Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Keep it Simple Sweetie.....

I was recently asked why I related healthcare IT to a car in a previous post, and did I think that it made me sound less “techy” or intelligent?    Forgive me while I soap box a bit - One of the things that bothers me about healthcare IT is we use overly fancy words, acronyms, and phrases to describe something really simple. While I understand this is similar in many industries – for example, the dentist yesterday he used 15 different words to describe my sore tooth. It’s the second tooth from the back on the right side people! Bicuspus chomper regularus painfulugus!

It would be easier if we could all just translate a little. That’s why I try to use a lot of non-healthcare and non-IT analogies. Not because I don’t understand – because I do. I understand that to most people we work with the concept is more powerful then a detailed description of the program or Code. The result is more critical then the how.

To those of you who program – don’t get me wrong I understand that the details must be covered and if not then the concept can never occur.  To those of you who live in the concept – the details drive you nuts but without them your vision is just words.  Words accomplish very little.

With everything occuring in Healthcare IT - communicating between technical and non-technical people is critical to making things work right.

What do I know?  I am just a little gal from Missouri…..with a company that takes “Anything that rings, dings, or buzzes and we design the workflow to get it to a wireless gadget that a caregiver carries.”

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Grady Health Systems Surgical Service Workflow

At HIMSS I had the opportunity to tour the Surgical Services area of Grady Health System in Atlanta. The visit was facilitated by Centrak and hosted by Hakan Iliken the Director of Anesthesia and Director of Process Improvement. Iliken was an exciting individual who shared his vast knowledge of process design which is rooted in his Industrial Engineering, Software Development, and CEO background. Iliken is in charge of making sure the technology applies and assists the caregivers, patients, and doctors throughout the day. What I found unique about Iliken was his ability to not only look at things through clinical glasses, but also examine it with a business mindset - balancing clinical and business.  The technology implemented was a Centrak RTLS System tied into a Perioptimum tracking board.

According to Iliken - The Goal of the Implementation is to “Improve Surgical Services throughput and productivity by utilizing a system with Real Time Accuracy.” A secondary goal was to "Increase Transparency."

The Primary Goal is “easily” definable – increase utilization, and ultimately increase revenues. Iliken has seen a 10% increase in Utilization during Prime Time. They are mobilizing staff and moving patients more efficiently and effectively, and they are able to identify bottlenecks readily.

One of the key ways that they accomplished documenting efficiency was to utilize the three flexible buttons on the In-touch badge. The way Iliken designed the processes ,which were enabled by the technology, is each button represented the next step in the process – the wow factor in the design is as the badge physically moved into a different area (Pre-OP, OR, PACU, etc) the buttons would change meaning.  Thus, offering extreme flexibility.  For example button 1 (represented by a *) means “Anes ready” in PreOp, in OR it means “Induction Begins”, and in PACU the same button means “Phase 1 Complete”.  To aide in the ease of use color coding was used on the tracking boards in the staff area recording and identifying the patient’s location and specific steps in the process.  Each staff member is provided with a "cheat sheet" that is card sized and fits into the ID badge holder.  In addition, since the button pushes were not tied to a physical item such as a wall it provides for additional future flexibility.

The ability to dissect a process is a powerful tool. Think of it like an assembly line at Ford. Each person in the process touches the product, and with extreme accuracy they can identify where the issue occured. They can also identify if it was a people or process issue.  Can all of this be achieved with RTLS and process design in a hospital? While I am on board with lean and six sigma design and the ability to reduce errors by using strict process – I believe that healthcare at its core is about people helping people. People who are sick and people who are taking care of them – no matter how we try there will always be a people element. Technology is a tool – it’s not always total the answer.  
Stay Tuned for Part Two - The secondary goal, I found most fascinating, probably because of my groupie like appreciation for Paul Levy’s blog. Transparency means no holds bar real data – the truth that bypasses the finger pointing and assumptions.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Patient Within the Code

HIMSS made me have one of those “Wow” moments where the world was once flat and now is in full Spherical shape. I was amazed at the bright colorful booths, the well dressed executives, and the hustle and bustle of it all. As I had a complete geek out moment – playing with widgets, talking tech with providers and hospitals – I began to get lost in the forest of tech and saw how it would be easy to lose the patient amongst the code.

Technology is enabling – Technology is empowering – Technology can become overwhelming and overused.

I had the luxury at HIMSS to tour Grady Hospital with Hakan Ilikan, Director of Process Improvement. Ilikan’s passion is to see technology make life better for the caregivers, patients, and families.  I will tell you the full story in a later post, but one moment stood out.  As I walked through the waiting room of the OR my gaze carried past the screen of information about the patients progression through surgery and I made eye contact with a woman – for a brief moment I was reminded why we are all doing this – for her and her loved one.

How many times a day does the patient enter your conversation?
How about their family?
How many times a day do you visualize how your technology helps them?
Does your technology really help them at all?

Maybe I am the only techy geek that sometimes forgets what it’s all about – maybe I am not. I keep a picture on our website which serves as a reminder for myself and my team of why we do this – why we focus on making life better. 

Technologists – Manufactures – Service Providers is it possible that we are so consumed with the competition, development, deployments, that the patient becomes de-emphasized in our equation?

Don’t misplace the patient among the code – Don’t forget why we are all in this game.

We as a company have not shared our Vision but I think it is important – it’s not long – we didn’t hire a large consulting firm to help us –it’s pretty simple “To Make Life Better” followed by our Mission “To Empower Organizations with integration of people, process, and technology.”