Monday, September 15, 2014

Cultivating Innovation instead of Conformity

I had the opportunity to see Neal Patterson speak at the American Royal scholarship lunch. For those of you non-Kansas City people who read my blog – American Royal is a foundational aspect of Kansas City which is facing a momentous challenge….but I will close with my thoughts on that…
Neal has an interesting way of communicating, if you haven’t experienced him in a large venue you should. He speaks as if looking at a whiteboard – where he can see how everything fits nicely together yet he is searching for the next white space that he is supposed to identify and fill. As he moved into a segment on Healthcare (industry) he made several statements that have sat with me for the last few days.
Here was my take away: We as a culture/ industry have moved from innovating in healthcare to finding a way to work within the constraints the government has put on us. This has created a mantra of focusing our creative efforts towards efficiency and conformity to squeeze the turnip. Many have resigned to the idea that government provided healthcare will be our new way of life. I believe this will strangle and destroy the ability for the innovators to create a new way of being.
Gut check… is the product we have created and our roadmap conforming to the government constraints? Are we answering the problems of today without considering the opportunity of a future that is NOT created by Obamacare?
As a company, Sphere3 has been tagged in number of different buckets. Early on people continuously called us a “bolt on reporting software for nurse call” which always annoyed me. Their short sighted understanding of what “reporting” is and what the impact of patient generated data could be on the care delivery model….if you can’t see beyond “reporting” then you are stuck in the early 1990s and need to get your head out of the sand. Reporting is dead – it is a post mortem and if your company is still focused on reports…..then to quote my 10 year old “dude”.
Most recently, we have been tagged as a survey tool…..ugh….while our tool can gather everything from patient experience to site specific data. The FUNCTION of survey is really meaningless without a true intersection of patient behavioral and caregiver engagement information. When we try to use “feeling” to define process we lose the ability to have long lasting impact.
I believe that a product category will emerge this year that will even go beyond Alarm Fatigue. It will identify how the patient generated data produced in a useable format at the point of care beyond dashboards and beyond that of an alarm or alert. I believe the category will be AS impactful as Electronic Medical Record. This spider web of information produced BY the patient will be AS important as information produced ABOUT the patient. The information produced BY the patient must be compiled and visually produced in a useable manner as engageable digestible information…at the point of care.
Hospital Leaders, do me a favor the next time a sales person shows you their reports….ask them “How do you expect me to use that at the point of care? How do you expect me to create an environment of quality care that is actively evolving with a piece of paper?” The next time a sales person shows you their survey tool…… ask them “How do the actions of the care team compare to that patients perception?” The next time a sales person throws the word “Alarm Fatigue” make them really tell you how their tool will impact care….how will they really engage and change the behaviors of your care team other than a Pavlovian response to yet another alarm…….
I promised a close on the American Royal….so if you are not from here then the end is not for you but I welcome you to read on.
Our city has a lack of vision accompanied by a lack of appreciation for our Agrarian roots that should be seen as a strength and not a weakness. Do you not see that the American Royal is part of who we are? Or are you trying to define us by the music concerts and monster truck rallies at the Sprint center?
My personal rant which is shared in good company by Neal Patterson..…children today do not understand how food gets to our tables, but there is an uprising of individuals who believe in buying local or even producing their own food. I live in a rural area. (Across the street from cows and surrounded by farming) I desire to know where my food originates. We have an obligation to our community and region to continue to support and promote those who feed us. There is a slippery slope and danger to a community that fails to recognize where our food originates. We have an obligation to our area to encourage and enable young people to learn how to be the next generation of farmers.
Agriculture has become a growth industry again in our economy. The promise of technology and innovation as America feeds the expanding population of the world is a great opportunity. Our youth have an opportunity to cultivate promising careers in a sector of our economy undergoing great change.
My question back to the AR is how are you cultivating growth in the city which birthed you? How are you innovating beyond rural to impact the local community beyond merely brining in additional attendees to your events? How are you reaching into the schools to provide education and perspective?
Don’t you agree city leaders……or do you think that your food comes from a grocery store?

