Project vs Application Support…a shift in Staffing Demands

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Many of us started our consulting careers in Healthcare IT supporting an EHR implementation.  My first engagement was rolling out Epic from facility to facility for over 2 years.  In fact almost all my engagements were either a full install, a Community Connect project or a new facility roll out. Then I started to see more opportunities beginning to appear that were optimization and/or process improvement project type of work.  A ton of KPI driven project efforts and specific system enhancement projects were popping up everywhere.  It’s only been in the last year or so that I’ve seen a new type of opportunity coming over, straight forward application management support…a significant shift from project work, and a rather interesting change in staffing demand worth talking about.

Almost all employers, across most industries, are facing staffing issues.  Those issues span across shortage of qualified candidates, retention of staff, utilization/performance, and increasing costs. The shift in demand to provide day to day system support is starting to tackle some of these challenges our clients are facing.  By using consultants to cover day to day needs including ticket management, quick fixes, or even upgrades, clients can keep their staff busy on project work.  I have a colleague who always says, “Let your team do the sexy work and we’ll take on the rest.”  This type of model can help with retaining and developing staff, not to mention improve staff moral and team culture all the while making sure ticket backlog doesn’t become an issue and impact end users.

In interviewing several candidates over the last few weeks almost all the opportunities being presented to them are to provide backfill to team members so the client’s full time employees can support various initiatives and project work.  While ticket management certainly isn’t “sexy,” it can be very fulfilling work as a consultant. I always think we are directly supporting end users, improving end user satisfaction and helping the client directly see the benefits of their EHR investment. That’s why I became a consultant.   

Some will argue that application support has been an offering for some time via Managed Services.  I’ll agree, some clients have outsourced their system maintenance and application support to Managed services firms.  Many of you may have agreed to work in a call center setting, but I’ve found most of these efforts are supported by full time employees and the firm’s contract durations are for years, not months. As a consultant many of us are not ready to go full time, as we still enjoy the variations of client support needs.

Application Managed Services (AMS) seems to be what more and more clients are discussing today.  It’s a perfect merge of the traditional staff augmentation support with portions of Managed Services that are cost effective and can be customized in every way to the clients need.  The client can request specific tier level support, focus on all or some applications, request specific service lines agreements (SLAs), and maintain ownership of their governance and change management processes.  While Managed Services often includes telephony, ticket management systems (TMS), and other bells and whistles…not all clients are looking for that level of support, so AMS seems a better fit. 

As consultants we are faced with more and more choices as staffing challenges continue.  While I know I loved the excitement of a go-live and the longer duration projects associated with an install, I also know I enjoy helping end users be successful.  Application support is going to be another option for us more and more.  Are there still upcoming implementations?  For sure there are…as well as plenty of optimization project support efforts. It’s a great time to be a consultant, we have a ton of options and now AMS could be another engagement to consider for your next consulting adventure.

HIMSS and ViVE…Who Did it Best?

The Spring season is upon us and with that comes two of the largest healthcare conventions of the year, back to back.  Last year I wrote about these two conventions to explain the differences and how ViVE became to be as a result of Covid confusion and HIMSS mismanagement of the 2020 canceled convention.  I thought this year I would keep it lighter and just share who I think did a better job in terms of location and venue as well as a look at the shows offerings and benefits of participating.  I’ll share some opinions on things that didn’t work so well, but really highlight those that did.


Nashville, TN was the host city this year for ViVE, held March 26th through March 29th at the Music City Center.  This was my first time attending a conference at the Music Center. It was also my first time staying in the convention area of downtown Nashville. 

From a location and venue perspective Nashville is the real winner here.  A fun city with plenty of hotels within walking distance and tons of restaurants and entertainment to meet and network.  Hotel costs were great and the convention center itself impressive. The convention center opened in 2013 and offers 2.1 million square feet of meeting and showroom space. The meeting spaces used for CHIME both at the convention center and at the Embassy Suites across the street were easy to get to vs the miles of distance at other conventions.  It seemed to be very modern and open.  I especially enjoyed the decision to have live music in various areas of the convention space. 

HIMSS choose to once again visit the windy city of Chicago April 17th – 20th at the McCormick Convention Center.  The last time to convention was hosted here in 2019 the city had a blizzard, and to no surprise to me, it snowed as most of us arrived again this year.  A big change from the regular locations of either Orlando or Vegas for sure.

