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Transforming Healthcare through Knowledge Management

Guest Blogger Jacquelynn Seymour 

Jackie is a Sr. Project Portfolio Manager/Clinical Systems within the Information Technology Division Project Management Office at a large healthcare organization in Northeast Ohio. She is anticipating graduation in May 2016 with a Master's Degree in Information Architecture and Knowledge Management – Health Informatics. She is zealous about the possibilities of the application of this field in health care.

We are a big organization, and one trying to fundamentally change how we deliver health care.  Certainly it is a true statement that massive change is not an easy task and we have heard many times that the larger the ship, the harder it is to change course.  Is our vision of KM as the way doomed? Despair not – others have boldly gone where no one has gone before.  We can learn their secrets and blaze our own KM trail.

When it comes to size, IBM comes to mind in the top tier of large organizations (in 170 countries and 370,000 employees seems to qualify as large don't you think)? They are legendary for their mainframe systems and technology solutions, yet times changed and they diversified and expanded their services into five global lines of business: global business services (GBS), technology services, systems and technology, software, and global financing.   The GBS division is a consulting team of over 150,000 employees geographically located across the globe. The team offers clients consulting and systems integration and application management services.  Wow, think about the complexities of discovering, capturing, sharing, and applying knowledge in this context!  Lots of people, many locations, consultants that need to be experts in their area or locate and connect with other experts in the moment, and share knowledge with the other 150,000 experts when they are working for their client or guess what?  The client could become dissatisfied, lose confidence, or worse, fire them.  By the way, this is an important point for our organization and our KM journey – thinking like a consultant reminds us that delivering value to the client (our patients, our peers, our communities, outside agencies) is a top priority. IBM made a conscious decision to embrace a KM strategy to give them competitive advantage and be recognized as the best of the best.  Simply put, they saw learning as an outcome (Morris, 2015).

They had some distinct knowledge-sharing challenges.  Much like health care, the sheer volume of information and knowledge was overwhelming, exponentially increasing, and not likely to all be captured in codified format.  Much of the most valuable knowledge lives in people's brains and experiences.  They are facing retirements and the risk of that tacit knowledge not being codified or transferred and this is a new generation that is not interested in learning old programming techniques.  Locating and connecting to an expert with which to seek or share knowledge was problematic.  It was like finding a needle in a haystack, especially when the term "expert" is contextual and may not even be on a resume or in searchable format.  And, it is not easy to create relationships and network across such a large group in diverse locations.  There had to be a way to help the teams find and interact with each other and gain trust in each other as experts and colleagues, to find the "go-to" people.

It didn't happen overnight.  The transformation began with their vision of creating a knowledge organization and sharing information including technology, processes, content management, and Communities of Practice (CoP) that evolved over three phases and that was tied to the business value.  They are simplifying the process of knowledge sharing and contribution in hopes it will be perceived as an enhancement to every-day activities versus an interruption and time-consuming activity.  Getting a little excited here thinking about how we can use this, it could definitely be a "WIIFM" proposition for our teams!  You know, the What's IIFor Me.

The outcomes look promising based on their indicators and measures of success trends.  Considering themselves in constant beta-mode they continue to evolve and change the culture to transform the way they do business.  One of the most interesting facts is that participation in portal usage and as an expert is voluntary and employees control what information they want to be accessible.  Privacy concerns are honored for content and individual data   This will play well in our world – especially with our physicians.

Some considerations from their lessons learned here:

  1. Make sure we are on solid legal ground early on (so very important for health care and HIPAA regulations). Our legal team can help.
  2. Make sure the experts for the blog strategy are more than interested parties; they are the experts in their field.  This is especially important for patients who will follow the blogs.
  3. There is a tradeoff between privacy and analytics.  Not everything should be mined and accessible.

So one big ship is changing course using KM, what about others?  Is this a one-off example and can size be an advantage?

According to Bonchek & Fussell (2012), there is a "tradeoff between size and speed", yet there are advantages of being large.   It is seen in biology – As an example whales are large, efficient and live longer than birds that are faster and may be more resilient.  The tradeoff is size vs. speed and adaptability.  Contrast this with cities that as they grow become faster and better, boasting higher incomes and more innovation.  If turning the ship is related to size, how do cities get better and faster as they grow?  The article suggests it is due to the creativity and versatility of networks seen in social systems like cities and communities, or virtual communities such as Twitter or other social communities.

Large organizations operate more like whales (economies of scale yet slow and not agile).  Yet, if a large organization runs more like a social network they stand to gain speed and agility, just as IBM did.  Back to the size advantage – bigger organizations have larger networks with more information, so we can extrapolate that organizations that act like a city or community can move faster BECAUSE they are bigger.  Skeptical?  The U.S. Military is a large organization, very whale-like wouldn't you agree?  The 9/11 event highlighted the need for nimbleness and speed, relationships that are network-based vs. hierarchical models.  They used their size and extended network of organizational relationships as an advantage.  The four strategies outlined in Bonchek &Fussell are worth a look.

So we leave you with these examples we can use and apply to our very large organization and this thought - it is not a "do it once and you are done" type of program.  Transformation is not an end point; it is a journey.  IBM thinks so according to their future plans for digital transformation and the reinvention of the modern corporation!

Guest Blogger Jacquelynn Seymour 

Jackie is a Sr. Project Portfolio Manager/Clinical Systems within the Information Technology Division Project Management Office at a large healthcare organization in Northeast Ohio. She is anticipating graduation in May 2016 with a Master's Degree in Information Architecture and Knowledge Management – Health Informatics. She is zealous about the possibilities of the application of this field in health care.

Sources:

Bonchek, M. & Fussell, C. (2012, November 5). Can bigger be faster? Harvard Business Review.  Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2012/11/can-bigger-be-faster

Joshi, Y. (2015).  Digital transformation – will IBM attain its aspirational leadership position? Sherpas in blue shirts.  Retrieved from http://www.everestgrp.com/2015-06-digital-transformation-will-ibm-attain-its-aspirational-leadership-position-sherpas-in-blue-shirts-18007.html

Morris, E. (2015). IAKM Week 8 Foundational principles of KM [Lecture].  Retrieved from https://learn.kent.edu/webapps/bb-collaborate-BBLEARN/recording/play?course_id=_121458_1&content_id=_4584684_1&recordingId=8984243

O'Dell, C. & Hubert, C. (2011). The new edge in knowledge: How knowledge management is changing the way we do business. Hoboken, NJ, USA: John Wiley & Sons.  Retrieved from https://kent.ares.atlas-sys.com/ares/

Satell, G. (2015).  How IBM plans to help reinvent the modern corporation.  Retrieved from   http://www.digitaltonto.com/2015/how-ibm-plans-to-help-reinvent-the-modern-corporation/

Image by Seymour, J. (January, 2016).  Organization culture transformation. [Image]. Words adapted from Becerra-Fernandez, I., & Sabherwal, R. (2015). Chapter 3 Knowledge management foundations: Infrastructure, mechanisms, and technologies, Power Point] in Knowledge Management Systems and Processes. New York, NY: Routledge