CHIME versus RHIME (Roemer’s Health Information Management Executives)

So, what’s up with CHIME?  The attendees are all tucked away in an underground bunker in the convention center, the entrance of which is guarded by members of AARP.  Rows of cellophane sandwiches are lined up behind the concertina wire.  The group remind me of Yale’s Skull and Bones society, or at very least some renegade chapter of the masons.

If you walk up to Checkpoint Charlie, you must shield your eyes from the search lights.  German Shepherds pull at their leashes lest you get too close.

You need to be a CIO, I am told.  I am not one of the chosen.  I try every trick–they all fail.  I meet one man who is a member of the elite group.  He used to be a CIO, but is no more.  Yet still he is a member.  I asked him how he managed this feat of deception.  He tells me he is a FIO–freelance information officer.  Suddenly, my mind is all-a-twitter.

Change the letters, and I am in.  I try to bluff my way past the guards with the FIO idea.  I don’t really want to be in the meetings; but the free food has my attention.  Mrs. AARP stops me cold.

Then it comes to me.  The answer lies in changing the letter, but not the CIO letters, the CHIME letters.

I have decided to form RHIME.  Roemer’s Health Information Management Executives.  Avoid the rush, join today–and bring sandwiches.

EHR leadership isn’t always a democracy

Cerealizable.

That’s my new word. I coined it the last time my wife was traveling and I was in charge of breakfast and making sure nobody missed the bus. Cerealizable is what happens when you walk into the kitchen and are confronted with two hungry dogs, three hungry kids, hair that needs brushing, homework assignments that need to be reviewed, and lunches that have to be packed.

Breakfast orders are shouted at me across the room as though I’m their short-order cook; pancakes, French toast, sausage, and who knows what else. What does one do? I was quickly headed down the path of self destruction, too many tasks and not enough taskers. I needed a light at the end of the tunnel and so I created one. I cerealized the problem; simplified it–turned into something I could solve. Go to the pantry, pull out the cardboard cereal boxes, three bowls, three spoons, and the gallon of milk. Check off breakfast.

In case you’re wondering, Cocoa Puffs still turn the milk brown, just like they did thirty years ago. Lunch orders began to be shouted across the bowls of cereal. Ham and cheese, PB&J, tuna–extra mayo, no celery. Once again small beads of perspiration formed quickly on my brow. For a moment I considered calling the school and telling them that all three were sick. That would solve the lunch problem, but it would also mean that the three of them would be home all day–my own private hostage situation. What to do? My coffee remained out of reach, still untouched. That explained the pending headache. Back to lunch. Cerealize it. “Everyone is buying lunch today,” I announced above the roar.

A half hour later, the din had subsided. I made a fresh cup of coffee and collected my thoughts. What had I learned from the exercise? Three things. One, some situations require leadership. Two, three children and one grownup is not time to establish a democracy. There is no Bill of Rights. To quote Mel Brooks, “It’s good to be the king.” Three, break the problem down into bite-sized pieces, don’t try to swallow the elephant whole.

That same approach works just as well with EHR grownups; clinical grownups and IT grownups. Improving the interaction takes leadership. Large, institution-changing projects involve pulling people out of their normal routines and relationships.  Solving problems will not involve a kumbaya moment–Program management is not a democracy. To succeed, the program champion, having created a vision, will have to break it down into bite-sized pieces.

 

EHR–One time at band camp…

Like many of you, I see two distinct groups who do not play well in the same sandbox—clinical and IT.  Having clinicians go to the HIT summer camp to pick up a few skills is not the same as pulling a few costly and hairy projects from the bowels of project hell any more than it would be to have an IT executive take an EMT course and then assume that person was qualified to perform surgery—this one time at band camp…

Before I get up on my stool and knock myself off, I know CMIOs and CIOs who have made HIT and EHR very successful.  To them I ask, do not rake me across the Twitter coals as I try to make a point.

There’s knowledge, and then there’s qualified.  Doctors do four years of medical school, they intern, and if they specialize, they throw in a few more years before they become the in-charge.  Years of training and practice before the doctor is allowed to run the show.  Why?  Because what they are about to undertake requires practice, tutelage, and expertise.  Most of the actual learning occurs outside the classroom.

There are those who suggest the skills needed to manage successfully something as foreboding as full-blown EHR can be picked up at HIT Camp.  This does a disservice to seasoned IT professionals.

Most large IT projects fail.  Large EHR projects fail at an even higher rate.  Most clinical procedures do not fail, even the risky ones.

What’s the spin line from this discussion?

  • Rule 1—large EHR projects fail at an alarming rate
  • Rule 2—sending a clinician to band camp probably won’t change rule one

Don’t believe me?  Ask friends in other industries how their implementation of an ERP or manufacturing system went.  There are consulting firms who make a bundle doing disaster recovery work on failed IT projects.  They line the halls like turkey vultures waiting for CIO or project manager carrion.

