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Ben Blake

Three Critical Steps to Freeing Yourself From the Quicksand of Crisis Management in Your Physician Practice

May 2, 2018

Medical Technology 5 Minute Read

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, an eye surgery center was born. Like many physician practices, they leased their space and setup shop. Everything from an inviting patient reception, to back office operations, to the critical technology used to deliver surgery and support operations…it was all in place. Even the precise climate control demand dictated by some of the special technology was right. Patients began flowing in, physicians were performing surgery, and all was as it should be…until it wasn’t.

Welcome back to the Systeem Blog where you can find nuggets useful in achieving peace with technology. I’m your host and physician practice technologist Michael Patrick. Today’s post is the second in a 3 part series on the essentials to achieving peace with technology.

We left off where everything was as it should be until it wasn’t. The “wasn’t” centered on the precise climate control losing it’s preciseness. Ok, nobody panic. Some of you may be wondering, “how’s that a technology problem?” Good question. Hang tight. A quick call to building management and they would surely remedy the issue. “After all”, the surgery center administrator concluded, “we are a lease-paying customer.”

As you might appreciate in some of your own experiences, that quick call was only the first step into this version of IT crisis quicksand. Just diagnosing the source of the problem was going to create a cascade of work. Because the climate control technology was integrated into other equipment and technology inside the building, diagnosis would require the property management company to open up their IT infrastructure.

And that door opened engagement from multiple additional vendors…none of whom the surgery center knew or could influence. This was extremely frustrating because a whole new bag of questions emerged: Who do you talk to? How do you prioritize the conversations? How do you best explain the need and then drive the right actions to meet it? Do you coordinate everyone individually or as a group. Am I really the official cat herder here?

Meanwhile, the clock continued to tick away creating peril for safely operating in their environment. Yes, initially the surgery center fell victim to the quicksand. But they did manage to connect on a lifeline when they asked us for help. And that leads us to 3 critical steps in avoiding the quicksand of IT crisis management in your healthcare environment

1) Hit the pause button; which is super challenging to do.

You’re busy and it seems like the best thing to do is to take immediate action. And why not? Many of the issues you face, like the one in this story, are time-sensitive and seem to have an obvious answer. But move too quickly and you realize you’re in quicksand getting pulled down faster as you react harder in your struggle to get out. The best thing you can do is take a moment to survey the situation by asking 5 questions:

  1. What’s the root cause of the problem?

  2. What exactly is the required outcome?

  3. What people, process, and technology are required to solve the problem?

  4. What is the worst-case scenario?

  5. What is the best-case scenario?

By at least attempting to answer these 5 questions, even if your answers don’t make it clear how to proceed, you will at least understand what you do and don’t know about the situation. That will make for a more informed decision… especially critical when you have little time to act. And that takes us to the next step.

2) Plot your path.

Whether you do it in a spreadsheet or on your whiteboard, invest just a few minutes to gather and organize the answers to your questions into a solution path. Be sure your tasks (aka milestones) have owners (delegate) and support the desired outcome. You can flip crisis into a simple well-managed task or project just by achieving the clarity that planning often delivers. The emotional relief alone will be worth the 10 minutes or less that it would take to plot your path.

3) Know when to say when.

Sometimes you just aren’t going to be able to anticipate that you’ve stepped in it…quicksand that is. But if your “pause analysis” and solution path don’t inspire confidence in reaching your desired outcome, don’t be afraid to make the call for help. When it comes to technology, especially technology you rely on but don’t own or manage, it’s paramount to engage a technology-savvy advocate… someone or some group that knows how to problem-solve in the midst of considerable ambiguity.

While our friends at the surgery center missed steps one and two, as they understandably started with the DIY route, they did eventually break free of the quicksand. By calling on us, they were able to shift the problem-solving to our team, people equipped with knowledge and experience in achieving the right results through unique IT crisis management. Their decision not only proved to be a relief for them, it allowed the surgery center administrator and team to re-focus on their core responsibilities while still getting the problem solved. And now they now know that when technology crisis is thrust upon them, that even the seemingly simple things will end better when using the 3 critical steps in avoiding the quicksand of IT crisis management.

That brings us to the conclusion of this second part in this three part series on achieving peace with technology. Again, I’m Michael Patrick, your physician practice technologist. I trust you are finding value in this new series. Keep on the lookout for part 3 coming your way soon!

Michael Patrick, President at Systeem

With more than 20 years of technology and technology sales experience, Michael has led Systeem’s operations since day one, connecting our clients with technology, processes and ideas that make their lives easier and happier.

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