Podcast Interview with Mike Hart, Part 1: “Long-term Strategies Will Be Different Going Forward.”

September 02, 2020

Having prior experience as a bedside nurse can be extremely valuable for those in health IT leadership roles — but not for the obvious reasons. Although it’s true that those who have walked the walk possess an understanding of the workflow challenges and other pains associated with nursing, the real value comes in understanding the need to be “inclusive of others to get a full picture of what you’re dealing with.”
For Mike Hart, who has served as VP of IT at Arkansas Children’s for the past 7 years, the lessons he learned in previous roles — including stints as a nurse, a clinical informatics coordinator, and a software programmer — have provided a solid foundation as the organization has expanded in recent years. In a recent interview, Hart talked about what his team is doing to get back on track in the wake of Covid, how he believes disaster recovery will evolve, the “all-hands-on-deck” mentality organizations need, and what it takes to be an effective leader.


Key Takeaways

* Being a pediatric organization, Arkansas Children’s didn’t have an influx of Covid patients, but it still suffered a financial hit when elective procedures were shut down. As a result, the organization is now in “cash preservation, reduction and planning mode.”
* Rolling out an enhanced telehealth platform in a few weeks – rather than in two years, as had been the plan – “took an army.” Not just because there are so many clinics, but because of the diversity in terms of how the clinics operate.
* Being successful – and even surviving – in a reduced revenue, reduced throughout environment “has forced us to look at how we spend our money,” focusing only on initiatives with long-term implications.
* One way in which Covid has changed the CIO’s strategy? Going forward, “we’ll have a different understanding of what we need to be prepared for and how we need to make decisions in a more meaningful way.”

Q&A with Mike Hart, Part 1

Gamble:  Can you start off by providing an overview of Arkansas Children’s?
Hart:  Arkansas Children’s is the only pediatric hospital in the State of Arkansas. We’re now a health system; we actually have two hospitals. We opened up a second hospital about two and a half years ago, and we’ve created a clinically-integrated network. I believe it’s the first pediatric clinically-integrated network in the country. All of that has happened in the last few years. We support the whole state; we don’t have a lot of in-state competition. We’ve been around for more than 100 years, and we’re probably one of the top three most recognized name brands in the state, with the others being the Arkansas Razorbacks and Walmart. We’re very tightly connected to our community. If you come here, you see that everyone is very mission driven. They believe in what we do, in who we serve, and the connection to this great state.
Gamble:  Let’s talk about Covid-19. How has it affected your strategy?
Hart:  It’s had a large impact on us. I’ve talked to people from a lot of organizations about their strategy — what we’re doing and what they’re doing — and had conference call with various groups. And it seems like whether you’re adult or pediatric focused, we’re all facing the same challenges and using some of the same avenues to try to close those gaps. And so, while we haven’t been greatly impacted directly by having an abundance of Covid patients, we have been impacted from a revenue standpoint through cutbacks in elective surgeries and clinic visits.