Back to Rule 1 for a moment.  How can I state that with such assurance?  Never before in the history of before—I know that’s not a proper phrase—has any single industry attempted to use IT to:

  • impart such radical charge (patients, doctors, employees)
  • impart it on a national basis
  • hit moving and poorly defined targets—interoperability, meaningful use, certification
  • take guidance from nobody—there is no EHR decider
  • implement a solution from amongst hundreds of vendors
  • implement a solution with no standards
  • move from an industry at 0.2 to 2.0 business practices
  • concurrently reform the entire industry

Just what should a CMIO be able to do?  What are the standards for a CMIO?  To me, they vary widely.  Is a CMIO considered an officer in the same sense as the other “O’s” in the organization, or is it simply a naming convention?  The answer to that question probably depends on the provider.

Here’s how I think it should work—I realize nobody has asked for my opinion, but this way I’ll at least provide good fodder for those who are so bold as to put their disagreement in writing.

I love the concept of the CMIO and think it is essential to move the provider’s organization from the 0.2 model to the 2.0 model.  Same with the CIO.  However, getting them to pool their efforts on something like EHR is likely to fail as soon as one is placed in a position of authority over the other.  It’s sort of like getting the Americans and French to like one another.

I liken the CMIO’s value-add to that of the person providing the color commentary on ESPN—it adds meaning and relevancy.  The CMIO owns and answers a lot of the “what” and the CIO owns and answers a lot of the “How”.

Still unanswered are the “Why” and “When”.  A resource is needed who can state with assurance, “Follow me.  Tomorrow we will do this because this is what needs to be done tomorrow.”  That skill comes from an experienced Project Management Officer, the PMO.  It does not come from someone who “we think can handle the job.”  Nobody will respect a PMO’s  ability if they do not have the requisite expertise.  EHR needs someone who can state from their experience, “One time at band camp…”   If the EHR can’t lead, or the team is not willing to follow the PMO, you can plan on doing the project over.

Is the C-suite fiddling while EHR burns?

There is an adage in the military—different spanks for different ranks.  If speaks to a double standard, the less egregious their punishment for similar offenses, similar misjudgments.

We see that every day in business, and we see it a lot in healthcare, especially in hospitals.  Physicians are held accountable for medical errors.  Hospitals pay millions for malpractice insurance knowing that mistakes will be made and people will be held accountable for their mistakes.

But what about on the business side?  Who is held accountable for business mistakes?  An acquisition that failed to deliver.  An expensive new service offering that bled the company dry.  A decline in the number of patients. The failure of a major IT initiative to deliver results.

Take EHR.  Some of you are saying, “Yes, please take it.”

  • Around sixty percent of the large EHR projects have failed in one respect or another
  • Most will not receive ARRA incentives
  • A large number of hospitals are on their second implementation of EHR
  • Some have productivity losses of thirty percent

Who is going to be fired for the two hundred dollar misstep?  The board?  Never.  The CEO—no.  The COO or CFO?  Unlikely.  The CIO?  That is the safe bet.

Did the CIO authorize the expenditure?  Nope.  Did the CIO get all the dollars needed to be successful, all the user support?  Unlikely.

In most cases the CIO has all of the responsibility and only some of the authority.  There are a handful of people in each organization tasked with the oversight of the large project.  They are the ones who should be asking the right questions, the ones who should be demanding answers.

A failed project, a failed strategy should not come as a surprise.  The only people who will be wearing EHR 2.0 T-shirts are those who authorized EHR 1.0.  How come these individuals are not accountable?

saint Paul M. Roemer
Chief Imaginist, Healthcare IT Strategy

1475 Luna Drive, Downingtown, PA 19335
+1 (484) 885-6942
paulroemer@healthcareitstrategy.com

My profiles: LinkedInWordPressTwitterMeetupBlog RSS
Contact me: Google Talk/paulroemer Skype/paulroemer Google Wave/paulroemer

How the C-suite sees the CIO

This link is to my latest post for healthsystemCIO.com.  http://healthsystemcio.com/2010/06/10/how-the-c-suite-sees-the-cio/

saint Paul M. Roemer
Chief Imaginist, Healthcare IT Strategy

1475 Luna Drive, Downingtown, PA 19335
+1 (484) 885-6942
paulroemer@healthcareitstrategy.com

My profiles: LinkedInWordPressTwitterMeetupBlog RSS
Contact me: Google Talk/paulroemer Skype/paulroemer Google Wave/paulroemer

The large provider business model–The Sky is Falling

This link takes you to my newest post on Anthony Guerra’s HeathsystemCIO.com site.  I welcome your thoughts.

http://healthsystemcio.com/2010/04/27/the-large-provider-business-model-the-sky-is-falling/

My best – Paul

saint Paul M. Roemer
Chief Imaginist, Healthcare IT Strategy

1475 Luna Drive, Downingtown, PA 19335
+1 (484) 885-6942
paulroemer@healthcareitstrategy.com

My profiles: LinkedInWordPressTwitterMeetupBlog RSS
Contact me: Google Talk/paulroemer Skype/paulroemer Google Wave/paulroemer

EHR: How do you avoid failing?

