Educating Passionate Informaticists
Episode

Jeffrey Weide, Academic Director of Health Informatics at the University of Denver

Educating Passionate Informaticists

Information is everywhere, especially in healthcare.

In this Future of Global Informatics episode, TJ Southern talks to Jeffrey Weide, Academic Director of Health Informatics at the University of Denver and consultant, about the multiple facets an informaticist can have in healthcare. Jeff has had to put on different hast for many tasks, be it integrating data systems, improving processes, assisting in facility design, or managing projects, as informatics is needed in many different areas. With all of these separate options and new technologies being implemented, Jeff considers it important to listen to patients, staff, and providers to learn about the improvements where informaticists could chip in and truly impact healthcare. He discusses education and encourages students to get involved with professional organizations to dampen themselves in knowledge and get inside the network for future reference.

Tune in to listen to Jeffrey Weide and learn from his career as a multifaceted informaticist!

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Educating Passionate Informaticists

About Jeffrey Weide:

Jeff Weide is the Academic Director of Health Informatics at the University of Denver, Operations Manager for the COVID Rapid Response Program for CDPHE/Insight Global, and Owner/Founder of SHAPE Consulting, LLC. For 20 years, Jeff has been a project and program leader, strategic health leader, management consultant/coach, and process improvement facilitator. Other organizations that Jeff has worked with include Thomas Jefferson Health, Denver Health, STRIDE Health, PMI Mile Hi, Florence Crittenton, and the US Air Force. This variety of work has given Jeff insights into the multiple challenges facing project leaders, organizations, team members, and stakeholders.

 

Future of Global Informatics_Episode 18_Jeffrey Weide: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

Future of Global Informatics_Episode 18_Jeffrey Weide: this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

TJ Southern:
Hey, y’all! Welcome to the Outcomes Rocket Network – The Future of Global Informatics Podcast, where we discuss global informatics through conversations with industry leaders and innovators so that you can understand what it is, what it does, and how it shapes the healthcare of our future. I am your host, TJ Southern.

TJ Southern:
Hey, y’all! Hey, y’all! Good day! Good day! And welcome to another episode of the Future of Global Informatics. It’s your girl, TJ Southern, and today we have Jeffrey Weide. …

Jeffrey Weide:
Thank you for having me, TJ, I appreciate it.

TJ Southern:
Hey, oh, my God, so excited to have you on here. Okay, y’all, as I always say at the top of the cast, get your pen and your piece of paper ready, because I am so sure that Jeffrey has nuggets for us, I’m sure, which are positive. All right, Jeffrey, first thing up. Tell people about yourself. Tell our listeners about who Jeffrey Weide is.

Jeffrey Weide:
Again, thanks for having me on, TJ, it’s a pleasure to be here. So as you were saying, Jeffrey Weide, I’m currently serving a few different roles, so I’m Academic Director of Health Informatics at University of Denver, out here in Colorado. I’m also serving a contract right now to help out the Department of Public Health and Insight Global, doing the rapid response COVID relief program here for the states, so I’ve been doing that for two years, as well as.

TJ Southern:
Wow!

Jeffrey Weide:
Yeah! Well as, I also own my own LLC, Shape Consulting, to kind of help out nonprofits and other health systems with things such as healthcare strategy analytics and project management so.

TJ Southern:
That is so amazing. Okay, so now see, Jeffrey didn’t already drop nuggets for us y’all because look how multifaceted he is even being in this industry, now. I will call him a unicorn, but I know other unicorns just like him, okay? We, there are a lot of us that are multifaceted in this industry, so I’m glad to have Jeffrey on so that he can tell people that we are able to be multifaceted. Okay, so what inspires your current work in this industry?

