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2014 rising stars in technology leadership

Meet three pros who push the envelope.

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   By Rick Dana Barlow, Editor-at-large, August 2014

Many trade publications routinely recognize their industry “celebrities,” profiling them as “influential,” “innovative,” “powerful” or “visionary” leaders and pioneers.

Few, however, start at the beginning. Health Management Technology had one response for that. Pffffftttt!!!!
HMT felt the healthcare IT industry needed to enjoy its own rising stars making a difference in the field.
As a result, HMT asked readers to nominate innovative young and up-and-coming IT thinkers and doers in hospitals and other healthcare provider facilities who have contributed considerably to the success of their healthcare IT department or organization and represent the next generation of provider  IT executives.
Did he or she address an unknown problem? Suggest and implement an innovative solution that worked? Finish a project in record-breaking time? Work with customers or vendors to achieve product compliance or surpass quality measures?

Whatever the case, HMT asked; HMT readers delivered.
From the list of nominations, HMT selected three to profile. They are Aleksandra “Sasha” Weinstock-Spektor, Director, Patient Flow Management and HIS Systems, Maimonides Medical Center, Brooklyn, NY; Scott Michels, VISN 12 Biomedical Engineer for Medical Networks, Zablocki VA Medical Center, Milwaukee; and Ryan Stewart, PMP, Director, Health Information Exchange, IT Connectivity, Dignity Health, Phoenix.

 

Aleksandra Aleksandra “Sasha” Weinstock-Spektor, Director, Patient Flow Management and HIS Systems, Maimonides Medical Center, Brooklyn, NY

Rose Dunn, MBA, RHIA, CPA, FACHE, FHFMA, Chief Operating Officer, First Class Solutions Inc., Maryland Heights, MO, and Past President, American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), set the bar rather high when she enthusiastically nominated Weinstock-Spektor for HMT’s award.

“When I think of a rising star, I think of someone who is intellectually bright, exudes passion for the job at hand, meets challenges head on, successfully achieves and exceeds goals, and is compassionate with co-workers, subordinates, superiors and peers,” Dunn wrote. These characteristics befit Weinstock-Spektor, who works among “highly talented and multi-ethnic information technology professionals” at the multiple award-winning Maimonides that manages six “unique” electronic health records systems.
Weinstock-Spektor began her healthcare career as a registrar in the Emergency Department before progressing to financial analyst in the ED and then migrating to the MIS department, first as a system analyst and then project manager. She assumed her current role nearly two years ago.
Dunn credits Weinstock-Spektor for balancing her end-user experience with her technical understanding of a vendor’s often-complicated discussions, bridging the communications gap between the two as a translator, and for building efficient workflows and systems to meet customer needs and requirements consistently.
As Weinstock-Spektor works with numerous clinical and financial departments, according to Dunn, “She uses her interactions with users to identify broken processes and revenue leakages while at the same time defining the most efficient, cost-effective solution. Her understanding of the integration between operational and technological functions of multiple computer systems, and user requirements across the revenue cycle, allows Sasha to see potential pitfalls when users request modifications. She has the ability to deal in the minute technical details and still see the big picture, think outside of the box and provide a number of possible solutions to the obstacle.”

Weinstock-Spektor in her own words
Two adjectives to describe yourself that also could be applied to a software program: Quick and user-friendly.

Must-have accessory that you cannot live without: My smartphone. It allows me to not just manage my teams and job responsibilities, but lets me stay on top of my three kids 24/7. It has become more than a tool and is now an addiction. You will never see me without it.

One question you get asked the most by customers: How do you do it? My job often requires me to improve departmental workflows by implementing various systems. Users often ask how I know what implementations will actually maximize efficiency while still simplifying the user experience. I usually answer that it’s from my years of working at Maimonides. However, it truly stems from the variety of my work across multiple departments at Maimonides. I have a broad perspective of the hospital’s processes and, coupled with my strong technical background, I can see the forest from the trees. This is a combination of skills that I think would allow many IT staff to be more successful.

A project that turned out differently than you thought it would: Implementing the new computer-assisted coding system (CAC). We expected the implementation of a CAC system to be a challenge. However, the project was significantly more difficult than we imagined due to the variety of workflows currently in place at Maimonides. During the process, we identified issues unrelated to the CAC that needed to be addressed. Closely working with the vendor, we built many custom features. It required significantly more work than expected; however, it turned out for the best. We were able to customize the software to meet the complexity of Maimonides’ multi-system environmental demands while, at the same time, producing a user-friendly product.

 

Scott MichaelsScott Michels, VISN 12 Biomedical Engineer for Medical Networks, Zablocki VA Medical Center, Milwaukee

As the IT specialist for Medical Networks for the Department of Veterans Affairs VISN 12, which consists of seven medical centers in Chicago, Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Michels has been the driving force behind centralizing technology application, implementation and use among the seven facilities to improve patient care.

