The third experience I would like to share was confusing back in the day, but clear as it can be now.
As a recent college graduate with a degree in Medical Technology, I viewed the responsibility of patient safety with the utmost importance, like any professional in healthcare does. Well, as I wrote in the first blog, the initial implementation of PathNet (at Community Hospital of Indianapolis) on the Digital Equipment Corporation platform was riddled with problems.
I was stationed in the Stat Lab, doing my best to assure specimen collection and clinical results flowed as efficiently as possible. Of course, the hospital staff was quick to find fault as the problems mounted. They, more than I, also carried the responsibility of patient safety. So it was during one late evening shift, a laboratory staff member pointed out a patient problem in the Coronary Care Unit. I believe it involved much delayed test turnaround times for cardiac enzymes (a pretty important set of tests to confirm a heart attack).
After hearing the situation, I grabbed a pen from the department and stormed into the Cerner War Room, threw it at Neal and yelled, “Shut it down, we are hurting people, shut it down.” Stupid or gutsy right?
Several hours later I ran into Neal in the hall and said, “I’m not sure I want to talk to you.” He gave me the same sentiment, then said, “You know, the patients of the laboratory are the responsibility of the pathologist, our responsibility is the laboratory information system.”
Later, I remember thinking what a great business lesson. He was right. Our role was to fix the systems used by the healthcare professionals that provide care to the patients. We were not directly responsible for patient care. Don’t get me wrong, many healthcare information systems professionals consider patient safety an utmost priority, but they do so by being responsible for the systems, not lives.
So one of the business lessons in the antidote is to remain focused on the things that you can control within your domain of responsibility. Don’t be distracted by things outside one’s control. We all worked diligently to identify and resolve systems issues, a system that is now used worldwide by thousands of health care institutions and millions of healthcare professionals.
We had to go through that process to get the leveraged benefit some 30 years later.