Unfortunately, Chicago’s convention center is in an isolated area of the city and provides challenges for a daily commute if you didn’t get a reservation at the two or three local hotels.  If you wanted to meet someone or just grab something to eat, there were very few venues within walking distance that were not already sold out for private parties, and the hotels were completely packed.  There was several take out type food establishments, much better than Orlando has, but lines were still crazy long and the quality of the food was worse than most airports. The costs with Chicago also are a big difference to attendees in comparison to usual locations in Orlando or Vegas.  Hotel rates were almost 3 times that paid last year.


As a vendor attending a trade show we all know that the focus is on sales, marketing, and customer interaction.  I have to admit I also like to use these gatherings for education purposes.  It’s also nice to see old colleagues and friends.  Networking is a big driver for many.  I will say most of these shows are more vendors then not, but that’s not always a bad thing as many attendees are also looking for opportunities to identify partnerships and/or do competitive comparisons.  In either case, both shows offer all of the above.

CHIME is typically an isolated event from the rest of the show, either held in a different part of the convention center or held entirely in a separate location.  This year ViVE choice to provide a space in the general showroom for CHIME to give its keynote and other presentations.  While the convention center was really impressive in its size, we were all cramped without enough seats and so much foot traffic and competing presentation happening, it was hard to hear or stay focused.  It looked great in the morning though when no one was there yet.  CHIME should have had a ballroom space, away from the show floor…it just didn’t work.

ViVE did a great job with providing a ton of networking offerings, including an option to buy client meetings in a type of speed dating scenario.  I enjoyed the opportunity to meet with current and potential clients to hear about their upcoming projects and initiatives.  There was plenty of seating areas and coffee areas where you could meet with a client.  CHIME offered an area with tables and comfortable sofas to catch up with a friend or host a meeting.  Even the lobby area had live great places to grab a coffee and enjoy soft live music in the background (check out band in the background in the pic below).

Another thing that ViVe offers is breakfast, lunch and snacks.  There is literally an endless array for food and beverages from opening to closing. My favorite was on the last day they offered fresh biscuits and sausage gravy for breakfast, I was in heaven!  There is a debate regarding bottled water.  ViVE stated they spent almost a half a million dollars on water bottles.  I brought my own water, but I know its another benefit many enjoyed. 

ViVE offered a ton of educational sessions, over 60 over the three days.  In addition to that, CHIME offered their breakouts as well.  While most were offered on the main floor, it was nice that CHIME held sessions over at the Embassy Suites, right across the street.  While most of the general sessions were packed, those offered later in the day had plenty of seats and allowed for more interactions with the speakers.

I probably should have said this right from the start, a comparison of ViVE to HIMSS isn’t really apples to apples and might not be a fair comparison.  HIMSS expected just over 40,000 attendees (compared to the 7500 for ViVE) this year.  I’ve attended this event for years and it really is all about the vendors and the show floor.  I overheard someone the other day comparing it to a boat show.  I loved that analogy. Walking through the floor the day before opening was an impressive gathering of workers opening giant crates, laying down carpeting, and wiring each booth to be ready for Tuesday’s big opening.

With over 1,100 vendor booths, you can find most any kind of healthcare related business from infrastructure, to equipment, IT, and every kind of service offering you can imagine on the floor.  The big players, and largest booths, come from familiar names like Google, Amazon, Epic, and Oracle.  Most offered give-a-ways ranging from stuffed animals to popcorn.  All to lure you in to perhaps watch a demo or talk about your organization.  Its an impressive display of sales at its core.  Fund, but exhausting. I averaged 14,000 steps a day for 4 days. 

I am always impressed with Epic’s booth. OK, I know I am biased, but while the same theme and design is the same year over year, the opportunity to meet with their team and participate in demos is just awesome.  They go over the top with marketing signage, but I love the stats just the same.  I also was impressed with SalesForce this year.  They had an awesome forest themed booth and impressive team of subject matter experts providing demos all day long.

