Monday, February 29, 2016

An introduction

It’s leap day and I’m heading to HIMSS16 in Las Vegas. A good day to reflect on the leap I’m taking in 2016, from the mothership of Kindred Healthcare to the speedboat of my own company, Strategic Health Network.

Core personal values. Now that it’s my own company, all I have are my values backed up by my experience and brought forward by my actions.
  • Health
  • Meditative Awareness.
  • Collaboration
Health is something we all have. Sometimes good, sometimes bad, but just being alive, being in the world, puts us on a journey of growth and change and, inevitably, death. Health is a combination of inner experience, outer environment and the ways we live our life. There are generations of human wisdom, from the scientific and medical worlds, the spiritual and philosophical to folk knowledge and our underlying biology. I look at my own health, the things that make a difference or once made a difference, the ways in which I age, the health of those around me. We have bodies. That is at the core of our being. It is our life.

Meditative Awareness. Meditation is a natural aspect of being human. I have been an on-again off-again meditator for 40 years. I’ve come to appreciate the power of silence, of taking time to observe, of allowing thoughts to come and go without becoming overly attached. Simply being present. Action only happens in the present moment. Being deeply present means that intuition and cognition are aligned and available as the situation demands. It takes a willingness to appear foolish, to even be a fool. It takes endless fresh starts. It takes friendliness to ourselves and others. It takes practice and discipline.

Collaboration. The world is completely interdependent. We are islands and bridges, oceans and ships, safe harbors and perilous storms. Whether we come together to compete or to cooperate, we exist in interaction. Everything, from the plane I’m flying in, the Internet that will distribute these words to you to the English language I’m using, is the result of collaboration among humans. More than simply getting a job down, collaborative work is an opportunity to bring out the brilliance in each other, to build on our different perspectives, find common ground and celebrate our diversity. 

As a company, how do these come together?
  • Strategic
  • Health
  • Network
Strategic. The pivot points. The context in which action takes place. We can both ride the big waves and direct where we are going. We can work with the constraints and the opportunities. There is strategy at all levels. Let’s be smart about what we are doing. Apply the most leverage. Learn from observing keenly. Modify action based on experience. Whether it's a line of code or words of a regulation, details matter but only in service of the larger goal. Ends and means must work together.

Health. I have spent almost my entire adult life working within or providing services to large healthcare providers. It is all too easy to get swept up in providing care and lose sight of the real goal, health. As an individual and a company, I commit to staying focused on improving health.

Network. I have been a network guy from way back, connecting people, connecting ideas, creating wholes that are greater than their parts. Mind maps, data graphs, social interactions, connected computers. I’ve spent the past decade in the web of committees, collaboratives and multiple partnerships - connecting care and shaping national health information technology policy, from pilot demonstrations of interoperability - information following the patient throughout the care process - to chairing advisory workgroups recommending the broad inclusion of all providers in health IT initiatives. 

Software Technology has been the subtext of my life for 49 years (yikes!). I wrote my first program in the summer of 1967 thanks to funding from the National Science Foundation. Writing code and making sense of data was magic that I could harness. That summer changed my life. My life changed again, in 1976, when I joined a research project at the University of Vermont, creating an electronic health record, under the guidance of a visionary leader, Dr Larry Weed.

This blog will dive into these themes and more. Welcome to my world.

Larry in Vermont, 1979.