospital. Understanding the healthcare IT ecosystem allows Steven to see if the products his hospital is using are continuing to meet the needs of providers and patients there. 

“Being aware of what startups are doing or who is buying what helps me make arguments for or against whatever approach people are wanting to talk about in the data space,” Steven says. “Knowing what is happening outside of that, what their competitors are doing, helps me understand, ‘Is this person’s desire for this thing, is that what is best for us?’”

It is this understanding of desire and needs that recently drove Steven to argue for the discontinuation of a software program that many hospitals use. He argued to not renew a contract with a vendor program made by SAP Business Objects, business intelligence software that is not meeting his hospital’s needs. Though it is a partner’s software that Epic recommended, the hospital will be one of the first to turn it off. 

Much of this interview with Steven brought me to a deeper understanding of the crosshairs of analytics, vendors, and running a hospital’s data systems to maximize value. Researching EHRs, talking with Steven, and learning more about the main players in the EHR industry has been eye-opening for me as someone new to the field. I really learned just how important it is to stay connected to the industry, as it helps healthcare IT workers better apply system tools to patients and providers alike.

I do hope this column helped readers gain at least a deeper understanding of the role of a data architect in hospitals. I know that I learned a great deal about Epic, computer software, data analysis, and understanding the importance of keeping up with the industry.

In next week’s column, I’ll be breaking down another interview with another reader who uses HIStalk to stay connected. He is a younger professional in the field and also gave interesting tips on how to learn about the industry as a whole.  

I also plan to begin researching COVID-19 deaths and how hospitals decipher who died strictly from COVID-19 versus from complications it caused. I am hoping to share some interesting information from that research in the coming weeks! 

Thank you for reading. I am enjoying the healthcare IT industry and learning new stuff every day. 

Katie The Intern 

TLDR, as a reader requested – Katie The Intern conducted an interview with an Epic data architect and learned about EHRs, data evaluation, and how an architect makes decisions at work with the help of HIStalk’s industry summary.


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Katie the Intern 11/6/20

November 6, 2020 Katie the Intern 4 Comments

Hi, HIStalk readers! Katie The Intern here. I’m back and somehow made it through my first week of learning healthcare IT. How do you all keep up with this industry with such poise?

I find myself wanting to be interesting and somewhat humorous. I Googled healthcare IT humor and found a Pinterest board full of IT jokes. Once I feel like I’ve earned a few throwaway dad jokes in the IT department, I’ll share them. If you have any, I’d love to read them! 

How Journalists Use Sources

Mr. H suggested that I briefly discuss how journalists choose and use sources. From my studies and experience in journalism, the best sources are sources that are timely and factual. You’ll think, jeez, you paid for that class? But, you’d be surprised how many sources I have replaced because the information they promised to have or the timeframe in which they promised to deliver that information fell through. There is no story without sources. There is no information to be shared unless that information is substantial to reporters. We choose sources and statistics that are tangible, honest, and valuable. 

That being said, sources must also be willing to talk to journalists about what they know. I briefly studied media law, and in my opinion, protecting a source can sometimes prove more valuable than the information itself. Establishing trust with private sources, especially those whose employment teeters on that information’s publicity, is a very valuable practice.

The protection of a journalist when using an anonymous source is known as a shield law. Shield laws vary from state to state, and do not completely provide protection in all cases. Shield laws come from the first amendment and allow a journalist to claim that consumers have a right to newsworthy information despite the source it comes from. This varies in court, medical journalism, private investigations, and others. 

Shield laws apply to publications that claim to be information sources, i.e., your average newspaper, online news hubs, and most of the places you read or watch news. Blogs and private boards typically do not fall under shield laws because the information is not classified as news, but as opinion. To be completely honest, I don’t know much more about media law and where the line is drawn when information is not bound to a specific state (HIStalk readers submit information from all over). But I will do more research and update you in my next post. I’ve been reviewing sites I read in school, and this Columbia Journalism Review article is a good start. 

