Our Virtual CIO program has always been a strong component in the U.S. HealthTek wheelhouse. We’ve had some great partnerships in the last couple of years and have gotten the chance to work with some great organizations. I’ve pulled a few important takeaways here that could help your company benefit from our experience.
Spot the Opportunities
When called to work as a Virtual CIO for an organization that is building a lab from the ground up, I see a lot of opportunities. The idea to oversee a new lab creation and run the day-to-day business, and to use the expansion as an opportunity to explore all aspects of the IT operation for better efficiencies and greater profit, is simply a chance to build a better mousetrap (or beehive).
Always, the U.S. HealthTek team meets with a client’s team. We first do a lot of listening. Together we identify solutions, including the need to update old applications, balancing cost, efficiency, and functionality. It is not easy. But our previous experiences have taught us that change is almost always needed and will be successful.
Labs on the move for greater growth and profitability are sometimes unsure what to do. In our first 30 days together, we typically chart out a list of choices that would allow them to migrate data to more efficient technologies. In addition to moving to the new version of a lab system, decisions need to be made: Are we going to stay with antiquated systems or go down the road for something else? It almost always becomes clear that it is best to convert these older systems into the best technology to date rather than stay with something that is long outdated.
An interesting thing happened when COVID-19 hit, in several situations: Not only did IT people need to suddenly start working from home, but a sizable number of lab workers did as well. In one example, USHT moved a client’s team to remote-access technology in just a few days. Then suddenly all were adapting to a new work model, and it was remarkable to see the amount of teamwork and ingenuity everybody put forth to make it all happen. The challenges, though, were many, such as scaling all viewable data down for mobile devices and laptops.
This was a moment for U.S. HealthTek. Being a VCIO from a company where everyone works remotely, I advocate for that model. But for a lot of good reasons, it is often challenging for management to embrace this idea. First, doing things the way they’ve always been done is a natural instinct. Secondly, managers understandably feel that they best manage if they can see their people. You do lose “MBWA” (Management By Walking Around). But when stay-at-home orders were mandated, it was clear to thousands of companies in most industries that those benefits could not be denied. One recent engagement dealt with a backlog in billing – tens of thousands of dollars in charges. After ushering in the best practices of working from home, in just a few weeks their billing department dramatically reduced their backlog. With COVID-19 almost in the rearview mirror, it’ll be interesting to see who brings employees back in and who opts for the better efficiency and lower cost that comes with working remotely.
“I Save Lives”
I am grateful that while we do not attract every client, we attract the right kinds of clients. A key component that makes any project both more successful and gratifying is to have people within that lab organization take tremendous pride in their work. It is a corporate culture that successful companies nurture. I met a guest speaker at an “all hands” lab meeting who had been dealing with illness personally for a long time. He told everyone that, “when you’re asked what you do, don’t say you work in IT, or in a lab, or in customer service – each and every one of you should answer, ‘I save lives.’” He emphasized that he personally would not be alive without the workers in labs. This is a timeless, perfect inspirational message for all of us.
It’s About Being a Team
I learned if you approach these relationships as an outsider acting like you have all the answers, you’re not going to be successful. True leadership is being able to demonstrate that you can gain the trust of all those you’re working with, be inclusive, and go forward together. When I interview someone and ask them about previous projects, I know if I hear “I did this” and “I did that,” that the real story is there was a team of people affecting change and this person may not see the power of leadership.
When we partner with a company to do VCIO work, a member of our team walks in with no history of the inevitable internal politics. The benefit of no preconceived notions allows us to make sure everyone we speak with knows they are valued, and their input is going to be mission critical.
Executing this is not as easy as it sounds. It takes a team with not only deep experience, but also one with key people skills and knowledge of the technical tools to create a path to the client’s needs. Through many onsite meetings and offsite explorations, an experienced, qualified VCIO can offer the best solutions at the best value. After a successful engagement, USHT moves on, leaving the client in good hands with their in-house management team. These partnerships have been equally challenging – and rewarding for me, U.S. HealthTek, and the client.