Jeffrey Weide:
So I think it’s a little bit of everything for my background, TJ. So I grew up with a family that had two individuals that were in healthcare. My mom is a nurse and my brother is a doctor so had a lot of pressure to go into healthcare. I ended up not going that route, I went the computer route instead, and I also served 12 years in the Air Force. So I didn’t take the conventional route into healthcare. But the last three years within health, or in the Air Force, serving as a management analyst, I spent three years with the Air Force Medical Operations Agency. So did a lot of their simulated process flows, workflow analysis, staffing patterns, all that kind of stuff. So I did a lot of work for the Air Force’s agency down there and also the Surgeon General. When I got done with that, I got my education done. When I was in the military, I was like, all right, I’m going to come back home to Colorado, and I started off actually working at Denver Health. I was a process improvement specialist there and a project manager down there for a while, looking into, working with a federally qualified health center out here in Colorado for three years as a director of performance improvement, really working through helping them set up strategy, project management, quality, compliance, so those kind of elements. Spent about a year doing some consulting work with the group that did process improvement and facility design, then COVID hit, and unfortunately, like many others, I got hit with that infamous COVID layoff bug. Lucky for me though, after about a month and a half of looking, I end up working with that med job I told you, as the rapid response manager for the State of Colorado Insight Global Partnership, where we’ve done quite a bit of work. I’ve actually used a lot of the analytical skills to work that. And then, as I started work in med job, I was adjunct faculty over at DU. They had just spun off their health informatics as a totally separate program, … my background, and they’re like, okay, we want you to apply, and lucky enough for me, I got it. So a lot of different backgrounds for me as you can kind of see, but the big thing that really inspired me was that concept of informatics within healthcare. I was always scared, the main reason why I didn’t get into healthcare with my family’s push was I didn’t want to get into patient care because I was always afraid of that malpractice piece. I didn’t want to feel like I had somebody’s life in my hand at times. And I was a techie, and I grew up being a techie, so I was like, I wanted to go computers. But what I started realizing, especially over the past 15 years, was informatics is a larger thing. I mean, if you just look at the definition of informatics by itself, it’s just the science of information, and information is everywhere, especially in healthcare. So I really, especially like if you look at the HIMSS definition of healthcare informatics, like looking at the concept of how you diverge and converge both together and separately, all the different information for healthcare, cognitive information, science, computer science, how do you get all that stuff together? So my big passion is getting all these different elements together because I think the one challenge that I see and the one thing I try to help out with, with whatever role I take on is we have a lot of technology options for healthcare. Very, very few seamless options, in my opinion. A lot of it’s fragmented, a lot of it’s just kind of duct-taped together based on what options you had available, what somebody’s passion was, and they brought into the organization, what vendor you could get cheap at the time, whatever it may be, and all those things do come into play. I’ve been in many different situations where I get money constraints and technology constraints, but on the flip side too is, I think we’ve come to a point where there’s a lot of options out there, and we have to go past just, can this fix a problem here butlooking at a larger holistic system issue.

TJ Southern:
Oh my God, okay, so you just like, you just blew my mind. Just okay, so first of all, we’re going to start here. Thank you for your service. All my vets, thank you for your service. I happen to be a Navy brat. My mom, dad, brother, all in military navy, so thank you for your service for that. It’s so, it is, I don’t even have the words for it. Just you being stuck between a nurse and a doctor, like you were pretty much destined to be in healthcare. But the cool thing about it is you are able to carve out a piece for the tech part. That is the part right there that just gives me so much love, is because you know myself too, you know, even though I became a nurse, that was the thing. When I became a nurse, I was like, I don’t want to work on the floor, I don’t want to be these long hours, you know? So that’s how I ended up in the tech space. And when I tell you that, I just absolutely love it, absolutely love it. So I understand that you know, navigation through the whole healthcare system and world. The part that I just really want to concentrate on is, and like guys, as he was talking, I’m sitting here like lights on, right, as he’s sitting here talking, because one thing about all a lot of the informaticists that I have interviewed is they all say the fragmentation of the information is really what drives them, right? That’s the major problem that it seems many of us are wanting to solve at this current state of the game, and I totally, totally just admire the fact and love it that you see it and you’re like, hey, we really need to fix it. Not only that, I absolutely love the fact that you talk about now systems in a holistic point of view, because you’re right, for years we have just put stopgaps, right? I almost equated to like, you know, you got a hole in the Hoover Dam and you just don’t take a piece of bubblegum and just stick it in there and plug it in, right? That’s what we’ve been doing with technology in healthcare for years now. We have this wall of gum that is getting ready to come down. So I love the fact that you have acknowledged that. Now, so my question to you is, what is it? What is it that you’re focusing on now to resolve that issue? Do you have anything that you’re working on that you’re cooking up right now?

