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November 24, 2011
by Bobbie Byrne
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What does it mean that panel discussions are omnipresent these days?

This fall has been a time for panels. I was on one a few weeks ago at AMIA. I experienced the odd coincidence of being asked to speak on two different panels for two different groups on the same day, one in the afternoon and one in the evening. Then last week, I attended a breakfast CEO panel.

The panels I participated on were on all different topics in HIT. The AMIA panel centered on some work that I have done with the American Academy of Pediatrics around child informatics. The care of kids continues to be my passion, so it was easy and fun to discuss.

The afternoon panel was in front of a legal audience around cloud computing. The idea that I am somehow an expert on cloud computing—much less the legal concerns around the cloud—is laughable. I raised this point over and over again to the panel coordinator, but he insisted that they only wanted to hear the voice of a CIO—no double special legal cloud computing expertise needed. So, I gave them my worries and my plans. And nobody laughed. Apparently, there are a lot of folks out there who don’t have an answer for a surgeon who splits his time between three hospitals and wants to put his surgery schedule (with PHI) on Google Calendar. I certainly understand the need, just not the solution.

The evening panel was on managing change, and I was to moderate and participate. With such a broad topic, I was a little fearful of this one. Sometimes, these panel discussions can descend into trite little sound bites, such as the “There is no ‘I’ in team” kind of comment. As it turns out, I need not have worried; my co-panelists were great with a capital G. We also had made the impromptu decision right before the panel started to open it up to audience questions earlier. It was the right decision; the audience questions were great and far more varied in topic than those on my list. We wandered from ICD-10 preparation to meaningful use to nurse call systems to Sharepoint to adult education. (You really should have been there…)

Finally, I attended a panel of Chicago-area hospital CEOs. Panelists included the CEOs of Advocate, Resurrection-Provena, Cook County and Edward (my boss, Pam Davis). The room was packed, a testimonial to the appeal of the panel, as well as to interest in hearing how our local organizations were going to respond to healthcare changes. Very quickly, the jokes started amongst the panelists that they were each there to hear what the other CEOs were going to say—that did not have all the answers. They all spoke of the need for balance, flexibility and innovation. There are just no magic bullets, just a lot of hard work.

I guess that is the point now. We are having panels instead of single presentations because things are changing so quickly it is impossible to identify an expert. Honestly, who could ever claim that they have all the necessary skills and experience to manage through the next few years of healthcare reform? We are all going to figure this one out together.

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