What I can say is, a journalist’s reputability is on the line, too, when reporting with anonymous sources. A good journalist will do their research on a source and make sure they are who they claim to be and the information they are giving is factual. A good journalist will establish themselves as trustworthy and reputable so that readers feel they can trust what they’re reading.

Now for more of what I think about sourcing information on blogs! Opinion is valuable as long as it is labeled as opinion. Rumors are valuable as long as they are labeled as rumors. Sourcing for both should follow similar guidelines. Sources should be able to confirm where they obtained their information. Sources should confirm their connection to their information. Sources should provide as much documentation as possible. It is on the journalist to confirm that these things are valuable and truthful. As long as rumors can be substantiated (such as, this could be true, but it is a rumor), then reporting on them is fair and fun. Making private or rumored information public can be quite exhilarating. HIStalk readers seem to enjoy rumors and the discussions they sponsor. 

Thoughts on Health IT News Reporting

As a journalism major, I am finding great value in reading HIStalk even though I have never read much about healthcare IT. It has opened my eyes to niche industry reporting and blogging. I did not realize the scope of the HIStalk world and the worlds that it revolves in. Niche reporting is a safe industry, but the niche does have to be big enough to be sustainable. I am learning that finding a niche and being good at hosting discussions about it is quite sustainable. Mr. HIStalk has gotten this right for almost two decades, as you all know. 

I’ve been reading other sites and comparing their reporting practices with the aggregation and types of coverage that Mr. HIStalk uses for the news he posts. In one sense, HIStalk cannot compete with regular news, simply because the audience is expecting only healthcare IT news. Any other information would seem out of place and boring. On the other hand, HIStalk outpaces other healthcare IT sources because of its unique atmosphere of readers and discussion. Blogs and news are both competitive sources, but luckily they are competitive in their own niches and universes and not so much with each other.

My future columns will consist of what I am learning, interviews with young professionals in the IT field, interviews with marketers and PR people about how and why they use HIStalk, and more research on what I have been learning. 

I am also looking for a “beat,” so to speak, that I can write about each week. My first thoughts on this focus on the growth and prevalence of using telehealth to cut down treatment times in hospitals and clinics. For example, I talked to a family friend who discussed how telehealth saves time in diagnosing a stroke in a patient, allowing life-saving medication to be administered faster. It would be both entertaining and enlightening to interview various IT employees at different levels and get their take on what telehealth has done, what it can do in the future, and how fast it will grow. Mr. H suggested looking into news and information about consumerism in telehealth, which I am also interested in writing about but would certainly need ideas for expansion of that topic. 

If you have any ideas on expanding these topics or believe they would not be as interesting as I find them to be (being new to this field, I recognize some topics that I find exhilarating are old news to the professionals), do comment or send me an email. I’d love feedback and advice!

Overall, I feel I am learning a great deal from Mr. H, HIStalk readers, and from reading about healthcare IT online. I am very appreciative of those who took the time to send me emails, advice, and tips as I learn more about this field. Thank you for reading, and I look forward to furthering my HIStalk studies with you all. 

Katie The Intern


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Katie the Intern 10/30/20

October 30, 2020 Katie the Intern 2 Comments

Hi, HIStalk readers! My name is Katie and I am excited to be interning under Mr. H. He suggested my first entry be an introductory column about myself, my studies, and my interests in healthcare IT. 

To start, I’m a recent graduate with two part-time jobs and two side “gigs,” including this internship. I work a lot and my schedule is busy, but whose isn’t these days? I work in media communications, PR, and write for a local paper. Outside of work, I write and record music, read a lot, ride horses, and write. That just about sums me up. 

I graduated in May from a prestigious journalism school with a BA in journalism and media. I say “prestigious” because that is how it was described to me when I applied to the school, and it is one of the top-rated journalism schools in the United States. I call myself a “Covid Grad” as I lost the last three months of my collegiate career to the current pandemic. Obviously, this is not half the loss that many have faced during this time, but I do mourn the experiences and the connections I might have made had my time not been cut short.