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I may have mentioned that I’m a runner. In high school and college I’d run anytime, anywhere. I ran cross country, indoor track, outdoor track, and AAU– kept my hair tied back in a ponytail—I miss the hair.

Those were the days. I was the captain of the cross-country team during my senior year. Behind the school was a long series of hills we used for training, and they were blocked from the coach’s view. I remember that one day I told the team it was okay to walk because we were out of the coach’s sight. I also remember when he took me aside after practice and said he didn’t think it was a good idea for the captain to tell the guys they could walk. He said he couldn’t see me but he sure could hear me. I also remember the time I had my mom dropped me off about half mile away from my girlfriend’s house so I could run, making it look like I ran the entire six miles.

My friends and I ran a few 50 mile races and a couple of marathons. But the strangest race we ever ran was one that lasted 24 hours. The event was a 24 hour mile relay. More than a dozen teams entered the event. Our team had seven runners. The idea behind the race was that each person would run around the track four times with a baton and then hand the baton to the next member of his team. If one member of the team was too tired to take his turn, that team was disqualified. The race started early on a Saturday morning. At the end of 24 hours, my team had run 234 miles. We were proud of what we had done. We were even prouder when we saw the article printed in our local paper the following week that we had set a world record for a seven-man team in a 24-hour relay.

I’d like to believe that the world record had something to do with the fact that we were a great group of runners. However, as I look back on it I tend to believe that the world record had more to do with the obscurity of the event than with the capability of the runners. I don’t know if that same event had been run before we ran it or was ever run afterwards. Who knows, we may still hold the record. I guess what I learned from that event, is that it is easier to be viewed as being excellent at something that isn’t done very often.  Obscure or not, it was a one-time event for us.

Doing something once makes it difficult if not impossible to prepare for the gotchas that lay in wait.  There are healthcare providers who are on their second and third attempt at implementing their electronic health records system (EHR).  This is not the type of event where practice makes perfect, far from it.  If you don’t get it right the first time, you’ve probably already laid waste to your most important stakeholders, the users.  They are difficult enough to get on board the first time.  The second time it becomes much more of a fool me once shame on me, fool me twice, shame on you.

How do you avoid second and third attempts of something as difficult as a full-blown EHR?  For some providers, it’s even worse in that they probably have multiple dissimilar instances of EHR already in place in parts of the hospital, instances that will have to be integrated to the corporate platform.  If you let the clinical side run the project, you run the risk of losing the IT side.  If you let the IT side run the project, you run the risk of losing the clinical side.

Who do you trust to run what could amount to a few hundred million dollar project, bring out the best skills of the team members, and make sure the vendor is operating in your best interest?  It’s a difficult question to answer.  The good news is that if you get it wrong you probably won’t have to worry about doing it over, that will probably be your one-time event.

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Healthcare Informatics: one time at band camp…

band

Here’s a response I posted to a Healthcare Informatics article, by Mark Hagland, “Revenge of the Clinical Informaticists”.

The link is: http://healthcare-informatics.com/ME2/dirmod.asp?sid=349DF6BB879446A1886B65F332AC487F&nm=&type=Blog&mod=View+Topic&mid=67D6564029914AD3B204AD35D8F5F780&tier=7&id=5E2E36E45CB54ECA8D2B08DC3E4D679C

I wrote the following:

I wrote on this same topic yesterday, albeit with a slightly different bent.  Like you, I see two distinct groups who do not play well in the same sandbox—clinical and IT.  Having one group go to the other’s summer camp to pick up a few skills is not the same as pulling a few costly and hairy projects from the bowels of project hell any more than it would be to have an IT executive take an EMT course and then assume that person was qualified to perform surgery—this one time at band camp…

Before I get up on my stool and knock myself off, I know CMIOs and CIOs who have made HIT and EHR very successful.  To them I ask, do not rake me across the Twitter coals as I try to make a point.

There’s knowledge, and then there’s qualified.  Doctors do four years of medical school, they intern, and if they specialize, they throw in a few more years before they become the in-charge.  Years of training and practice before the doctor is allowed to run the show.  Why?  Because what they are about to undertake requires practice, tutelage, and expertise.  Most of the actual learning occurs outside the classroom.

There are those—not Mr. Hagland—who suggest that the skills needed to manage successfully something as foreboding as full-blown EHR can be picked up at IT Camp.  They do a disservice to seasoned IT professionals.

