UAB Well being System CIO: Distant work a boon, and burden, for IT groups

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When Covid-19 circumstances emerged within the U.S., the College of Alabama at Birmingham Well being System needed to pause any tasks that weren’t associated to pandemic response and shift workers to a distant work surroundings.

These strikes have arrange a busy 2021 for the system, stated CIO Joan Hicks, in a cellphone interview. Hicks spoke with MedCity Information concerning the pending IT tasks her workforce plans to finish this upcoming yr, and the way working from house has affected her workforce and the IT expertise pool in Alabama.

Be aware: Responses have been edited for size and readability.  

Query: What are your prime IT priorities for 2021?

Joan Hicks: We have already got a number of very, very giant tasks, enterprise-wide, that we have now been attempting to finish. We’re changing our nurse name system, which implies we have now to get in each room. However if you’re working at 96% to 98% to 102% occupancy [due to the pandemic] — that actually slowed us down as a result of we couldn’t [always] get in these rooms.

We’re additionally implementing our digital intensive care unit challenge, and this [involves] constructing out quite a lot of our step-down rooms.

So that’s type of one class of ongoing giant tasks that have been in progress when Covid-19 hit. So, we’re ending these up.

For 2021, we’ve acquired to exchange our grasp affected person index. The product that we’re utilizing we’ve used for nearly 20 years now and that individual product has served us properly. We’ve at all times had a grasp affected person index that matches on prime of all of our methods, [which serves as an] air visitors controller for medical document numbers.

After which, along with that, it’s time to redo our enterprise continuity plan, our catastrophe restoration plan and our downtime plans, together with drills with all of these.

I’m certain you’ve seen what number of hospitals have suffered from ransomware assaults and elevated phishing. I’ve simply a lot disdain for any of these criminals, and they’re criminals, which are on the market attacking with intent healthcare methods throughout this time. So, it actually made us conscious that it’s time for us to revisit our enterprise continuity plan, catastrophe restoration plan and our downtime plan, and drill accordingly.

Query: What components will drive your IT decision-making course of in 2021? And can it differ from the way you have been making choices final yr?

Joan Hicks: Sure, it will likely be totally different. Clearly, the pandemic has had an enormous affect on how we make choices.

We in a short time supported the motion to do business from home — we had about 6,000 workers working from house inside a 72-hour interval. I’ll inform you that was most likely…the roughest [time period] that I’ve skilled, most likely since a few of our massive go-lives many many years in the past. So sure, it’s undoubtedly influenced our decision-making.

The distant workforce has made it the place we will recruit individuals from different states, they usually can keep of their different state and work right here in Alabama. Nevertheless, the parents in Alabama [also] benefit from dwelling right here, with the decrease price of dwelling, however they’ll get work in different states which have a lot increased wages.

So, it’s the very best of each worlds, however we’re [also] dropping of us to working full-time at house, to working in different states. That’s one thing we’ve not needed to cope with as a lot. So, [in terms of] simply with the ability to discover sure kinds of skillsets, we’re extra resource-constrained than we’ve been in quite a lot of years.

Query: What are some alternatives and challenges of integrating IT into the vaccine rollout course of?

Joan Hicks: We truly carried out some tasks that we had on our pending listing. A kind of is a product for on-line, cell check-ins. We have been rolling that out, however we had not executed the mixing between that cell software and our scheduling and registration system that then integrates with our medical EHR. You possibly can check-in, however we had not moved it as much as the scheduling course of.

So, in the middle of slightly over 24 hours, the seller labored with us and we have been capable of permit sufferers eligible for Covid-19 vaccination to check-in by this cell app that places them within the registration system, after which hyperlinks them to their EMR so we will do the documentation.

That’s a kind of alternatives — might have been a problem, however it turned out to be okay. So, I’m actually enthusiastic about that.

Query: Are there another particular hurdles you might be making ready for concerning the continuing Covid-19 pandemic? If sure, what are they and the way are you making ready?

Joan Hicks: Properly, one of many hurdles — that I hope has handed for essentially the most half — is preserving our workers wholesome. We’ve been very, very lucky, despite the fact that a couple of third of our IT workers are at all times onsite.

One other hurdle is de facto supporting that workforce at house. Not simply our workers, however all the different workers within the group and ensuring that our connections, and their connections, are safe.

This is without doubt one of the areas the place I feel that we have now not executed a great job, that’s, making ready our workers to be self-sufficient or semi self-sufficient at house. Issues that our assist desk, our desktop assist guys, exit and allow you to with if you’re in your workplace — now that you’re at house, what are you going to do? And in order that’s been an actual hurdle for us.

Additionally, the period of time these calls to the assistance desk take has elevated. So, I’m ensuring that I’ve acquired sufficient individuals working the assistance desk to adequately assist websites at house. Hopefully, when the pandemic subsides, we will a minimum of provide some IT courses.

We very hurriedly distributed gear for people to hold house. We’ve acquired of us utilizing some somewhat previous gear, so we might want to change that out and get extra fashionable gear for them. We’ll have to determine how we will schedule that and do the drive-by drop-off that we’ve supported prior to now.

One factor that I didn’t actually see coming was that we have now had workers members who don’t wish to work full time at house. They actually miss the comradery, that sense of household they’ve on the office. So, we’re engaged on curbing areas for them to come back in and have their workforce conferences, so that they don’t lose that sense of connection to the opposite workers.

We often don’t consider IT individuals as people-people, however they really are people-people. I wish to attempt to be extra conscious than I’ve been of creating certain that their social wants are met.

Photograph: elenabs, Getty Photographs, UAB Well being System

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