My company opted to have a meeting space instead of a booth this year. The space was basically the inside of a pods storage space.  It actually worked great.  Located right on the show floor, tucked in the back was dozens and dozens of pods all set up to welcome clients in a formal meeting setting. Our room was simple with table and demo set up and was booked everyday.  From a cost perspective, a booth at HIMSS start at $20,000 and companies like Oracle spend over a $1M.  Having an option like this was perfect, and I highly advise using something like this.

Another positive aspect of HIMSS is the ability to attend regional events and gatherings.  Most chapters host a vendor sponsored event towards the end of the day as a happy hour or an offsite dinner or party.  I was fortunate to attend an excellent function hosted by the Gulf Coast Chapters of MS, AL, and LA at Lou Malnati’s…the best deep dish in Chicago.  I also attended two other happy hour events that were a bit more educational focused, but nice as well.  The benefit here is to meet you customers and network while being wined and dined by your host. I find this to be a real differentiator between ViVE and HIMSS. 

I’ll wrap up with sharing a selfish part of why I enjoy these shows, seeing old friends and networking with clients and coworkers.  We are all busy at work and home that sometimes keeping in touch with friends and colleagues can be hard.  Events like these provide an opportunity to reconnect with folks that you don’t usually get to see often, have great food and conversation with clients, or even have drink or two with coworkers that you haven’t had time to get to know. 

What did you think of the shows? Leave your comments below.

A Shift in Consulting Travel Opportunities

In 2018 I shared a blog on the idea of remote contracting work (link), and the impact of rate, at a time that almost no one offered nor wanted such a situation.  Consultants wanted to travel, saw points and hotel/airline perks as an added benefit to their career.  Clients expected the team to be onsite, to be incorporated into the team, and directly impact productivity.  I interviewed dozens of consultants and they all said they had zero interest in remote.  In March 2020 I posted another very different idea on the same subject, all work efforts would convert to remote for considerable time due to Covid…and at that time, we had no idea of the changes to come.

Three years later there is no question that “remote,” is the new norm.  Consultants have accepted the fact that their airlines status has shifted from Diamond to Gold, or Titanium to Silver or…well, it doesn’t really matter anymore, does it?  Clients, or a large number of them, have simply shifted their models for their teams to almost be 100% remote and their consultants are expected to be the same.  The few that do go on site, with a limited travel arrangement, seem to average a trip once a month, or 20% travel schedule.

Another interesting change is hiring full time staff regardless of where the employees live.  This trend is happening all across the country.  I’ve spoken with several local hospitals here in Boston and they all have employees who live in Ohio, for example, or even further away.  They allow their own workers to travel and work from their Florida home in the winter months or summer cottage locations in the summer.  No doubt this has improved retention of talent for clients and may be an option for consultants to consider in a contract to hire scenario. 

Onsite requirements continue to change and no doubt clients are looking at variations of home work options. We have all read that some industries are buckling at the remote concept, including software companies.  There is no doubt in my mind we will continue to see changes over the next several years.  Don’t get me wrong, there are still plenty of clients who are asking for onsite consultants, but they are the minority right now.

So what’s next for us in the world of healthcare IT consulting? If I had to make a prediction on any shift to consultant travel expectations in the future, it would be simple, expect more of a hybrid model.  It’s a standard contract question now…”what level of travel do you expect for this role.”  These agreements, 80% remote 20% onsite for example, are now a part of any work order.  Recruiters have to ask travel related questions to every candidate now, and as a consultant…you have more options than ever before when it comes to remote vs onsite opportunities.

What are you doing today…remote or onsite?  Share your thoughts below in the comments section. 

Press Releases and News that Every EHR Consultant Should Know About

There is never a dull moment in the world of Healthcare IT.  Throughout this winter almost every EHR vendor has made some major announcement regarding either an acquisition, merger, expansion of service, or new market focus.  As consultants it’s truly important we stay informed on where EHRs are focusing their attention and expanding.  These changes all can have impact on how we support our clients and, more importantly, how our clients shift their prioritization of IT investments and initiatives. 

Below are hyperlinks to these press releases and my brief take on the announcements.

