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New Healthcare Facility Experiences IT Growing Pains

Posted on November 15, 2012 I Written By

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.

Well, dear readers, if it’s not one thing it’s another. Our family has been plagued by broken bones (documented in a recent blog), as well as the sinusitis and bronchitis that have plagued so many other families as of late. Like a typical mother, I put off going to the doctor in the hopes that the malady would run its course, as my colds typically do. But after four weeks (one spent on holiday in the Virgin Islands), I woke up with new, more intense symptoms, and so decided to seek professional help. (I’ll leave it to you to determine if the copious amounts of rum punch and lengthy amount of time spent getting to and from Tortola in any way impacted my condition.)

I was faced with several options: try to get seen by my primary care physician, who, since my move, is now inconveniently located. (Note to self: seek new PCP closer to home.) Try my luck at the Walgreens clinic nearby. Or, go to the urgent care center down the street.

I bypassed Walgreens because I’ve had insurance issues there in the past. (As I drove past, I noticed they are excitedly welcoming back Blue Cross Blue Shield customers.) I faced the same problem at the urgent care center, so decided to try my luck at a previously unconsidered option – the new WellStar Acworth Health Park.

Larger than a typical medical office, but smaller than a typical WellStar hospital, the health park offers a variety of services – urgent care; pediatrics; a variety of specialists; pharmacy; and family, internal and OB/GYN medicine, among other services. I was pleasantly surprised to find that its café offers Starbucks coffee.

Just a few months old, its interior and exterior are pristine – open, airy spaces, fountains and lots of glass accents are certainly a nice change from the typical, closed-in feel of most phsyicians’ offices I’ve visited. The staff was welcoming, sympathetic and accepting of my insurance, much to my relief.

It even had a concierge/upscale feel. Complimentary single-serve coffee was available in the urgent care waiting room, as were a variety of cold beverages. A good portion of the waiting area was given over to kids’ amusements, which I hope my girls will never have to amuse themselves with! I definitely appreciated the wifi throughout the facility. These little perks are so nice when a long wait is in front of you and you’re well enough to take advantage of them.

Being that it is a new facility, it is still experiencing growing pains, most noticeably in the need for additional physicians. Fortunately, I didn’t arrive on a day where patients were wrapped around the building waiting for the doors to open, as the pharmacist told me has happened before. Nevertheless, I did wait a considerable amount of time on the single physician on staff that day. Even he mentioned the need for additional MDs in the face of great community need.

He was cheerful and paid attention to my concerns, even apologizing for the paper prescriptions. Turns out WellStar plans to transition from NextGen to Epic early next year, and is waiting for that process to start in order to bring the health park on board with new, system-wide electronic medical records and e-prescribing. He was very enthusiastic about the conveniences afforded by healthcare IT, which makes me think perhaps I should consider a WellStar physician in my search for a PCP closer to home.

The pharmacy was experiencing its own growing pains, most notably with its consumer-facing payment system, and phone lines. But, the staff’s smiling faces, good attitudes and a fresh cup of coffee helped allay any frustration on my part.

Coincidentally, I came across a press release later that day detailing WellStar’s just-announced partnership with Piedmont Healthcare. They’ve teamed up to form the Georgia Health Collaborative, which, according to Piedmont’s press release, will enable the two “to share intellectual knowledge concerning clinical care and seek cost reductions through economies of scale.”

I’m all for economies of scale, but hope my family won’t have to experience them via unexpected or put-off illness anytime soon.

Why You’re Never Going to Leave a Healthcare IT Job at 5:30

Posted on April 19, 2012 I Written By

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.

Anybody catch the recent Mashable.com or CNN articles on the feedback Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has received because she makes it a point to leave work at 5:30 pm every day? (You can read them here and here.) In a nutshell, Sandberg has always left the office around that time – a practice she started when she first had kids, but has only felt comfortable talking about it now that she is in upper management and (presumably) somewhat immune to corporate push back. ( Don’t confuse leaving work with not working, by the way. Sandberg, like many others, checks email at all hours.)

Mashable CEO Pete Cashmore, who authored the CNN.com story, summarizes the mini-controversy that has evolved in the tech world as a result of Sandberg’s coming clean: “In a competitive industry where your work is never truly complete, has it become socially awkward to leave work at a time that used to be the standard? And are those working eight-hour days that end at 5 p.m. being quietly judged by their co-workers? Whatever happened to “work-life balance”?

Good questions, to be sure. So good, in fact, that I felt compelled to pose a similar query to a panel of current and former healthcare CIOs – all guys, by the way – at the recent Women in Technology International (WITI) / GAHIMSS event, “Women in Healthcare IT Talk.”

Piedmont Healthcare CIO Mark Pasquale was refreshingly candid in his response: “I don’t have a work-life balance.” His point being that, as a CIO overseeing a near-future EPIC ERP system go-live, his work day never really ends, especially given how connected he is via multiple mobile devices. He also pointed out that, as 85% of Piedmont’s install team is internal, Piedmont spent copious amounts of time preparing that staff for the time commitment required to travel to Epic headquarters in Madison, Wisc., for training. Pasquale kept an open door, and said many staff members came by multiple times to hash out whether committing to such an intense project was the right move for them.

From left to right: Christopher Kunney, The BAE Company; Sonny Munter, Georgia Dept. of Community Health; Mark Pasquale, Piedmont Healthcare; Praveen Chopra, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta

Fellow panelist Christopher Kunney, HIT Strategist at the BAE Company and former CIO of Piedmont, made the point that you have to be aware of what you’re signing up for when you enter healthcare’s executive ranks. Long days aren’t unusual; they are the norm. Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta CIO Praveen Chopra concurred, adding that his wife makes him limit use of his Blackberry on vacation to just one hour a day. Sonny Munter, CIO of Georgia’s Dept. of Community Health, joked that he leaves his job everyday at 4pm – but gets going around 6 in the morning. Munter added that he makes it a point to surround himself with good staff members, which also helps in balancing his work and family obligations.

From left to right: Lisa McVey, McKesson; Gretchen Tegethoff, Athens Regional Medical Center; Patty Lavely, CIO Consulting LLC; Deborah Cancilla, Grady Health System

A second panel of healthcare executives – all female – pretty much agreed with their male counterparts. Patty Lavely, founder of CIO Consulting LLC and former CIO of three different health systems, did echo Facebook’s Sandberg just a bit in her comment on the subject: “There comes a time when you have to say, ‘This [work] will be here for me tomorrow. I need to go home and have dinner with my family tonight.”

All of the panelists mentioned the need to prioritize workplace projects and challenges in a way that is suitable to the particular balance they need in their lives. They have triaged, so to speak, their commitments, priorities, deadlines, etc. to fit their schedules.

So, can healthcare IT folks – providers or vendors, executives or otherwise – ever be off the clock, never mind leave the office between 5 and 6? Share your stories and advice in the comments below.