Written by: John Lynn
When I first started blogging, I came across a hospital CIO blog called Candid CIO that is written by Will Wieder, CIO of Ministry Health Care. Six years later he’s still my favorite hospital CIO blogger out there. My only complaint is that he doesn’t blog enough (understandably so). I’ve never had a chance to meet Will in person, but I hope to one day have that opportunity.
Will recently commented on one of my posts. After seeing his comment I had the genius idea to ask him for an interview. I’m not sure why I hadn’t thought of it before since we go so far back, but when you see the content of the interview you’ll see why I’m planning to reach out to more CIOs. I hope you enjoy Will’s comments as much as I did.
You have a great CIO blog at CandidCIO.com, what made you start blogging and why do you continue blogging today?
Thanks. I originally started the blog for two reasons. Firstly, I follow tech trends and like to try anything that is emerging. So, I started this blog a long time ago. Secondly, I always desired an outlet where I could express my views of healthcare IT. At the time I started the blog a lot of the HIT press was driving me crazy with superficial stories that didn’t explore difficult questions. One would get the impression that every single IT project ever started was a worthwhile success. So, I wanted to be able to challenge conventional wisdom.
Today there are many great blogs and thousands of voices on Twitter.
Do you think other CIO’s should blog?
I hope that they do, because we have a lot to learn from each other. But it does take time, I have found it impossible to post consistently these days. I am big fan of tech blogger, John Gruber. His posts are almost always two or three sentences. I used to always write long posts. Recently I am mostly writing shorter posts that matches what I would like to read, given my attention span.
How do you deal with the challenge of a blog and Twitter account making you “too” accessible as a CIO?
People generally respect boundaries. Part of my life is to ignore cold callers (unless they are serendipitously offering something on my priority list), I would love to get back to every person that wants to meet me for lunch and talk about my organization’s prioirites, but there isn’t enough time in the day to respond – let alone have all those meetings. I have met a lot of great people on Twitter and I have hired a few, all of those have turned out great.
What’s the biggest issue on your plate as a hospital CIO today?
Managing demand. The best part of being a health care CIO is that there are so many great new solutions that solve business problems, especially in the clinical arena. The worst part is that everybody wants those solutions and they want them now. Even if senior management makes some hard decisions about priorities, the managers that submitted projects that didn’t make the priority list are disappointed and frustrated. I would feel the same way (and do feel the same way when my projects don’t make the cut).
What are the top 3 hospital CIO issues you can see on the horizon?
1. Hone project management so projects are done more quickly and successfully (see above)
3. IT Operations – as our doctors and nurses become increasingly more dependent on IT we need to improve our processes that drive system availability and response time.
4. Consumerization of enterprise IT (rise of the iPads)
How has meaningful use impacted your hospital for good and bad?
I have heard a lot of people state that Meaningful Use was a clinical project and that they expected the results to be really meaningful. That wasn’t our experience. We were already working on meaningful clinical IT projects. Much of the objectives were things we had done or started. Our focus was to stay the course and make a few modifications so we hit every objective as written.
Our internal customers (our management team, physicians, nurses, etc.) would probably say that Stage 1 Meaningful Use has been a non-event for them. I like to think that is a testament to the many things that we were doing right. For example, our hospital in Weston, WI is all-digital. There are no charts on the floor; there is not even a file room. It is the only Wisconsin hospital (except a Children’s Hospital) recognized by Leapfrog Group as having fully met the CPOE leap. So, Meaningful Use was mostly about taking the time to properly measure everything and create quality measures to the appropriate specification.
Do you follow the All in One or Best of Breed software approach and why?
I would have to describe us as a Best of Breed IT organization. Many of our admissions come from Marshfield Clinic doctors. The Marshfield Clinic developed their own EHR and have been perfecting it over the last 20 years. About 5 years ago we made the decision to use the Marshfield Clinic EHR in our Ministry clinics and to interface that EHR to our hospitals.
Sharing that EHR was in the best interest of our patients. Our primary care doctors, our hospitals and Marshfield Clinic specialists are all contributing to a common patient record. Once we made that decision for our patients, it was no longer possible to have an All in One solution (Marshfield Clinic does not have a Hospital Information System).
If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about healthcare, what would it be?
Reduce costs. Quality improves year over year as medical knowledge increases, processes improve and new technologies (including information technologies) evolve. But the cost here in the US continues to skyrocket (18% of GDP, double that of the second most expensive industrialized nation). Frustratingly, there isn’t even agreement on why the cost is increasing. I want healthcare to be affordable to the working families here in Wisconsin.
Are you seeing and experience an experienced health IT staff shortage? How do you suggest people without healthcare experience get a health IT job?
More so in the technical areas where we are competing with all industries. We are able to recruit and/or develop applications analyst.
What’s your most important IT project today?
Ministry Health Care was traditionally a less consolidated organization that had 7 or 8 different IT departments. As a result of that we still have a lot of fragmented systems, 740 different applications running on 1,500 servers. Our environment is too complex and it makes us too inefficient. We have plans to greatly simplify that environment. But, it will take us several years and scores of projects to get there. This is paramount to our competitiveness.
From a more short-term perspective this ICD-10 thing is a complicated beast that must go well. After looking at the cost for our organization, and then extrapolating that to the entire industry, I don’t see how the money spent will be worth the value received.
Which IT project doesn’t get enough attention and why?
The need to abandon Windows XP by the time Microsoft ends support in April of 2014 is a ticking time bomb and I am not hearing anyone talk about it. We will spend more time and money (about $5M) on this than we spent working on Stage 1 of Meaningful Use.
Any final thoughts?
Two things: Firstly, I have a great job and I work with incredible people in IT and throughout Ministry. Secondly, the Packers are going to win the Super Bowl this year.
John’s Note: I’ll forgive him for his Packer fandom which is understandable for where he lives. Personally I just hope my Dolphins can turn things around.