  • Cerner’s announcement, regarding being sold to Oracle, dominated the news at the end of year. The $28.3B deal is the largest EHR acquisition in history and will no doubt result in continued international market growth.  Take a look at the article because the big opportunity they spell out here is to expand cloud, AI and machine learning applications for Cerner’s healthcare clients.  I can’t even start to list all the areas of impact to current and new Cerner health systems regarding physician burn out, reduction in clinical documentation, and improved workflows.
  • Athenahealth also made an announcement at the end of the year regarding their planned acquisition by Hellman & Friedman and Bain Capital for $17 Billion. Take a look at the article as they talk about their specific modules including patient engagement, revenue cycle, telehealth, payments, population health, and value-based care management.  The Ambulatory EMR software company clearly is continuing to grow and they’ve taken advantage of the press release to really point out their presence in the market space.
  • eClinicalWorks sent out a press release regarding their integration with Payground.  If there is one word that seems to be a trend in healthcare process improvement right now, its automation.  Take a look at the article as it outlines how offices will be able to accept payment at the point of care and immediately and automatically post the payment to the patient’s account.  Think workflow improvement and direct capture for those of you in RCM consulting.
  • Allscipts announces their new Allscripts App Expo, the company’s developer program that enables developers to connect with multiple Allscripts EHR and practice management solutions.  Healthcare systems can expand third party vendor solutions via the App Expo while new technology companies now have a way to integrate with them directly.  Huge opportunity for those of you who are always looking for process improvements using various technologies, not always offered by the EHR directly. 
  • Allscripts also announced in March that they had entered into an agreement with Constellation Software’s N. Harris Computer Corporation to acquire their hospital and large physician practice business segment which includes Allscripts’ Sunrise, Paragon, TouchWorks, Opal and dbMotion tools.  Take a look as Harris has a digital platform offering that would expand some capabilities in this marketspace…and as we’ve all been reading, digital is another huge buzz word for us right now. 
  • MEDITECH had a press release come out on March 1st regarding their release for a MEDITECH Ambulatory Expanse offering aimed at independent and physician-owned practices. The subscription cloud based solution offers an alternate EHR choice and offers variations of automation much needed in the ambulatory setting.  They are clearly preparing for an aggressive sales approach to hang on to those who may be looking at shared licensing agreements via Epic or Cerner nearby hospital systems.
  • Epic came out with a press release that announced Garden Plot, also an Ambulatory focused solution that includes Epic’s software for independent medical groups through a hosted and supported Software as a Service (SaaS) model, which includes several integrated products.  As a possible alternative to Community Connect model, Ambulatory facilities may be more intrigued with this more independent offering.  Take a look at the extensive list of integrated products from revenue cycle to pharmacy.

Most interesting to me on all this is the heavy focus on the Ambulatory space.  While some of the specific companies above have always targeted the Ambulatory market, now it seems to be an opportunity for everyone.  It will be interesting to see how these changes impact our customers’ needs over the upcoming months.   I’ll also be interested in hearing from you all on how new opportunities are emerging for you because of these new service offerings and changes.

Leave your comments below.

ViVE vs HIMSS…What is the Difference?

Florida will be hosting two of the largest Healthcare IT conventions back to back next month.  I’ve written many times about HIMSS in the past, and what consulting firms hope to get out of the event.  But this time I am writing because there is a new convention directly competing again HIMSS, and for the first time firms and vendors are having to make difficult decisions between the two events in terms of exhibiting, attending, sponsoring and overall investment dollars. 

It’s important to understand the difference, the history of the two and why your firm’s investment means they are likely participating in one or the other…or both.  ViVE is a brand new event, so there is a lot to unpack here.  Before understanding the two events, let’s first talk about the two organizations that are collaborating to create ViVE, HLTH and CHiME.    

Taking directly from the HLTH (pronounced “health”)  website, they describe their organization as a community of leaders, innovators, and pioneers of the health industry and span across the entire health ecosystem; payers, providers, employers, investors, startups, life sciences, policymakers, and the patient community to discuss the trends and strategies needed to create health’s future.  They are truly an events services company that has been hosting a series of healthcare related events for just the last 5 years. 

On the other hand is a very well-known organization, CHIME, who has been around for 30 years providing education, networking, and various global events to support Healthcare IT executives.  Taken directly from their website, The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) is an executive organization dedicated to serving chief information officers (CIOs), chief medical information officers (CMIOs), chief nursing information officers (CNIOs), chief innovation officers (CIOs), chief digital officers (CDOs) and other senior digital health leaders. CHIME includes more than 5,000 members in 56 countries and two U.S. territories and partners with over 150 healthcare IT businesses and professional services firms. CHIME and its three associations provide a highly interactive, trusted environment that enables senior industry leaders to collaborate, exchange best practices, address professional development needs and advocate for effective use of information management to improve health and care in their communities.