Jeffrey Weide:
So I think kind of twofold, and I love your analogy, first off, with the Hoover Dam being held up with a piece of bubblegum, because I think that’s always, I think the concern, especially when I’m in healthcare, because unlike other organizations where it’s like, you work with financial institution or you work with a hospitality area or something else is there’s usually off periods. You can have a time to come offline and be able to fix things or do things, healthcare, especially if you’re in health systems that have hospitals, EDs, or something else, you don’t have the ability to just stop the river, so that way you can tear down the Hoover Dam and build it back up. And that’s why a lot of these stopgaps happen is because people are afraid until you get to a point where you do something, let’s say like a large EHR integration, and then it’s almost a pain in the rear for about a month because you have so much that goes wrong because it’s just an overnight switch. So the two things I really work with when I try to work with individuals is A, having them see the larger picture of things. So when I look at that, I look at the strategy of their business in terms of healthcare. So like when I started coming into this role with the state and helping them out with augmentation of staffing and resources for, doing these outbreak and response type sites throughout the state, it was one of those things they originally just brought in the contract of saying, okay, here’s the number of people that we’re going to probably need, here’s what it looks like for spots and go. I went kind of a step beyond that role when I started doing things, and I got to build a great relationship with the director over at the lab that was working with us and really focusing on things such as looking at heatmaps and patterns and those kinds of things throughout the state, and looking at other socioeconomic and social determinant type factors that are playing into those kinds of things. Because at first the state was very quickly just trying to respond to the outbreaks and.

TJ Southern:
Like everyone else.

Jeffrey Weide:
Like everyone else, they had used the Colorado National Guard for three months to help augment. And once those orders were coming up, they’re like, we need something else. So they were like, okay, we’re going to put people here, here, here, here, and they were just kind of throwing things at the map, thinking that’s the best spot. So I took their old guard information, I took some of the stuff that we had been doing for a couple of months, and started doing heatmaps and showed them placement. And I also started overlaying it with other things, such as, as much as I hate to admit it, there’s always relationships between other elements: housing insecurities, poverty lines, even political alignments of counties. You start to see those and they start to show why those heatmaps exist. So I really try to go beyond just, here’s what the data we have, and trying to forecast it, but what are the other factors that come into play? Because health, as you know, as much as I do, your health is not 100% the care that you receive at the health system. Those social, economic, and social determinants of health play a major factor in how you get your health, so you’ve got to look at the wider scope of data that you have since this information, and you just keep looking at those things, and integrating it. So my goal, like I said, is I really try to push forward and say, how do those factors play together and how do we get better at mapping things out? But by doing that, I was able to help reduce the state’s expense budget with staff because we were able to then hire people in the right spots for them to respond to. So that way, instead of driving 200 or 300 miles across state to get to certain sites, we minimize that and we reduce their travel budget by about 40% at one point. So it helps looking at those kinds of things and then those resources can go off to other things, such as they don’t have to divert all this money to send people across the state that may not be needed. Now, they can do better PPE or they can do other, like shelter, tents, canopy stuff when they’re doing pop-up sites, so that way staff are better-taken care of. So it was kind of a holistic look at that. I do that, I’ve done that with other organizations when I’ve done, like I said, consulting with process improvement facility design. We had the opportunity of working with a group that was out in the East Coast that was building new ambulatory surgery center, and we spent the time not just looking at, okay, we’re going to put this specialty, this specialty, and this specialty in the building, but it’s how does the patient flow work, right? How do we look at different things to help them move through and access their healthcare better? But we went a step further than that. We looked at what are some of the common issues that patients have when they go through a specialist and needing surgery or chronic care. And one of the big things that we saw was the inability to get technology to help them at home. So we ended up pitching the idea to them, which they put into the design, was having a basically like a little Apple bar, like the Apple store bars. Inside the surgery center where they can actually look at the different wearables and …

TJ Southern:
Oh, that’s cool.

Jeffrey Weide:
That they could use at home. And also if they get it prescribed by their provider to actually have the DME representatives there to actually give it out at the time, not having a … or a home delivery, that might be 10:00 to 11:00 at night.

TJ Southern:
Man, let me tell you, that is absolutely amazeballs, like that’s, what, I’ll tell you that’s innovative. That is innovative, oh, yes. Okay, so now tell me this because you’re a process improvement, I see that your project manager. How many times do you have to put on that pip hat? How many times do you have to put that hat on?

Jeffrey Weide:
Every day, every day I’m working with these things. And I think, I, as you know very well, we put on a lot of different hats, whether it’s that project management hat, whether it’s a process improvement hat, whether it’s an analytics hat or manager hat. What I try to look at with this is looking at kind of how Steve Jobs presented the iPhone way back in the day. It was never how he explained it, it was not new technology at the time. We already had Blackberries and things that had the ability to store data. We already had an iPod that you could store your songs, we already had cell phones. You didn’t need to reinvent those things, and so what he did was he took the time to really focus on what did the consumers want and how to package it in a way that they wanted it. And I think that’s what we really should start focusing on with a lot of informatics in healthcare is, we have so many options out there, but instead of just saying, okay, we think that this shiny new thing is the right thing, really taking a step back and listening to our patients, our staff and providers, our population and communities, and even our payers, as much as we may not like the payers at times, that’s what helps keeps the engine going.