Friday, July 18, 2014

Looking for your Joseph Moment

10 years ago mom started calling me Job (the Biblical Character) not because I had monumentus faith, but because my personal life was a series of unfortunate events.… seemed for a period of time that if an unfortunate event could occur that I was magnetically attracted to it. I started waiting for the next bad thing to happen. Professionally, it was different...I was beyond good – driven, killer instinct, aggressive, admittedly immature but always driving forward. Then one day my professional life hit a road bump…..
We picked up a product that – on the surface was amazing – it zipped, it zinged, it could walk on water….I sold 4 enterprise level platforms with that promise…..then during the first install….it sank like the titanic without a life boat. I thought – WAIT a sec – my professional life is amazing…I am a 25 year old power house and this is not supposed to happen….but it did. I began to see my Job life seeping into my wonderful career.
I experienced true grace by a senior leadership team at that hospital. Even though we offered to replace the software with another for free – they determined it was best to identify how to make it work in an alternate workflow. (My first impromptu design job) That grace is a post for a different day about partnership with Vendors...
Following that experience, as a very humbled professional, I went to each of the remaining CIO’s to let them know what had happened, and that we no longer going to be working with the product. It was hard for a 25 year old to say good bye to over 50% of the years revenue based on a poor choice – it was harder to sit in front of those people who had put their trust in me and admit my failure. Each meeting went different – one was angry and gave me a solid chewing….like any professional I took it then went to my car and cried all the way home. The next told me he was disappointed in me but determined that the product was solid and wanted to proceed directly with the manufacture – he shook my hand, told me he appreciated my honesty, and said my Dad had done a good job raising me. (He had worked with my dad for years) That made me cry in his office.
The final CIO shocked me. As I sat in her office reviewing the challenges and reasoning for my need to step away from the recommended product – she stopped me and said “Kourtney, can you just tell us how this whole things should be set up and what to do in this alarm area?” I shrugged, started to lower my gaze to the floor and said “Well, I….” She interrupted sternly and said “I will pay you for your time.” What? She will pay me for my time, but I am the idiot who brought her a product that didn’t work. Confused I blurted out “You mean like workflow documentation?” “Yes, can you do that or not?” To which I responded “Absolutely” and my journey began.
One of my greatest professional failures became the launching point for one of my greatest successes – Sphere3 and a consulting career I loved - which eventually lead to Aperum.
That was my "Joseph Moment" - the moment I realized I was not destined for a disaster at every turn that lead to nothing. If you don’t know the story of Joseph (from the Old Testament), it’s worth the read. But here is the Cliff Notes – Joseph was going to be killed by his brothers but then they decided to sell him into slavery….he had a series of unfortunate events…and then another series of unfortunate events....that eventually lead him to a position of power that allowed him to save his family…..if he would not have been sold into slavery by his brothers then the entire family would have died.
Are you so busy waiting for your next failure or lamenting over your current disaster that you are missing the moment of your next great success? Do you see each “bad thing” that happens as pointless or is it possibly a progression to the Joseph moment you were meant to have.
Time to change your perspective - time to change your focus.

Saturday, June 21, 2014


I stopped to visit a friend in the hospital and had a chance to observe some clinical workflow in person.  The Nurse walked in.  She had a large brick of a phone wrapped in a plastic case pulling the side of her scrubs uncomfortably down.   She began asking questions as she prepared the medications.  She reached into her pocket and pulled out an Iphone……confusing…..then I realized it was her medication scanner.

As she was preparing to hand the medications to my friend the brick rang…..loud….very loud…. She apologized as she reached down and complained that the previous shift must have had the ringer turned up. (I was there at 8am in the morning so evidently night shift likes to carry a mobile alarm clock) She silenced it and went back to medication work.  I asked “Do you like your phone” – she held up her iphone and said “This isn’t used as a phone it’s just for meds and stuff.” I laughed and smiled “No the brick wrapped in bubble wrap hooked to your scrubs.”  She laughed and said “No Comment” as she finished putting the medication in the cup and talking to Holly she looked at me and said “That thing interrupts me when I am trying to work with a patient and it’s just rude to the patient. I don’t think it’s very practical…..I like to be fully engaged when I am with a patient”

Ouch…every technologist who has designed a decentralized workflow should wince when they hear that – this nurse is a young lady who grew up with a cell phone in her hand wanted to be what? “fully engaged with her patient”  She wanted to walk into a patient’s room and only think about what she needs to do in that moment.  She wanted to focus on getting my friends medications accurate, make sure she didn’t miss any aspect that could be a warning sign…..crazy thing….she wanted to be a nurse.