For several years, CHiME has partnered directly with HIMSS for their annual event in the Spring.  CHiME would start a couple days prior to HIMSS, but both would overlap and share common convention space.  It has always been convenient to executives attending both events, as well as for firms and vendors who sponsor CHiME while also exhibiting and HIMSS giant show floor.  Before Covid, HIMSS would attracts some 40,000 attendees from around the world and would be hosted in either Las Vegas or Orlando (although they tried Chicago and New Orleans once as well).  Speculations of the separation of the two is likely around Covid-19 and the last minute poorly executed cancelation of HIMSS in 2020.  The 2021 HIMSS was held in Vegas, but attendance was down by over 80%.  2022 HIMSS event is still down with only 1400 attendees and around 400 vendors. 

Now that we understand the organizations behind the events, let’s look at the marketing and positioning of the two events.  ViVE, being held at the Miami Beach Convention Center March 6th – 9th has positioned itself as a Digital Health event.  “With rapid digital health adoption and accelerated readiness to accept new modes of care delivery and engagement, there’s a pressing need to convene health IT executives around digital transformation,” said Jonathan Weiner, founder, chairman and CEO of HLTH in a recently posted article on He also went on to say, “ViVE was created to respond to the demand for a reimagined health technology event during this exciting and tumultuous time for healthcare and provides a complement to HLTH’s digital health innovation ecosystem event in the fall.”

The ViVE 2022 event will feature Expo programming and special events with thought leaders addressing key issues in digital health innovation. CHIME’s Spring Forum, which will provide education and networking opportunities for CHIME members and will be integrated directly into the ViVE event.  I should mentioned that CHIME and HLTH have worked together in the past as CHIME was a partner during HLTH 2019 and also participated in the organization’s 2020 virtual conference.

HIMSS22 is being held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL March 14th – 18th.  The HIMSS Global Health Conference & Exhibition is a gathering of healthcare professionals from around the world that take advantage of education sessions, demonstrations, and an exhibition hall with over 400 vendors on display.  It’s positioned for HIMSS members and healthcare professionals, CIOs and senior executives to providers and payers to IT consultants and entrepreneurs…a true trade show if you will.

The questions your company is likely asking themselves when considering investing in these events are simple.  What is the reason they want to attend and what are the outcomes they hope to leave with?  If you work for a technology vendor they are likely there to showcase and demo your product(s) in hopes to create a pipeline of new business.  If you work for a new company, they might be there for market awareness and brand recognition.  Hospital executives may be attending in hopes to network and hear how others are tackling areas in Covid data management, telehealth, and/or Digital investments.  The point is, what do you hope your firm will get out of attending? 

I’m seeing two very different views on the events.  Some believe HIMSS22 will be a lack luster event with minimal attendance and almost no return on investment.  With a ratio of 1:8 for hospital to vendor attendees, that view makes sense to many.  On the other hand, ViVE is brand new with a narrow focus on Digital transformation of the market.  Not everyone sees HLTH as a solid enough event to make major investment in, being it’s first year…it is a bit of a gamble.  Many not attending are surprising to me. I noticed that Epic has their usual huge booth at HIMSS, but is not attending ViVE.  So many customers I’ve talked to know HIMSS, and believe that is where the value is.  Vendor views vs client views on these events are no doubt, different and will be more clear after the events.  I’m eager to read and write about them both.

What is your firm’s decision regarding attendance and/or sponsorship of these events?  Share your thoughts and comment below.

Best in KLAS…How you the Consultant Directly Impact the Results

Anyone who was on LinkedIn last week probably noticed the endless posts regarding Best in KLAS.  The annual report came out last Monday and showcased top rated EHRs including Epic and MEDITECH, top in Overall IT Services to Nordic, top in Revenue Cycle Services to Ensemble, and top IT Outsourcing to HCTec.  The 259 page report has a lot of information, but why does this report matter to us consultants?  In my opinion, firms that are not in the top 3 or 4 of any rated category may not be considered for opportunities in the market.  Which could mean more bench time to you.  Knowing where your firm falls is important.  Knowing how you directly impact that score should be just as important as well.

