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Secret Societies

November 1, 1998
by Alan Joch
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Sentara explored IT reengineering in a similar way. To find the best way for patients to access its insurance and care provider system, the IT staff talked to leaders in the hotel industry. One luxury hotel asks guests to fill out preferences--the newspapers they’d like delivered in the morning or whether the guests preferred a smoking or no-smoking room, among other choices. Once collected, these preferences appear on computer screens at any other of the company’s hotels throughout the country when the guest registers. Sentara put a healthcare spin on this example. The result: "Today, a patient enrolls in our health plan once, and never has to register again," says Reese.

New ideas
Whether you’re part of a high-powered, low-profile association or forging innovations on your own, finding other large organizations that are dealing with problems similar to yours can provide a competitive edge. Membership in a group like the Scottsdale Institute may have its privileges, but so do fresh ideas from outside sources.

"What Keeps You Awake At Night?"

The Scottsdale Institute asked its membership of leading IDSs this question. Some of the top responses were:

*Care management

*Patient access to care

*Y2K strategies

*IT staffing and employee retention

*Impact of carveouts

*Electronic medical records

*Ambulatory medical records

Association Scorecard

THE SCOTTSDALE INSTITUTE ISN’T THEonly organization of elite healthcare providers. Here are some other contenders.

HISEA--The Healthcare Information Systems Executive Association consists of 30 CIOs across the country who act like "good friends who try to help each other out," says founder Ward Keever, who’s also an active member of the Scottsdale Institute. Unlike the Institute, HISEA focuses on CIO issues rather than in team-based problem solving among technical, business and clinical groups. E-mail messages are a prime form of communication, as in a recent series of exchanges where one member solicited advice on how to restructure compensation to hold onto IT employees.

Members also meet for three days each year at an annual convention where each person gets 15 minutes to present "one good idea to the others," says Keever. Past presentations included how to deploy wireless technologies within a provider organization and how to develop a strategic plan.

Want to become part of the HISEA clique? You’ll need patience--the current waiting list has more wannabes than the number of actual members. Once you’re in, you have to remain actively involved in the discussions and attend the annual meetings, or you’ll be bounced out. And membership is for individuals, not for organizations, which means members must reapply if they jump to another healthcare organization.

The Healthcare Advisory Board--Primarily an association for healthcare CEOs, this group works to spot trends in the medical industry before they’re apparent, such as growing patient desires during the salad days of managed care for higher quality and greater choice from provider networks.

The Odin Group--Formed less than a year ago, this healthcare research and advisory organization based in Nashville, Tenn., focuses on both technical and managerial problems. Communications include weekly faxed announcements, a monthly report that analyzes a single IT topic, and quarterly case studies. Unlike the Scottsdale Institute, Odin sometimes solicits input from vendors. (See

Hardly secret or elitist, CHIME and HIMSS represent established industry associations with open membership policies and the alternative to low-profile, closely-held healthcare cliques. CHIME (the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives) counts about 700 members. It offers education programs, which include CIOs and vendors, and twice-a-year CIO forums covering topical IT issues. (See

HIMSS (the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society) has been around since 1961 and now has more than 10,000 members involved with IT and management systems. Members give the group high marks for networking opportunities and for conventions that allow attendees to "kick the tires of vendor introductions." (See

Alan Joch is a contributing editor to Healthcare Informatics.


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