by Janice Newell & Ben Worthen

What It’s Like To..Walk in Your Customers’ Shoes

Dec 15, 20042 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsIT Leadership

Janice Newell, Vice President and CIO for Group Health Cooperative, reveals how having surgery contributed to the implementation of a new clinical system.

In 2001, I was trying to select a clinical system that would make patient records available online. We were done with Y2K and trying to make our next IT investment more strategic.

Then, I got sick and needed surgery.

Everyone was very nice to me during my various appointments, whether or not they knew who I was. But the doctors and nurses had to keep asking me what was wrong and how long I had had symptoms every time they saw me. All that information was in my chart, but the chart was so large (and the doctors’ handwriting so bad) that it was easier for the caregivers to ask me than to plow through it. I ended up spending most of my time with the doctors, giving them basic information. I kept thinking that if the clinical system we were working on was in place, no one would have to go through this.

I’ve always been interested in integration, but my experience as a patient really inspired me. Large investments require a large sales job, and the time I spent in the hospital made me much more passionate when I recovered and went after the funding.


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Health care has changed a lot over the past few decades. My parents used to think that doctors were omniscient. I have a friend whose 80-year-old father wouldn’t sign a consent form that would let her get information from his doctor because he was afraid it would tick the doctor off. But now, especially as we pay for more of our own health care, we need to be informed consumers; we need information so that we can make the right choices. The clinical system we put in, which is in the process of going live, lets patients access their records over the Internet. They can look at trends in their health, read doctors’ notes and print out prescriptions. It’s all there, and it’s all accessible.

And now a patient in our health plan can spend her time with her doctor talking about how to get better.

—As told to Ben Worthen