The Quest for the Ring in HealthcareIT

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One deals in bats and balls. The other manages bits and bytes.

But when it comes to using statistics to drive organizational change, New York Yankees’ General Manager Brian Cashman and Temple Health Interim CTO Michael Feld couldn’t agree more. Cashman and Feld recently spoke to an audience of healthcare IT leaders in New York and their message was clear; changing the game comes down to using analytics to get buy in, adoption, and to facilitate growth.

Brian Cashman has been at the helm of baseball’s most successful franchise for more than twenty years, winning 6 American League pennants and 4 World Series titles since 1998. Surviving and thriving in one of the most volatile management environments amidst a highly critical fan base and media following, Cashman has transformed the Yankees into one of the most technically savvy franchises in the sport.

“It’s about transitioning from old school to new school,” say Cashman. “George Steinbrenner was a tough boss but he set a standard for excellence and gave me permission to surround myself with the people and tools I needed to drive organizational change. Once I had the information, then it came down to influencing culture, internalizing what we knew to be true, and putting those numbers to work.”

“Healthcare is no different,” says Feld who oversees technology operations at several health systems throughout the country while serving as CEO of VertitechIT. “You don’t change culture to use technology. You use technology to change culture.”

“We start by examining the numbers, asking what the IT department is spending now and where are they spending it,” says Feld. Often, he says, those numbers reveal that money is just being spent in the wrong place and at the wrong time. “We’ve repeatedly funded a three-year digital transformation process with no net new capital investment.”

Feld has long-preached the need to address healthcare IT’s “Culture of Separation.” An early proponent of hyper-convergence, hybrid cloud, and software-defined methodologies, Feld says that most IT departments have become siloed over time. Separate teams and separate budgets for network, compute, and storage, have people competing within the same department and incapable of following any kind of long-term strategic direction, let alone the implementation of HCI.

Cashman and Feld also agree when it comes to getting the entire team to buy in to the process. After hiring a Director of Quantitative Analysis to provide insight into trade and draft recommendations, Cashman’s team was nicknamed the “iPad People,” criticized for taking the gut aspect of player development and scouting out of the process. He proceeded to institute a series of video training sessions using regularly scheduled internal email blasts to solicit ideas and buy-in. He describes winning over sportswriters who simply didn’t understand what had come to be known as “Sabermetrics” by breaking down offensive and defensive player tendencies and illustrating why certain decisions were being made. Scouts, coaches, training staff, clubhouse personnel, and corporate executives were all involved.

Back at the hospital, Feld sought buy-in at the C-Suite level and then laid out a three-year change plan he calls TransformIT. “In implementing an HCI solution, tenure tends to work against you,” says Feld. “People must learn multiple skills to break down those silos and they are naturally cloud-averse over concerns for their own job security. Change is good and an organization can’t grow without it. We try to find advocates within the department to act as evangelists over time, preaching that wholesale change is bad but incremental change is good.”

Feld also says it’s critical to get buy in from the clinical side of the house as well. During the TransformIT process, he encourages IT personnel to accompany clinicians during their daily rounds, gaining invaluable insight on how technology decisions can impact the delivery of patient care.

In the end, effectively managing in healthcare IT and baseball come down to using the proper analytics to push the right buttons at the right time. Both men agree that convincing the front office and the C-Suite on strategic direction is often the easy part. Getting tactical buy-in from the rest of the team is the difference between winning and losing.

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