Let’s take a minute to talk a little more about the report.  While KLAS is very broad in there categories from Acute EHRs to Payer Solutions to Imaging Systems, as a consultant our eyes go right to the Services and Consulting area that has 26 different categories.  From there we can dive into those we all support like IT Advisory Services, Healthcare Management Consulting, HIM Services, Implementation Services, IT Outsourcing, Revenue Cycle Services, and Technical Services…to name a few. 

Within each of these categories are grades based on questions submitted to clients on performance and return on investment.  The questions are broken in 5 area including loyalty, operations, services, relationship, and value. Believe it or not your individual contribution and performance on a project can, and does, impact those scores.  The difference between an A and A- can mean be ranked 3rd because of a 0.3 score difference, as was the case with my firm to be in 2nd instead of 3rd place for Go-Live services. 

Clients are asked questions about the value they saw in bringing the firm in.  But really they are being asked about you and the impact you made on the project, and most importantly…the impression you made to them regarding your firm.  Sure, you may say you are only 1 of dozens of consultants on a project.  But think about this analogy.  If you had a wonderful dinner, with great food and great service but while enjoying your dinner noticed a long black hair in your food…what do you do and what will you remember later?  When filling out these surveys sometimes the finding of the hair overshadows everything else.  Each one of us on a project make up the entire experience, don’t be the piece of hair.

The most common area of impact on a project, and potential impact to a client feedback to KLAS, is the value add you brought. Differentiating yourself through quality of deliverables and providing documentation, regardless of being asked or not, is a major point of impact. Document everything you’ve built, tested, and/or created. If the client doesn’t want a weekly status report, create one anyway and create an end of project summary as a leave behind. Give client employees your email and cell phone so they can contact you if you are away. Be that person who is always first in and last out. Make yourself available, stick out as a team player who wants to be there…differentiate yourself from others and show the value add.

If you haven’t seen the report, ask your manager or marketing team if they can share the results.  Take a look at the rating but also ask to see the comments.  While KLAS doesn’t provide the client name, it is often times easy to identify who the client was by specifics called out in the comments.  Don’t look to management or your executive team to own your firms KLAS ratings, it truly all comes down to the individual consultant…you.

How did your firm do on the report?  Did you see any surprises?  Share your comments below. 

Remembering Epic’s UGM on September 11, 2001

Everyone has a story of where they were on 9/11.  Many talk about being at work or in school when someone called to say, “turn on the TV.”  Some folks were flying that day, while many were on vacation.  I personally, was sitting in the Oscar Mayer Theatre in downtown Madison, WI attending the general session of Epic’s UGM.

Before Epic had their campus at Verona, UGM was held downtown at the Monona Terrace.  And the big event, Tuesday’s General Session, was held at the Oscar Mayer Theatre, about a 10 minute walk away.  It was a perfect morning outside, and we all walked with excitement to watch Judy Faulkner and team tell us about the latest and greatest in Epic’s software development.

The theatre had 2100 seats, and we were jam packed in and getting settled for a full day of entertainment and education.  Around 50 minutes into the presentation the giant movie theater screen changed from the presentation we were watching to live TV with an image of the first tower on fire.  We thought it was going to be another skit about how Epic can help with emergency room volumes or something like that.  But not even 2 minutes later the second plane hit.  People jumped up and rushed out of the auditorium onto the streets.  Lines formed at every pay phone. The few of us with cell phones had a lot of issues getting through to family.  Mine worked pretty well, so I lent mine to anyone who needed it.  Everyone just wanted to reach their families.

There was a good couple hours of chaos and confusion.  Those who could, immediately departed.  Most of us returned to the theater waiting on news updates and what we should do.  It was a very emotional couple of hours, for everyone.

Judy came out on stage and announced the meeting would go on as so many of us were stuck there with the airports being closed.  It was the right decision.  Most people did leave.  The rest of the general session was canceled and we went back to our hotel and congregated in the lobby bar to watch the news…for hours.  The next several days of UGM were various breakout sessions and client presentations at the Monona Terrace.  Epic did an awesome job keeping everyone updated day after day on travel options.

