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Epic Career Moves - Step Three

September 18, 2009
by Joe Bormel
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Epic Career Moves - Step Three

Reflections on the SEAK conference experience

Over my last year blogging, I've discovered, through various feedback channels, what readers value. Readers are uniformly interested in learning, and those who read these blogs are generally sophisticated learners. You read blogs to improve your performance, to learn new ways of looking at things, for tricks, and to re-learn old tricks for that matter. Some of the strongest positive feedback has come from your personal stories, trying to do the good work of clinical healthcare informatics. So, in that spirit, here are my observations after attending and speaking at the SEAK conference this past weekend.

1. Doctors in clinical practice and non-clinical careers: There are several really distinct sub-types:

a. Those who didn't attend, wanted to, but could not. I mention this group because they reach out to me every week in my travels, solicit my advise on non-clinical careers, and then I don't hear from them until my next visit. My point: it's hard for many docs to divert time from a busy practice, to simply read the newspaper, books or professional articles, much less build a social network or attend a conference. It's a tough pill for folks who went into medicine for the intellectual stimulation.

b. A large percentage of the several hundred physicians in attendance were broad-based, already doing a variety of things in addition to clinical practice. They had LLCs, Internet domains, brands, and often a pedigree of things they were already trying or had tried to improve the world and earn a reasonable return for their efforts. They had broken free and were focused on maintaining an awareness of their options. I spoke with about two dozen of them. Half or so were maintaining clinical practices, but clearly no more than 20 to 30 hours a week.

c. Roughly a quarter, based on my sample, who came to the conference hadn't broken free. For several, this wasn't their first year attending this event. To their credit, they continue searching for a new path even when there isn’t one at a given time that can work for them.

d. There were quite a few docs who, upon completing their residencies, felt that a clinical medical career wasn't a fit for them. I suspect the percentage of that occurrence has been steadily rising.

2. What I Learned: From my one-on-ones the day preceding my presentation, I learned that a number of the attendees were already serving as CMIOs in their hospitals. Informatics? They got it. But many others assumed that informatics must mean an IT doc who mostly does computer programming. In fact, one very experienced clinician who didn't attend my lecture was disappointed when she learned my focus was on ways to gain the management skills to be effective at driving desired change. It really does pay to read the free conference program guide!

During and after my informatics presentation (here) I asked a few survey questions. How many docs use either e-Prescribing or CPOE? Almost all hands went up. What's wrong with the paper chart? The access and legibility issues were brought up. I asked how many people knew what social networking is. Two hands went up. They were probably the two lecturers who included social networking in their recommendations. Later, when I asked others one-on one what they knew about social networking, even some of the most worldly said, "Oh, that means Facebook and LinkedIn." See my presentation for notes on social networking. Suffice it to say Facebook and LinkedIn are minor tools. And without my asking, lots of folks offered what they thought is wrong with EMRs.

About a dozen different physicians, on separate occasions, told me they felt excluded from the communication and decision making process regarding selection or roll-out of EMRs in their institutions. Most said, or implied, that this appeared to be deliberate behavior by their administration or IT toward all physicians.

3. My closing advice: If you’re grooming yourself for a career move to informatics, lead a quality or performance improvement team, preferably an IHI collaborative effort. Focus on getting results with and through others. Then list those results on your resume and be prepared to speak for two minutes on exactly what you did to get them. And, of course, Read, Read, Read, starting with my presentation.

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