As I worked on this post – I started writing about ideas for fixing….pointing out that holding on to old technology only hurts your facility….listening to nursing because they actually do the work….blah blah blah…..but then I started think this isn’t just a hospital thing.

I was sitting in my family room – Noah (aka #4) on my lap talking about his day and my phone rang… that moment I stopped engaging with Noah and answered my phone…I tried to justify in my mind that I had tried to get ahold of this person all day and needed the information….as I hung up Noah said “Mom, can you just talk to me for a minute”….ouch…. As I began writing this blog for “Linkedin Content” to promote my industry knowledge…..I am pausing for a moment.

Our workflow design reflects our society design….the nurses response is reflecting the shift in our society to tolerate interruptions.   She recognizes that everyone would like a bit of undivided attention, especially when they are in a new environment.  She recognizes that the technology she had been given was not serving her well and was making her less effective in her job.  She recognizes that – just like Noah – her focus on my friend in that moment should be the most important part of her day.

So this post should serve two purposes – rethink how you are designing your clinical workflow and alarm design.  Clinicians are fatigued because their attention is constantly being split.  Clinicians are fatigued because we, as technologist, aren’t doing our jobs.

The second purpose – does your personal life reflect an interrupt driven society? When will that become not ok for you?

Last night…..I left my phablet in the kitchen….turned the ringer off….and enjoyed my family and some friends.  It was probably the best night I have had in months……..the ringer is still turned off.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

It's a Tool not a Toy

I had to make a change….it was hard…my needs weren’t being met…..after lots of consideration….I got a new phone.   It all started when my husband made a change I couldn’t believe… he bought a Samsung Galaxy (aka the phablet – phone/tablet).  I teased him a lot…why would anyone want anything other than the iphone.  

My love of these little Apple Devices started about 4 years ago…..The first time I saw our software, Aperum, on an iPad I was hooked – mobilizing our software allowed it to be utilized at the point of care.  The ipad is so simple to use – it’s cute – it’s trendy – dare I say sexy. In the past 4 years, I have purchased dozens of “i” products.  (Especially after I met the REQUIRED otterbox – nothing breaks like an iphone.)   As we have grown, we have made lots of trips to the AT&T store to buy new iPads for our people.  On one such trip, Kristal (our VP) and I were waiting on the salesman to retrieve our next iPad when she asked about the Samsung that David just purchased.  I teased – I joked – but by the time our sales guy got back with the tablet we were logged into Aperum and playing with it on the Samsung.  Then….it happened….he began to run us thru features…I drooled…. These were things we only dreamed about on the Apple. 

Here is what I love and why I eventually bought a Phablet….

1)      The built in Stylus….I admit I thought this is really useless and will never be used.   I use it all the time – it automatically unlocks the device when removed from its safe little corner home.  It makes selecting and typing a breeze.

2)      Typing….using the slide function where instead of typing you slide the stylus across a series of letters.  Frankly, it looks like magic that it knows what word to select.  It’s super simple and quick.

3)      Writing…there is a function on the tablet where you can write with the stylus.  I will admit the first few times it wrote some words…. maybe it was just me getting used to it but it seemed to learn my handwriting the more I used it.  It became more accurate as time went on. Which was good because I had a really embarrassing demo when it translated what I wrote into a swear word…

4)      Voice Recording…yes…it works…it’s cool. Again, use it a few times before you demonstrate it….

Here is what I find troubling…..we talk to dozens of hospitals a month and it is a rare event that the clinical staff is enabled with a tablet or even a smart phone.  I am not even just talking about floor nurses – I am talking clinical leadership. 

When we show our software and how easy it is to use at the bedside… we have nurse managers asking their CNO if they can bring in their own tablet to use.  Why?  It’s not only because they see the value of automation in their leadership rounding process using Aperum.  Frankly, they see the value of smart devices – it is not uncommon for nurses carry their personal smart phones in the pockets so they can use aps that help them do their jobs.