TJ Southern:
They rule the world. At the end of the day, I tell people all the time, they keep the lights on. The dollar sign is what turns the world.

Jeffrey Weide:
And it’s not just insurance for payers, we often think, there’s foundations and grant writers and all these different things. So to me, it’s looking at all these different areas and figuring out systems that incorporate all of them together. Because what I often see happening is we talk about, we want to be very patient-centric, but what happens? That nurse is picking up 20% extra work because we didn’t think about what this is going to do to her or him. Instead, okay, we’re going to do all this stuff for the staff and the patients, but we are not thinking of how is this scalable to the rest of the community. Great, we can serve 100 patients, 200 patients, but when we have a community of 200,000, we’re barely hitting that mark. And like you said, the payer piece, you have to be able to say, how am I going to get funding for this? Because as much as I’d love healthcare to be totally free to everybody and we don’t have to worry about money, that’s never going to be the case.

TJ Southern:
Never at all.

Jeffrey Weide:
So we’ve got to worry about how we’re going to be able to make sure that those things are afforded correctly. So my work that I do a lot of times with folks is really focusing on how do we get that? And that’s also what I’ve been trying to bring, once we launch this health informatics program at DU, getting people to learn those kinds of concepts as they go forward because people that get into informatics come from a variety of life. You have your clinicians such as yourself, you have administrators such as myself, you have people that are IT-focused both within healthcare and also coming out of other industries. Like, I’ve had students come from marketing, I’ve had students come from DOD and they’re wanting to come into different areas. But we have to get them trained to think about how to be those data analysts and scientists, how to be IT leaders within health systems, how to be an informaticist, how to work with data sets, how to be entrepreneurs, whatever they choose. But it’s that center gap of getting them to think of that robust full system, because what happens is, when people learn just fragments of things, they often take what they learn and they go try to implement them instead of thinking of that larger scale. So that’s.

TJ Southern:
Oh my God, yes, yes, yes.

Jeffrey Weide:
Asking about my, yeah, asking about my work and my passion, that’s where it is.

TJ Southern:
So let’s go back to that education piece because let me tell you, you hit the nail on the head when you said, you know, we have people from various backgrounds coming into healthcare information technology or just, you know, HIT. And in that being said, a lot of people don’t know what informatics actually entails, right, until they actually get into it. And then they’re like, Oh my God, I did not know. So my question to you is, it’s going to be a two-part question, actually, A, how do we attract the brains over into this industry? How, how do we attract them over into this industry? That’s A. And B, how do we support them coming from education into the real world?

