EHR Sprint team: work hard, persevere, sometimes you get to build a dream team


Our outstanding EHR Sprint team recently got written up by our local news for the great work they do supporting UCHealth clinics using the EPIC EHR. The team is led by project manager Christine Gonzalez (sixth from left), and physician informaticists Katie Markley (third from right) and Amber Sieja (on right). Also pictured from left to right: Todd Andrews – lead analyst, Diane Pruitt, RN – clinical informaticist, Megan Cortez – analyst, Barbara Noble – trainer,  Scott Carpenter – lead trainer, Christine Gonzalez – project manager, Dan Golightly – analyst, Dan Kroening – trainer, Rob Lewis – analyst, Katie Markley MD – Senior Medical Director Informatics, Steve Rotholz MD – physician informaticist, Amber Sieja MD – Senior Medical Director Informatics.

They spend two weeks immersed in a specialty clinic. They’re a team of 12, including analysts, trainers, and informaticists, addressing Physician Burnout and clinical inefficiencies by re-inventing teamwork, teaching efficiency through observation, re-training, fixing software and creating new tools.

It is heartwarming to see an idea come to fruition over months and years.

Our initial ideas on Sprint came out of the Apple Genius Bar years ago, and we had created a Touchworks Genius Bar, (see previous post) that ran for about a year, based on a similar concept, run by a team of 3-4 analysts and trainers. We’ve tried other solutions over the years, and after significant lobbying with physician leaders, health system leaders, budgetary impasses, and perhaps most importantly, increasing signs of physician burnout, got the green light to build the team and proceed. I will write more about this in upcoming posts.

Sometimes you get the quick, easy win in technology, that affects a few users, and the benefit of which is self-evident: “Here’s a wide screen monitor for everyone in this one clinic, now you can use the three-pane view to see more relevant information” or “Let me get you a mobile smartphone app to serve as the microphone for your speech recognition software.” Such wins are quick, don’t take much time or effort or training, and the benefit is immediate, for some (small) group of physicians and clinic staff.

On the other hand, we Informaticists (Informaticians? Informagicians?) more often work on harder initiatives that are intended shift the culture, to affect ALL physicians and providers throughout our organization, now grown to over 4000 physicians and associated clinic and hospital staff. We initiated APSO notes (inverting the traditional SOAP note: hmm, I think that may have to be the topic of a future blog post – remind me to tell you about the time I was called a radical extremist) and made them the standard for the health system, we adopted Open Notes (the school of hard knocks taught me some lessons on that journey), and now we are pushing forward with Epic EHR Sprints.

I thank President Kennedy for saying it best:

We want to go to the moon. We want to go to the moon, not because it is easy, but because it is hard.

And, when something on which you’ve worked hard, for months and years, comes to fruition, it is a good feeling of accomplishment.

One of my colleagues told me long ago of the “camel theory of medicine.” I suppose it may apply to other fields as well: On a day-to-day basis seeing patients in clinic, many will come in to see you for routine followups, some will come in and blame anyone but themselves for not achieving their goals, some will not adhere to advice given, or take their meds as prescribed, or exercise as previously agreed. It can feel like walking alone, parched, through a desert. Then, every once in awhile, a patient will come in and say: “You really helped me” or “you saved my life.”

Then, arriving at this surprise oasis, you pause, take a big drink of water from this life-affirming source, refill your hump (and yes, I know recent research indicates that the hump is not water but indeed fat), then you can be ready to head out again into the desert toward your distant, altruistic goals.

CMIO’s take?
1. Grit pays off
2. Pause, take a big drink when you find an oasis. Then push on. All of us in healthcare came for altruism; we often work too hard, too long and forget to recharge. Take time off. Go home and disconnect from work. Do what it takes to come back with a full hump to do more good work.
3. Build a Sprint team if given the chance; they’ll knock your socks off.

Author: CT Lin

CMIO, UCHealth (Colorado); Professor, University of Colorado School of Medicine

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