So, I’m watching the Alabama Auburn game and it suddenly strikes me, there are probably a lot of people trying to understand what it is a consultant does that we can’t do for ourselves.
For those who have a life, those who missed the game, Auburn entered the game undefeated and had a good chance to play for the national title. Alabama opens the game with several well-scripted opening plays and grabbed an early lead.
Their first ‘n’ offensive plays were brilliant. They were planned perfectly.
It became apparent they had not planned the however many of the ‘n + 1’ plays. Their plan failed to go beyond what they’d already accomplished.
How does that apply to what you do, what I do, and why I think I can help you? It is best described by comparing your brain to a consultant’s brain. Your work brain functions exactly as it should. It’s comprised of little boxes of integrated work activities, one for admissions and registration, one for diagnosis, another for care. There’s probably another box for whatever it is the newsletter stated IT was doing three months ago and how that impacts what you do. That’s your job.
Your boxes interface in some form or fashion with the boxes of the person next to you in the hospital’s basement cafeteria who is paying for her chicken, broccoli, and rice dish that reminds you of what you ate at crazy Uncle Bob’s wedding reception. That interface is the glue that makes the hospital work. It’s also the synapse, the connective tissue—I know it’s a weak metaphor, but it’s a holiday weekend—give me some slack—that tries to keep healthcare functioning in an 0.2 business model.
There are names for the connective tissue, you know it and I know it. It’s called politics. It’s derived from antiquated notions like, “this is how we’ve always done it”, “that’s radiology’s problem”, and “nobody asked me”,
At some point over the next week or two the inevitable happens; the need arises for you to add some tidbit of information. Do you add it to an existing box, put it in an empty box, or ignore it? This is where you must separate the wheat from the albumen—just checking to see how closely you’re following.
Your personal warehouse of boxes looks like the final scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark—acre after acre of dusty, full boxes, no Dewy-decimal filing system, and no empty box. There are two rules at the hospital; one, bits of information must go somewhere, and two, nobody can change rule one.
The difference, and it’s a big one, is that consultants have an empty box. It’s our Al Gore lockbox. We were born that way. It’s like having a cleft chin. We also have no connective tissue to your organization. No groupthink. No Stepford Wives. No Invasion of the Body Snatchers to turn us into mindless pods. Consultants may be the only people who don’t care. Let me rephrase that. We don’t care about the politics. We don’t care that the reason the hospital has four IT departments is because the hospital’s leadership was afraid to tell the siloed docs that they couldn’t buy or build whatever they wanted.
Sometimes it comes down to your WWOD (what would Oprah do) moment. Not ‘what do they want me to do’, not ‘what would they do’, not ‘what is the least disruptive’, not ‘what goes best with what the other hospital did’.
At some point it comes down to, what is the right thing to do; what should we do.
Big, hairy healthcare IT projects come out of the shoot looking like Alabama did against Auburn. The first however many moves are scripted perfectly. Heck, you can download them off Google. Worse yet, you can get your EHR vendor to print them for you.
The wheat from the albumen moment comes when you have to come up with an answer to the questions, “What do we do next,” and “Why doesn’t it work like they said it would?”
That’s why consultants have an open box. You know what we are doing when our brain takes us to the open box? Thinking. No company politics to sidetrack us. Everybody knows the expected answers, but often the expected answer is not the best answer. Almost everybody knows what comes after A, B, C, and D.
Sometimes…E is not the right answer or the best answer.