So, what is holding hospitals back? Budgets? Device Selection? Device Management? “Ap” Selection / Deployment? 

Here are some quicks Do’s and Don’ts:

·         Don’t Buy a Tablet for one application. (unless it’s ours.. J)  The hospital should create a team to research and understand the usability for different applications in their hospital.  Different teams need different applications.  These applications should show value in safety and satisfaction.

·         Do identify application that align with the hospital’s care models and strategies to enable safer and more satisfying patient care.

·         Do identify a mobile device management platform that meets your needs.

·         Do engage IT…. I know it sounds silly to say, but there have been times when we come to hospitals and the IT department is avoided by the clinical department (which is a blog all in itself)

·         Do buy cases….a serious cases like Otter Boxes.  Make sure you engage your infection control team to identify how these devices will be cleaned.  We have tested all sorts of cases….ones with built in keypads, zipper fronts, plush, and flashy – some of our hospitals launch their tablets naked….let’s just say mistakes were made….

·         Do understand that they are practically disposable….did I say that outloud? Yes, just like your “purpose driven” wireless phones that nurses carry.  Either buy the replacement plans for them or have a budget allocated for replacements.

·         Do buy a nice tablet….I have the war wounds on this one…cheap tablets stink in a hospital setting.  Spend the money get a name brand.

We are going to be testing Aperum in some live environments with different tools in the coming weeks.  We have hospitals looking at the Surface and others looking at the new Spectralink Smart Phone – it’s fun to be vendor neutral and get to play with all sorts of different toys…I mean tools. J  I will update you all on what we identify as positives and negatives.

Are you a Nurse or Nurse Leader?
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1) Like our Facebook Page
2) Share the Update with this Blog Post
3) Post a comment below about how your hospital uses tablets or smart phones.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Cancer Sucks

Usually when I arrive at a hospital there is a scheduled meeting with a CNO or there is a team of us looking at some cool new technology or fixing some alarm automation design problem.  I can’t help but be enamored when I walk onto the units and see nurses with wireless devices, call light systems in action, or new EMR being implemented.  I have a slight attention issue – so the movement of people, flashing lights, everything really kind of sends me into sensory overload….but I love it.

However, last week I didn’t visit a hospital for work.  I visited to sit with a friend as her husband passed away.  It’s amazing how still your mind can become when you are looking into the eyes of someone you care about and know they are suffering.   We stepped out of the hospital room for a moment and all I could think to say to my friend was “Cancer Sucks.”   

I hadn’t been exposed to a patient experience in a while and this one really sucker punched me in the gut. 
Yesterday, I saw that HISTALK did a great interview with my dear friend Regina Holiday.  Regina gave Sphere3 our patient voice. I am a proud member of the Walking Gallery.   She inspired me to openly talk about the patient story that launched our company, and to never forget why we started it in the first place.  I must tell you – running a startup is no cake walk – there have been many times that I want to just close the door – but I look at the picture she painted me and am reminded to fight another day. 
This was an excerpt from the interview and it is the epitome of why we need to keep listening to patients.

What would you say to healthcare software vendors?
I want you to think of your parent in that bed or your child or your wife or your husband when you’re designing software. I want you to think of them. Because every single thing you do should be to make sure they get the best possible care. God, I hope you get to that point before it happens in your very own life. If I can do anything or say anything to get you to emotionally that point where you’re thinking about them while you’re designing, then I’ve done my job.
(The entire interview is here ) 

I have learned from e-patients that if we let the story – tear jerking emotional heart felt story – be a momentary event and not impact our on-going development then the battle is lost.  It has to be a part of your development conversations - part of your core values. Ours is easy: The patient is the purpose of the hospital.   
If you are a big Health IT company and you haven’t had Regina in to speak – call her, email her, find her on facebook, send her a tweet…. You owe it to your team to meet her.
In closing…. The morning after he passed away, while I was having my quiet time, I wrote this down.  Eloquence has never been my strong point, but I thought I would share it with you all anyway. 

Cancer Sucks
It does not care how old you are…. You could be a middle aged mom with young kids or a Grandpa with lots of grandkids.  You could be 80 years old or 8 years old…. Your age means nothing.