Being from Boston, my group had an extended visit in Madison, until we finally got a truck and drove home.  Epic coordinated finding us a truck and called with the request to take a couple of folks from NYC with us.  We had 9 people in an 8 passenger van with all our luggage.  Lucky for me I had a wedding in Buffalo, NY so I got dropped off after 14 hours.  Would have been faster but with so many people we stopped every 2 hours for a stretch break.  I felt terrible for the rest of the group, they had another 8 hours to go to Boston but did drop off 2 at the train station in Albany, NY. 

I talked to Judy about the event a few years back and she was telling some stories about the behind the curtain discussions she and her team were having that terrible Tuesday morning.  Mainly there was a lot of debate over whether to keep showing the news on the giant screen. I can’t imagine the pressure to decide what to do with thousands of people there for their event…they were the host, and they certainly stepped up.

The entire Epic team was accommodating and truly a wonderful host during a time of crisis of the entire nation and world.  I’ll forever be grateful personally to Epic.  They kept us safe, informed, coordinated, and eventually assured everyone got home. 

Anyone else at UGM that year?  Or who was at a client site that day?  Share your memories and gratitude for those who helped you below.

Airlines Reopen For Business… Without Staff To Support

I was going to blame Hurricane Elsa on the fact that there was an 8.5 hour wait to reach a Delta agent. However I remembered last week it took 9 hours to reach an agent to change my flight, and there was no hurricane. Calling the Elite line for Delta for 15+ years, I typically am connected to an agent immediately. Sometimes, like during a hurricane, a robot asks if they can call me back within an hour. That was all pre-Covid and before airlines laid off some 75% of their call agents. The question is, if airlines can’t rehire and staff to meet customer needs, why are flights back to capacity?

American has had staffing shortages since travel resumed as well. Stories of grounded flights due to shift changes, pilot shortages, and long wait times for call agents has been all over social media. American has always struggled with customer services issue. Another question for American, is why would they overbook and sell out their flights when they know they can’t provide the staff needed to accommodate for the number of passengers?

I called Southwest and United to see what there robot would tell me for wait times. To no surprise both quoted several hours for a return call. So while I can’t point finger at the hurricane or Covid, I can call out the poor decisions airlines are making. Airlines want to return to normal times, but haven’t made the staffing investments to do so. They need to reduce the capacity of flights when short staffed as well as the number of flights until staffing is back to normal. Call agents should be priority number one. Let’s face it, America wants to get back to work and wants to travel again….airlines are actually deterring the public with these daily stories of horrific customer service experiences.

Thoughts? What are you seeing from your airline? Leave your comments below….

Travel Insurance…Stay protected while traveling again

Expect the unexpected. Rarely is that old adage proven true as often as it is in the context of traveling. But some surprises aren’t as cool as cruising through the ocean and seeing a group of whales nearby.  With that in mind, it is important now more than ever to have the necessary coverage for your trip in the event that any delays or cancellations occur. While we as consultants have historically assumed our Travel Management System covers all this, that may not be the case anymore.

The most adequate travel insurance policy for you is going to be the one that offers the specific coverage you need at a price you can readily afford. Here’s a rundown of the most common types of travel insurance, as well as some of the optional benefits you may want to look into.

  1. An interruption in your trip: Interruption coverage protects you in the event you have to return home due to an emergency once you’ve already started your trip or before. It will pay for the cost of getting you home and getting you back to your destination once you’re able to travel again.

A good example is medical conditions. If you have a pre-existing medical condition, verify whether it’s included in a policy’s medical insurance provisions. Most insurance companies require you to purchase additional coverage for pre-existing conditions.

  1. Canceling a trip: Cancellation coverage covers you for pre-paid, non-refundable expenses under a fixed set of circumstances outlined in your policy. You can make a claim when you have to cancel a trip due to a health emergency or illness, for example. Depending on the policy you choose, you may also be able to make a claim if you’re laid off from work or you’re called for jury duty.

If the list of covered cancellation reasons under basic cancellation coverage seems too limited to you, you might want to opt for CFAR or “Cancel For Any Reason”. It offers the fullest coverage but may only make sense for you if your calendar is subject to change at a moment’s notice.

Trip cancelation is a common travel insurance claim, but many policies won’t pay out for trips canceled for any reason whatsoever. Be sure to review the specifics of the policy you’re considering.

