I’m not the first to say: “What a year it’s been!” The emotional rollercoasters associated with the pandemic, lockdowns, virus testing, vaccination warrants, remote working and reopening – only to be delayed by the Omicron variant – have challenged us all. But throughout this tumultuous year, our IT and information departments across the country persevered and rose to the challenge of supporting healthcare.
In addition to the normal day-to-day activities associated with running a healthcare facility, unforeseen responsibilities for pandemic assistance have been placed on us.
In a short time, changes to electronic health records were introduced, personalized COVID-19 reporting systems were developed, and human capital management systems were adapted to support employee vaccine tracking.
While these efforts were underway, our office, clinical engineering and other specific staff were on the front lines in supporting our clinical users. Through it all, our teams have remained remarkably engaged and resilient.
These characteristics continue to be traits that further separate healthcare IS teams from their counterparts in other industries. A dedicated commitment to the healthcare mission and to supporting a cause larger than a simple dividend or quarterly income statement is one of the key differentiators of our resilient workforce.
So where do we go from here? Recognizing that today’s new normal is anything but normal, I think we need to continue to focus on those who have brought us to this point, our workforce. The times are changing. And for those of us who have been in charge for a while, we need to adapt over time. Without strong and stable teams, our ability to respond to a constantly changing environment is virtually impossible.
I have adapted my personal leadership style to not only engage my leadership team for ideas and advice, but also to include many more frontline staff who have been particularly hard hit by the changing environment.
Challenges such as virtual education, remote working, illnesses of family members and fear of public transport are at the forefront of the concerns of each of our employees.
As a leader, I know I need to be more attentive to how best to support all of our team members. Ongoing town halls, employee council forums, in-person / virtual chats, and resource retention interviews are all essential to providing a balanced perspective on what our team members face.
Going forward, it is evident to me that the nation and the world will continue to grapple with the ever-evolving impact of COVID-19. Despite the development of vaccines and other therapies, the virus appears to be ahead of our ability to eliminate it. Therefore, our approach is to continue to target the needs of our team members.
Remote working remains viable where possible, broad and consistent communication keeps our associates informed and supported, and providing employees with the opportunity to achieve their professional goals continues to be a winning strategy for most of our staff.
Without strong and committed teams, it will simply be impossible to achieve the technological advancements our industry desires. Areas of opportunity include, but are not limited to, continuing to leverage data analytics to advance patient care and research, enhance EHR capabilities, support hospital and hospital expansion efforts. physicians, further secure the IT environment, and use artificial intelligence algorithms to proactively support patient care and operational efficiency.
Healthcare systems around the world are challenged to deliver care during the most volatile and unpredictable times our industry has ever known. Frontline clinical workers continue to bear the brunt of these challenges and should continually be recognized for their Herculean efforts.
Accompanying and supporting these caregivers is a primary role of our information services team. Strong IS teams enable strong clinical care delivery, even under the most challenging of circumstances. I am proud to recognize my team and the many others who have risen to the challenge and remain strong throughout this pandemic.
Mike Restuccia is the chief information officer for Penn Medicine.