It does not care how much you weigh, if you are ugly, or beautiful in the sight of others…. Your looks mean nothing.
It does not care about the color of your skin, your race, or how you chose to live.  Those things means nothing.

 It does not care if you have a billion dollars, million dollars, a thousand dollars, a single dollar, or no dollars at all.  Your wealth means nothing.

It does not care whether you are smart or dumb whether you have a degree from the school or hard knocks or from Harvard.  Your education means nothing.

It does not discriminate…its open door policy….
We don’t get to choose whether we walk in the door….Cancer chooses for us.

Your schedule means nothing. Your loved ones mean nothing. Your plans and dreams mean nothing.
It hates…it destroys… Cancer just Sucks

So I say back to you Cancer…. The only thing you can truly impact is time.  The only joy you steal is the joy we let you steal.  You have no impact on faith because it is independent of circumstance.  You have no power over love. You never really win.


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Zig would be Proud

When I was a kid, my Dad had a thing for Zig Ziglar.  We had videos, cassette tapes, scheduled listening times, and lots of conversations.  Dad would say “If you don’t know where you are going – you won’t know when you get there.” Coming from a man who I saw as remarkably successful, I was intent on learning his secret.   

He wrote his goals down – he made them attainable, measurable, and part of his overall strategy. I never had a problem writing down my goals….I found a notebook a while back from 1993 (you can guess my age later) and I had 10 goals written down, even a plan to obtain each of them.  The problem I have had since 1993, and even still today, is measuring along the plan consistently.  Generally, my measurements are done on a schedule, but often take several hours to collect information or run a report.

It’s interesting when you are running a growing organization how measuring consistently sometimes escape us in the hustle of things – new version releases, launches, growing customer lists, etc.  It’s more fun to think of new software features based on the latest customer feedback then to focus on the “details”.   As a small company – the devil is in the details… we have gotten “bigger”….we have found the devil is still in those details. 

Setting and managing goals is more than measuring the end result, it’s about measuring along the process, measuring each individuals contribution…….and doing it in an efficient way. 

On February 11th,  Sphere3 will be releasing a new tool for our clients called myMetrics this tool measures individuals progress in specific categories using not only patient feedback from our Leadership Rouding tool but real metrics of actives from your call light system.  It gives the caregiver an understanding of how their efforts play into the whole strategy of improving HCAHPS.

·         What is the individual’s ability to respond – whether they are the first person to get the call or the third?  

·         What is the individuals visit rate – how often does this individual go to the patient room whether beckoned or not?

·         How does the patient perceive the care they are receiving?

HCAHPS is a balance between perception and actual execution of task.  Goals of perception mean nothing if you don’t have a quantifiable balance point – a benchmark on the task associated with achieving that goal.  A quantifiable balance point means nothing unless it can truly be applied to an individual’s performance.  

Here are some thoughts as you enter the new year:

1)      A paper or “report” based process to manage these items won’t cut it – you will spend more on the resources to pull the data then you would having a tool to do it for you “auto-magically”.

2)      Caregivers (any employee) needs a concise view of their contribution to the overall vision and strategy of the organization. 

3)      Your job as a manager should be coaching them to improvement not compiling data, and creating a report.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Alarm Fatigue Panel Discussion


Medical Devices have been created to notify a care team if the patient condition has slipped outside of the desired parameters.  The alarms are essential to provide safe care for patients.  The challenge is that when a device cries wolf (even if it’s reacting the way it was designed to react) that the care team begins to become fatigued….the more fatigued they are the higher the risk to patients.
There have been a number of solutions applied to the issue – everything from large technology investments to seek a better balance of “right alarm, right person, right time” to centralized alarm command centers to reduce the interruptions on the floor to simply creating policies that enable consistency on how alarms are to be treated and reacted too.

Join Commission is focusing on challenges to the care teams caused by ALARM FATIGUE. 
I will be hosting a panel discussion providing the HOSPITAL perspective…no the 5th Annual Medical Device Connectivity Conference


Jennifer Jackson, Director of Clinical Engineering & Device Integration
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

Marni Chandler-Nicoli RN, MPH, Intensive Medicine Clinical Program Manager
InterMountain Healthcare Clinical Operations

 Click here to learn more and register to join us!