  1. If something happens to your luggage: There are few things more irritating than getting to your destination and realizing your luggage has not arrived with you. Pay attention to coverage limits and increase yours as necessary. Even mundane items like laptops and cell phones have replacement costs beyond the limits set by basic policies, so be careful to read your policy closely to be sure your most expensive possessions are fully protected.

Coverage for delayed bags will need some time to pass before you can make a claim – depending on the policy you purchased this anywhere from 2 to 6 hours and up. Once claimed your insurance will reimburse you to help replace your lost items, up to the policy limit.

Some credit cards will even cover your expenses sometimes if you were to cancel last minute. Having a travel credit card can allow you to have a more enjoyable and affordable travel experience, which means planning is key.

Credit card companies such as Chase and American Express have begun to extend the eligible purchase periods giving their customers additional time to earn their signup bonuses. Some companies are now providing additional bonus points for purchases done due to the pandemic. Examples include streaming services, food, and grocery delivery. It is important for cardholders to check in with their credit card companies to learn which non-travel purchases qualify for bonus points. This is a great incentive when trying to build good credit if you think about buying a house one day as well.

While travel insurance isn’t terribly expensive when compared with the cost of your trip, there are ways to bring down the cost. If you’re a frequent enough traveler, an annual policy might make financial sense for you. And if you’re traveling with a group—to take advantage of one of our terrific team-building events, for example—buying group insurance is a great way for all members of your party to get the same coverage for less.

Even if you decide on picking travel insurance for your international or domestic trip, make sure you understand exactly what’s covered. There are different categories for basic and special coverage. Be sure to check out this article from who provided the information for this post and make sure you understand you know everything that is covered in your policy.

Check with your firm on their policy for insurance reimbursement, but regardless, consider for any and all personal travel during these new times. I’ll be curious who is currently covering their upcoming trips with insurance…does work pay for it? Is it linked through your travel site like Concur? Leave your comments below.

Vaccine Management Consultant opportunities

Covid-19 vaccines are here…well sort of.  Let’s face it, it’s been the top news story (other than politics) for a couple months now.  Various levels of success on vaccine distribution are being reported from state to state.  All EHR systems have rolled out their software versions and solutions.  For us as consultants, we immediately have recognized the need for support at the client level regarding all these challenges and system changes.

I’ve been asked so many times this past year what we are doing at my company regarding Covid-19 response offerings.  The list just keeps growing, and now has shifted to vaccine management.  I thought this week I would take a moment to talk about what I’m seeing out there and will be eager to hear what you all have been doing as it relates to providing clients with support.   

The top focus right now is no doubt creating a program that streamlines vaccine administration and management.  A combination of EHR enhancement tools to workflow process design for program administrators and clinicians.  And obviously, having the resources to execute the program.

Here are some bullets on areas you may be asked to support:

  • EHR system upgrade support – All EHR’s have introduced enhancements and/or new software for contact tracing that tracks patients from initial screening, scheduling, vaccine administration and symptom tracking.  Customers need assistance with implementing and training.
  • Call center solutions – A big demand now to help with large increases and surges in call volumes.  Agents available to address frequently asked vaccine questions and provide eligibility screening via completion of patient questionnaires and/or surveys.
  • Scheduling Center solutions – A combination of screenings, patient portal access support, and vaccine scheduling services are all in demand, including appointment reminders.
  • Advisory solutions – Clients are seeking recommendation and guidance that aligns with CDC-recommended process for developing a vaccine distribution program including EHR, business, and billing processes to create a successful vaccine roll-out program.
  • Analytics and Data Management – Analytics are being used in a combination of vaccine distribution plans to define and redefine high-priority populations, track and allocate vaccine supplies, monitor population engagement and dosage regimen adherence, provide last mile/distribution logistics analytics, as well as effectiveness and safety pattern analysis.

This is an all hands on deck type of scenario for our customers right now.  My list of consultant opportunities is very much operational focused.  There are technology and software companies that are introducing products daily to assist with this immediate need. Here is a great article on 25 recently introduced vaccine solutions –

What are you doing to help your customer with vaccination management?  Would love to hear how you and your firm are extending services.  Feel free to share in the comments section below.