Christian Houterman, MS, MBA, CCE, Manager, Clinical Informatics & Medical Technology, V12 BME POC, Milwaukee VA Medical Center, cited Michels’ implementation of the PICIS ICU Clinical Information System (CIS) and Anesthesia Record Keeper (ARK) as noteworthy.
“Michels is always focused on making technology easier to use for the clinical end users and ensuring that appropriate disaster recovery systems are in place so that patient data is always protected,” Houterman wrote. “These activities in themselves should be standard practice for any biomedical engineer involved in the administration of healthcare IT systems.”

Michels consolidated the CIS databases of each facility and then conducted an intensive analysis of system operations to determine if, how and when the ARK technology should be incorporated. Despite wide area network challenges, Michels identified and mapped out the strategies and tactics to make it happen.
“He spent countless hours putting this strategy together and testing it,” Houterman continued. “Then he worked with each medical center and, over a period of several months, deployed the new technology and separated the databases. As each deployment was completed, the performance of the systems drastically improved. The best measure of the success was the response of the clinical end users who were ecstatic about the performance improvement.”

Michels in his own words
Most creative thing you’ve done to date: Added a new feature to a locally created system tray menu system that provides immediate access to our clinical applications. The new feature resulted in becoming the most important function of this end-user utility. The modified system tray menu now provides a quick, easy method for changing screen resolution and remembers this per user setting. The utility will automatically check and set the desired screen resolution of the individual user. It’s a valuable tool for clinical staff of different ages with a different range in vision and subsequent ability to read varying screen font sizes. It significantly reduced help desk calls and complaints from clinical users relating to this issue.

Unlikely source of inspiration: The “keep it simple” philosophy. I embrace this when engineering/delivering the final product to the customer. It really goes a long way in the acceptance and sustainment phases of a system’s life cycle.   

Two adjectives to describe yourself that also could be applied to a software program: Functional and efficient.

One question you get asked the most by customers: “Can you provide me documentation on the best practices for securing networked medical devices?” My customers are often the implementation team for a medical system. Protecting networked medical devices from cyber security threats is critical in today’s healthcare delivery environment.

 

Ryan StewartRyan Stewart, PMP, Director, Health Information Exchange, IT Connectivity, Dignity Health, Phoenix

Ryan Stewart applies more than 15 years of IT experience to strategically lead and oversee Dignity Health’s health information exchange (HIE), one of the largest private HIEs in the nation, spanning clinical workflows across 34 hospitals, more than 7,500 care providers and more than 175 physician practice groups in three states: California, Arizona and Nevada. Further, these providers use 35 different electronic medical record systems.

Yet Stewart and his team simply aren’t content with just managing Dignity Health’s IT infrastructure, according to Brian Lumadue, MobileMD Marketing Manager, Siemens Healthcare, Malvern, PA.

“They are playing a big role in reshaping the way care is delivered across the Dignity Health care network,” Lumadue wrote. “The HIE team he manages regularly seeks opportunities within the Dignity organization looking for inefficient, usually paper-based processes that will benefit from the electronic efficiencies made possible by the HIE.”

Those workflows include an electronic skilled nursing facility referral process, a labor-and-delivery workflow for their OB/GYN practices, and a consolidated electronic referral and intake process for their larger, more complex markets. These improvements generated shortened turnaround time for providing facility options to families, quicker discharges, cost savings, time savings, increased visibility to the information and better coverage over the weekends. Stewart noted, “When we were processing referrals via the old fax-based workflows, we were printing up to 50 pages at a time for each referral packet.”


Stewart in his own words
Most creative thing you’ve done to date: Partnering with two colleagues (former and current) to design, build and deploy an iPhone application called iHatch. The application pulls characteristics from pictures of two people and generates a picture of their baby. The inspiration for the idea came from my wife and I, who were trying to have a baby at the time. While our reviews are not always the best, the application has been downloaded by over 35,000 people worldwide. My partners and I have had a lot of fun continuing to support the application with new features and watching it grow.

Unlikely source of inspiration: Growing up playing sports, I never cared for having to run any sort of extended distance. Yet while attending a high school reunion, I learned how several old friends had taken up running as a hobby and were sharing their experiences through a social media site called dailymile. It perked my interest, and a running “pilot” has turned into a lifetime endeavor that has become an unlikely source of inspiration. I typically run very early in the morning when few people are up and about. It provides me with an opportunity to “run” through the workday in my mind as well as generating the energy for tackling it.

Two adjectives to describe yourself that also could be applied to a software program: I was dubbed “bulldog” during my first consulting project straight out of college. The dictionary adjectives for a bulldog are relentless or stubborn. A good software program should strive for 100 percent uptime and be relentless from ever failing.

A project that turned out differently than you thought it would: My first health information exchange project as a consultant. It was intended to be a small project with well-defined scope, like any good pilot. I had no idea it would grow into a full-scale program supporting 13 HIEs, over 7,000 physicians and an always-expanding queue of challenging and exciting projects.


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