I’ve often joked that graduating during a pandemic should be listed on my resume. Losing your last three months of college, obtaining a degree, not having graduation, moving back in with your family, and stepping into a globally crumbling economy should be listed as an acquired skill set. Anyone out there hiring? 

My studies focused on multimedia news. I have experience with photography, print, broadcast journalism, animation, interviewing, multimedia design, and writing. I am proud of the school I come from and very proud to have my degree.

I had hoped to work in breaking news reporting for a local paper. I still hope to one day do this, but as the industry changes to concise and fast-paced delivery, I know I have to expand my portfolio. I enjoy writing breaking news, interviewing, taking photos, producing videos, and getting information out in a timely manner. I believe that getting concise, factual, and interesting news and stories to the community is extremely important. 

I recently spoke with a reporter for a local paper that I have wanted to write for for some time. He is a sports reporter and is now only covering Covid news. This was an eye-opener for me about the state of the news industry and the state of the world. I remember teachers assuring myself and other students, “There will always be a need for news.” I believed them and I still do, but I am quickly learning that a need for news does not promise a need for true, journalistic storytelling. So here I am jumping into an industry I know very little about! 

To be fully transparent, I know next to nothing about healthcare IT. I even had to Google what IT meant and how that related to healthcare news and what Mr. H does. I have had an interest in healthcare since early college because I have a family member who is affected by healthcare legislation. My interest stems from a curiosity as to how healthcare impacts my sick family member and her caretakers. Information technology was not among those interests, but when Mr. H described to me the possibility of learning more about the field, I decided to give it a try. So thank you for your willingness to let me learn about your industry and what makes it tick. 

I hope to learn many skills during this internship, both from Mr. H and from this audience. I expect to learn how Mr. H aggregates sources and communicates with readers about those sources. I expect to further my journalistic skills such as concise writing, compelling interviewing, interesting and important storytelling, and more. I want to learn how sources report on what healthcare IT is doing and how media concentrate efforts in publishing that information as quickly and accurately as possible. I feel I will learn a lot from interviewing professionals in the healthcare IT field and from interviewing HIStalk readers.

I desire to learn as much as possible about healthcare IT itself. Information technology is a concise name for a robust industry. I hope to learn what IT is, what it involves, and how it impacts healthcare. I want to understand who develops healthcare IT and what pushes those developments forward. I want to learn how healthcare legislation is impacted by the IT industry. I want to learn how professionals in the field predict what IT will do next. I want to understand how the stock market is impacted by healthcare IT. The jargon in health care, information technology, and in Mr. H’s posts will also install a learning curve for me. I’ve been researching and learning acronyms that Mr. H and readers use. If I can get over that hump, I think I’ll be good to go. 

I believe that the more I learn about this field and what Mr. H does, the more I will want to expand that newfound knowledge. I fully expect the list of what I hope to learn to grow. I will be writing a weekly column about what I learn and researching healthcare information technology as much as I can. I will also be doing interviews with readers and sponsors. I would love to hear from healthcare IT marketing and PR workers who could describe to me what they do.

For now, I am excited (and thankful) to be able to step into your industry and to learn what it does. I am appreciative of your patience and willingness to teach me and to interact with me, and I look forward to diving into this internship more and more.

Thank you for reading. I do hope I’m even half as entertaining as Mr. H.

Katie the Intern


Email me or connect with me on Twitter!

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Reader Comments

  • Mark Hochhauser: Sanford Health's CEO has been replaced. https://www.startribune.com/sanford-replaces-ceo-after-controversial-email-a...
  • IANAL: That's a lot of money for eMDs though it isn't clear how the financing works. At face value it would take compugroup mor...
  • Anne: Apologies for how rudely that came across. I do still question why our health is the responsibility of our doctors, but...
  • Elizabeth H. H. Holmes: Incredible. What an awful posture to take, what an awful example to set. It just encourages others to lie that they had ...
  • @JennHIStalk: Katie, if you're still looking for health IT history resources, check out Vince Ciotti's HIStory here: http://histalk.co...

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