Most large IT projects fail.  I believe large EHR projects will fail at an even higher rate.  Most clinical procedures do not fail, even the risky ones.

What’s the spin line from this discussion?

  • Rule 1—large EHR projects will fail at an alarming rate
  • Rule 2—sending a doctor to band camp probably won’t change rule one

Don’t believe me?  Ask friends in other industries how their implementation of an ERP or manufacturing system went.  There are consulting firms who make a bundle doing disaster recovery work on failed IT projects.  They circle the halls like turkey vultures waiting for CIO or project manager carrion.

Back to Rule 1 for a moment.  How can I state that with such assurance?  Never before in the history of before—I know that’s not a proper phrase—has any single industry attempted to use IT to:

  • impart such radical charge (patients, doctors, employees)
  • impart it on a national basis
  • hit moving and poorly defined targets—interoperability, meaningful use, certification
  • take guidance from nobody—there is no EHR decider
  • implement a solution from amongst hundreds of vendors
  • implement a solution with no standards
  • move from an industry at 0.2 to 2.0 business practices
  • concurrently reform the entire industry

Just what should a CMIO be able to do?  What are the standards for a CMIO?  To me, they vary widely.  Is a CMIO considered an officer in the same sense as the other “O’s” in the organization, or is it simply a naming convention?  The answer to that question probably depends on the provider.

Here’s how I think it should work—I realize nobody has asked for my opinion, but this way I’ll at least provide good fodder for those who are so bold as to put their disagreement in writing.

I love the concept of the CMIO and think it is essential to move the provider’s organization from the 0.2 model to the 2.0 model.  Same with the CIO.  However, getting them to pool their efforts on something like EHR is likely to fail as soon as one is placed in a position of authority over the other.  It’s sort of like getting the Americans and French to like one another.

I liken the CMIO’s value-add to that of the person providing the color commentary on ESPN—it adds meaning and relevancy.  The CMIO owns and answers a lot of the “what” and the CIO owns and answers a lot of the “How”.

Still unanswered are the “Why” and “When”.  A skill is needed that can state with assurance, “Follow me.  Tomorrow we will do this because this is what needs to be done tomorrow.”  That skill comes from an experienced Project Management Officer, the PMO.  It does not come from someone who “we think can handle the job.”  Nobody will respect that person’s ability, and if they can’t lead, yo can plan on doing the project over.

Oh, if anyone is still reading, here’s my original post; https://healthcareitstrategy.com/2009/09/28/what-should-be-the-role-of-the-cmio/

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What should be the role of the CMIO?

leadDid you ever notice when you’re watching a sports movie that a down-and-out, last-place team can always be rallied into first place in one season by the simple addition of one player with a winning attitude?  Some people keep going to see Gone With the Wind thinking that if they see it enough times the south might win.  Fantasy works well in almost any setting where popcorn is served.

Unfortunately, they don’t serve popcorn in EHR planning sessions.  Perhaps that’s because there aren’t very many planning sessions.  If there were, and if they were held by people who knew what they were up against and how to deal with it, there would be far fewer failures.

There seems to be a rush amongst hospitals to hire Chief Medical Information Officers (CMIO).  Good.  Hospitals should benefit from their skills.  I am curious, what is the qualification or specific expertise that one must possess to be a CMIO?  Are these people officers in the firm in the same sense as CEO, COO, and CFO, or is it more of a naming convention, a way of stating that a doctor has an understanding of IT?

I raise this question because of a hospital I know acting in the belief that this could be the missing link in their EHR genome program.

From my perspective a CMIO is as necessary—but not sufficient—as a CIO, provided that each is used correctly.  Whichever one is placed in charge of EHR, the other will be slighted.  Not just them, but their organization.  If the “I” in CMIO only refers to an informatics degree, I see the role of a CMIO somewhat like that of a color commentator on ESPN.  Unless the CMIO has a successful track record of planning and implementing eight or nine figure information technology projects, I think the role of the CMIO should be limited to ensuring that the clinical side of the program is functional and effective.  In the same sense, the role of the CIO should be limited to non-clinical issues.

I recommend for large EHR programs that a hospital hire a seasoned Program Management Officer, one who can walk in the door and state with confidence, “This is what we are going to do tomorrow because this is what should be done.”

I recently ran the PMO for a large medical device manufacturer implementing a very pricey Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) system.  I knew with certainty the project was at risk the moment we walked past the smattering of cubicles which housed the PLM team.  There was no ‘I’ in team, there was no ‘ME’ in team, there weren’t enough people to play a good game of dodge ball.  There was no team.

Giving people the responsibility will not get the job done if they don’t have the skills to do it.  Who is leading your effort?  Should they be?  What should the minimum skill set be of someone who will manage this hundred million dollar spend?

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