Recently, somebody challenged me to describe what it means to run IT like a business. This is what I came up with:
- Businesses have customers (not users).
- Businesses thrive by providing their customers with goods and services that their customers want at a cost those customers consider a value.
Sometimes we find ourselves providing services that our customers don’t want. That could mean we got ahead of ourselves and started providing a solution without first providing the consulting service that creates the desire to receive the service.
Misunderstandings, even small ones, can result in thousands of hours of wasted work. It is really important in our field that we clearly communicate. One common source of misunderstanding is the pronoun. I would encourage you to listen to how often people use “it”, “that and “them”. I have made it a habit to ask my direct reports not to use pronouns, to explicitly state by name the people, places and things to which or whom they are referring.
Pronouns recently got the President in trouble. Trying to borrow a page from the Elizabeth Warren playbook the President recently said:
“Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business—you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”
Many conservatives believe that “that” is referring to the “your business” as in “You didn’t build your business. Somebody else made your business happen.“
Supporters of the President are saying that the “that” is referring to the “roads and bridges that the business benefits from” as in “You didn’t build the roads and bridges that support your business. Somebody else made the roads and bridges happen.”
I am NOT going to engage in a political debate, so don’t even bother leaving a comment about the political context. I am just saying that this was an ambiguous statement. The type of ambiguous statement that can result in a failed project or political campaign. Clarity is important. It is important to craft messages carefully and clearly to get the desired result.
I currently carry a Samsung Infuse Android phone. It is an AT&T phone that I have had for about a year. I am ready to replace it and I have been wrestling between the new Samsung Galaxy SIII and an iPhone.
The reviews of the SIII are tempting. The specs are impressive (quad core graphics, super high resolution screen). I want to love the Android platform, because I am predominately a user of the Google platform and I like setting up my phone with a single login. But, I think I am going to join the rest of my family in carrying an iPhone. My Infuse has been buggy (screen lockups, slow response to screen touches), although I am not convinced that a year-old iPhone would be better. Here is why I am going to the iPhone:
- Apple forces the carriers to behave. I did not get one upgrade for my Infuse. They are available, but AT&T won’t push out the updates. Forget Ice Cream Sandwich, I just want to go from 2.2 to 2.3. Sheesh.
- There are too many Android phones to make sure everything is universally compatible. Today I went to download the Microsoft Lync app and the Google Play Store told me that it was not compatible with my year old device. With an iPhone that would never happen where the number of devices are limited and the iOS upgrades are backwards compatible for at least 2 years back. I have had apps that would not install on an iOS device, but the device was more than 3 years old.
By the way, we are rolling out Good as a way for smartphone users to connect to our Exchange Server. This was a good move, no pun intended. I can’t see a future where BlackBerry thrives. I am just one customer – but for us that ship appears to have sailed.
Ministry has been championing “real-time documentation”, that is, the practice of entering patient information into the EHR at the time it is collected. Historically, caregivers have clung to the old process of writing on paper and then re-entering it into the EHR later. Our Nurse Informaticians are doing the hard work of changing that practice. In the areas where we have seen the change, the nurses are reporting that it has given them more time to spend with their patients. The elimination of transcription also means real-time documentation is a more accurate practice.
The following headline caught my eye as I was reading through my RSS feed:
How to deploy ERP in 120 days
As soon as I read this headline I knew I was going to unleash a rant.
Caron Carlson wrote this piece, and it was a good story about Johnson & Johnson’s acquisition of a new business unit and how that business unit was transitioned to J&J’s ERP system (and other technologies) in 3 months. I am sure that this was a phenomenal accomplishment by J&J that required a lot of bright and talented people. I would bet that they have prepared for acquisitions like this and have a plan in place to quickly incorporate new business units (something I need to develop for Ministry).
I always enjoy reading Caron’s stuff. But, I have to pick a bone with her. This headline is inaccurate. J&J did not implement an ERP in 120 days. They added a new facility to an existing ERP (which probably took years to develop).
That may seem like a nuance, but it is frustrating to CIOs. Healthcare executives read these headlines (but not the articles) and then develop the false impression that a company can deploy an ERP in 120 days. For any company that even thinks they need an ERP a 3 month implementation is not possible. Most companies can’t negotiate the contract in 3 months.
The software vendors are already feeding unrealistic time frames to business unit leaders because they know long projects need a different level of review and decision making that could interfere with their desire to close a deal quickly. It is the bane of my existence. Add the unrealistic time frames with these other gems I hear passed on from my non-IT coworker that are talking to the software vendors:
- “None of our clients have never had any problems with their implementations”
- “Our solution takes no IT time”
- “We already have interfaces off-the-shelf that will work in our environment (without knowing anything about our IT environment)”
- “We do all the work”
- “This software is so simple you don’t need to worry about project planning and management”
Most of these software sales people are good and decent people. They are valuable resources and enjoy working with them. But they are not the best resource for information about the actual implementation. We should rely on the history we have implementing nearly 100 software projects a year. That is the unbiased data. The software sales person is not present at the implementations and has too great of an incentive to provide unbiased information. Just because they believe it, doesn’t make it true.
So, if you are in the technology press (especially serving IT leaders) give us a little help. Don’t reinforce inaccuracies told In the software sales cycle .
Remember, the HITECH act (aka Meaningful Use) is a an incentive program, not a mandate. As we look at stage 2 we will be evaluating the increasing effort against against the decreasing financial incentive – remember stage 2 is worth less than half than stage 1.
Sure there is a supposed penalty, and we will need to take that into account too. But that penalty, starting in 2015 (or later), will be based on the amount of Medicare increase. Medicare may not be increasing by 2015.
Before I pitch a multi-million dollar effort to the senior management team we have to evaluate the ROI.
The other consideration is how much of the Stage 2 objectives are in synch with our patient care executives vision for clinical IT.
Our first hospital to attest for EHR Incentives is expected to receive $3,173,094 for Stage 1. To qualify for that incentive we spent $381,133. This includes the cost for 5,219 hours of IT time to complete the work.
So, it surprised me when I was listening to a CIO discuss Meaningful Use on one of the hscio.com podcasts. He stated that Meaningful Use was an underfunded mandate. That is far from our early experience at Ministry.
I don’t think either of us are incorrect. We just appeared to be starting from different positions and we took different paths to attest for Stage 1.
In our pursuit of the EHR incentives provided under the stimulus bill we piloted one hospital to create a standard approach for the remaining 14. Our pilot site was our most technically sophisticated hospital, so the work to be done was less than typical. In fact, this hospital (Ministry Saint Clare’s Hospital in Weston, Wi) is an all digital hospital that has had virtually all orders entered by physicians since 2006. We have invested over $100M in IT at this hospital, it is rewarding to know that we made decisions that positioned us well to achieve Meaningful Use. This incentive money offsets a small portion of that investment.
I believe that the effort to get this hospital positioned to attest for Stage 1 was as close to minimal as any hospital in the country. In my mind this is a best case for return on investment. Our remaining hospitals will be closer to break-even.
One thing that is not significantly different between my experience and the CIO on the podcast is the software. We both use GE Centricity Enterprise as our core HIS system. However, we did self-certify Centricity (and a collection of other EHR technologies) rather than upgrade to GE’s certified version. This also saved us money and allowed us to move quickly.