A successful approach to making time for optimization

Is there ever a good time for optimization projects? Nordics VP of Business Lines Development Matt Schaefer sat down with Rush University Medical Center Project Manager Jayson Woods and Nordic Senior Consultants Erik Westman and Kevin Morge to talk about Rush’s recent successful physician specialty optimization project.

After working with Nordic on application rollouts, Rush assessed the needs of their specialty practices and found that hiring consultants to assist in the project gave its team the bandwidth to focus on other priorities. Together, we engaged with providers, anticipated problems based on prior experiences, and presented solutions to workflow needs.

While there were a few lessons learned along the way, Rush felt the culture shift as more trust was built between the IT department and the specialty physicians, increasing communication and collaboration.

Here are a few lessons the Rush team shared in this video. (Transcript is below video.)

  • Every specialty has different needs. We must be flexible.
  • Optimization is a day-to-day priority. It can’t be ignored.
  • If you were unable to try something in the installation phase, an optimization project gives you the opportunity to try out and pilot new functionalities.
  • Consultants can take an unbiased approach. They’re removed from the office politics and are less afraid of implementing change.
  • Don’t just be “IT.” It’s important for project managers and consultants to be an ally.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to integrate optimization into your daily work, we’d love to hear from you.




Matt Schaefer:
Hi, I'm Matt Schaefer with Nordic Consulting. I'm the VP of business line development, and I'm here with Jayson Woods from Rush University Medical Center. Jason, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Jayson Woods: I started at Rush a few years ago, about nine years ago now. Started at the help desk, worked there for about three years and then was given the opportunity to move over to the Epic team on an ambulatory team. Then proceeded for the next six months to roll out Epic to about 450 doctors across every single specialty, and then to one of our affiliate groups which had about 40 doctors.

Matt Schaefer: Tell me a little bit about this physician's specialty optimization project? What was it like scoping that project? How did you decide how big it was? You brought in some consultants to help out, so how did you make those types of decisions?

Jayson Woods: First off we determined what was out of scope. At the time we were going live with Beacon, we'd just gone live with Phoenix. We decided to take those off. It's our oncology department, our transplant department, and put them to the either the end or don't revisit them and revisit them at Beacon optimization. We developed the scope based off of that, so what departments are actually out of scope. From there we took a look at all the rest of the specialties, knowing that we wanted to get it in a fiscal year and a year we budgeted out the time for each of those.

Matt Schaefer: When Rush brought you on for optimization, what was the problem they were trying to solve?

Erik Westman: I don't know that it was one specific problem. It was really nice that we were involved in the initial rollouts because we knew a lot of the problems going back in for the optimization. I think it was just a different strategy. During the rollout the goal was to get these clinics live as quickly as possible. We had a very repeatable process for doing that. Then they wanted to circle back after the providers were live and had some experience with the system and really do a deep dive with each clinic and spend the time that we needed to really dial in the work flows and make it work for them.

Matt Schaefer: What was your strategy going into each specialty or each clinic?

Erik Westman: We really wanted to engage the providers at the very beginning. Go in, introduce ourselves, let them know who we were and get their engagement right at the get go instead of waiting until we were in the clinic to speak with them. Secondly, we tried to anticipate the problems that they were going to have. Some of that was just based on our experience, what we knew was an issue with each individual clinic. We would look at the tickets to see what has been a problem in the past and really go in with solutions not just, "Hi guys we're here. What are your problems?" We really wanted to elevate it a bit more and come in with solutions, not more problems.

Matt Schaefer: How much time on average do you think you spent with each group?

Kevin Morge: We were on site at least a week initially. This changed as we went through and actually evolved the process where instead of just being onsite at every clinic for two weeks and have that as a hard expectation, we would actually go for a week maybe go back to our desks and work on build and changes and research any issues, and then go back and present, if you will, to the different clinics or specific providers.

Matt Schaefer: What's one lesson you learned along the way where you would say, "Next time I would do it a little differently?"

Jayson Woods: I think we learned lessons with every single specialty. Some specialties we should have started a month earlier with even trying to get a meeting with them. Other ones we did too much planning for because really they just wanted to see us and talk with us. Really the lessons learned were again, just be flexible in everything because going to a GI doctor for optimization is a ton different than going to general surgery.

Thumbnail_RushVersion.jpgMatt Schaefer: Would it be safe to say that–was there ever going to be a good time to go in and do this? Is there ever a time when you have fewer competing priorities? How do you prioritize this among the other things that you're working on?

Jayson Woods: I think really you have to look at it as putting optimization into your day-to-day tasks via consultants or having a PM that actually could manage it. Because of the Nordic consultants that we had we were able to be incredibly agile. If we actually did have a competing project that actually took precedence over optimization, then we moved them maybe 50 percent of the time to that. Then we could continue optimization maybe at a smaller level, but actually just use them for other projects that we had capital for.

Matt Schaefer: What did you help Rush with that they couldn't have done on their own?

Erik Westman: One of the reasons I think consultants can be good change agents is because we're really elevated from a lot of the day-to-day problems and a lot of the politics that can bog down an internal team. We have experience with a lot of organizations. We've seen what works. In that case, we're a little less afraid of change and a little more confident in really using the system to its capabilities. If clients are willing to take that risk and let us show what they can do with the system, and Rush was one of those clients, I think they've really benefited from having us around.

Kevin Morge: One thing that Rush was very good at, very accepting, is taking our recommendations because we've worked with four or five other clients before. Unlike other installs, we're not in the install mode. They've already installed the ambulatory. Since we didn't do the installation phase, now we have an opportunity to try this new functionality out. Piloted this one, or just go big bang among all the clinics with it.

Matt Schaefer: How did going through this optimization project change the culture across the specialties? Are they still engaged with you? Did they learn that we just have to ask these questions and maybe we will get help? How did that work? How did that play out?

Jayson Woods: The primary care group's probably the best example of that where I went to their first all medical director meeting of primary care. There's probably 20 medical directors. A year and a half ago, actually now probably almost two years ago, it didn't go well. That first meeting was terrible because we embodied IT and just forcing ourselves onto ... I now am a regular invitee to that, so I go every month. Really we just collaborate. Through the optimization project they now see us as an ally versus their enemy.

Matt Schaefer: All right Jayson, if you can describe Nordic in a sentence what would it be?

Jayson Woods: Always solid.

Matt Schaefer: All right, what do you mean by that?

Jayson Woods: We can always go to you and always get excellence back. Really the future is not scary because we know we have a partner.

Matt Schaefer: Wonderful, thank you. It was a pleasure having you.

Jayson Woods: Thank you.

Topics: Epic optimization, EHR optimization, clinical optimization