Jeffrey Weide:
So how do we attract them? A lot of things that we see when we reach out to students and even when I reach out to folks in my different work areas and trying to get them encouraged to go back to school or to find a new skill or whatever it may be, is really to follow your passion. I think that’s the one thing that I learned from myself is, I was very just trying to make it by. I was trying to make the best money I could at first, and I wasn’t worried about the passion. Once I started getting into this passion area of knowing how to try to really fix systems, I started growing. So one of the big things I try to do when I talk to folks is, how do you get that passion out of you? Because a lot of people want to help others. A lot of people want to build with technology. A lot of people want to solve problems. So how do you encourage them to get there? And I think going into a structured program or a mentorship or a professional organization is a huge way of getting them in there, involved in attracting them. In terms of your second piece about how do we help them get through and how do we mold them, there’s a lot of organizations out there. While I am happy to plug mine, but there’s dozens, if not more, informatics programs out there throughout the nation or even the world that are having students come through in these kinds of things. And a lot of these programs have students do internships or capstones or fellowships or other things where they want that hands-on application. It’s great to learn from a classroom, it’s great to, hopefully, like, what we try to do is get them real-world data sets or other things to get in front of them, but it’s still not the same thing as working with an actual clinical team, working with health administrators, and saying, how can I actually identify a problem and how can I help give you the recommendations to solve it? And my big push to anybody that listens to this is, find an organization that you’re able to partner with and have them partner with you, whether it is internships, whether it is coming into guest speak at a class, whether it’s anything like that. There’s tons of opportunities to get in front of students as well as get students involved that really help that. I think the one thing that I learned was, I had a student, he came from Africa, just got done graduating this past summer with me. And he is one of the shining stars that I kind of give as my speech, when I talk to anybody, that talks about either wanting to coming to my program or partnering with my program is, he came in and had very little context in the US and didn’t really know where he was going to want to go, knew he wanted to do into healthcare information, but didn’t know exactly what. Got him involved with HIMSS, both the Colorado chapter as well as the national, he went and volunteered at the HIMSS annual conference, was a volunteer reader and coordinator there, got to know a lot of folks, actually got in front of somebody who ended up being one of our faculty to get involved with her to do some projects, and his capstone and all these things, volunteered at our COVID testing lab on campus. He did what he could to just get in front of everybody and to just be a sponge and learn it all. Within one week of our term ending and him graduating, he had an offer that he accepted to be a senior consultant at a consulting firm. So to me, that’s the kind of thing that I love hearing. But it was twofold, one, he had to really go out there and use those resources that were available to him, but if it wasn’t for individuals to actually give him the chance, for individuals to work with him and to show them that, it would never happen. So my big thing is that I always push to folks, no matter what your organization is, whether you’re a community health center, non-profit, consulting firm, large health system, is, there’s always ways of doing things, whether it’s a paid or unpaid internship or just a project or something to get them involved, because if they don’t get that exposure, they don’t know where to go and they don’t know how to really grow themselves, so that’s why.

TJ Southern:
I love it, I love it. Y’all, he dropped a whole golden rock. I pray that y’all picked it up because he dropped the path to success. Get involved, volunteer, find you some organizations, align yourself, find your tribe. He dropped a whole huge golden nugget, so I pray that y’all picked it up. Jeffrey, what are you doing now? What are you doing now?

Jeffrey Weide:
Yeah, so, like I said, I’m still overseeing that health informatics program at DU. Still, like I said, on my LLC to help out other organizations if they need anything in terms of healthcare strategy projects or analytics. And I’m still kind of helping out part-time with that state contract still as they are doing different things, still vaccines and the occasional monkeypox stuff.

TJ Southern:
I’m sorry, y’all.

Jeffrey Weide:
I know, but.

TJ Southern:
I’m sorry, y’all. I’m not laughing at the monkeypox, I’m just, it’s just.

Jeffrey Weide:
It’s always something.

TJ Southern:
Jeffrey, what are your words of wisdom that you have for the people? What do you want to let the people know when you depart?

Jeffrey Weide:
I think the three things I just covered, one of them was whether you’re somebody new trying to get involved or somebody experienced, make those connections, network, get involved with folks, whether you’re learning from others or you’re able to give your wisdom to others, that’s a big thing for me. Another piece is, informatics is a very broad spectrum of things within healthcare, and that the more we start to focus on that system and the holistic care, even outside the health system, and how do we start pulling it together, we’re going to see better results, I think, from our informatics efforts. And really, the last thing is never lose sight of your passion. That’s the one thing that I’ve learned is, if you’re sitting there and you feel stuck, if you feel like you’re in a rut, those kind of things, that usually means that maybe you’re not doing exactly everything that is driving you to do that. And doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go quit your job tomorrow, but looking at how can you change it. Whether it’s, I like doing projects and I want to go help my clinic staff with a project every now and then, or I want to pick up a new skill set or I want to get involved with a nonprofit or whatever it may be, but find something to help keep you going, because without that passion, burnout is a huge thing. And if you don’t do self-care and you don’t have passion about something, you’re going to get hit hard. And I really strive for this because I’ve had too many people that I know between the military and healthcare that have suffered from mental health and they just lost a passion, they lost themselves, and I don’t want to lose others to those kind of factors again. So take care of yourself and take care of your passion.

TJ Southern:
I love it, thank you so much, Jeffrey. Thank you so much. I pray that y’all got these nuggets that Jeffrey dropped on us today. Thank you so much for your time. It was such an honor and pleasure to meet you, fellow entrepreneur, fellow faculty, fellow consultant, it was such an honor and pleasure to speak with you today. Thank you for giving us your time. All right y’all, see you later, bye.

Jeffrey Weide:
Bye.

TJ Southern:
Hey, y’all! Thanks for joining us today for another episode of the Outcomes Rocket Network – The Future of Global Informatics Podcast. If your organization is looking for informatics talent, go to www.Beryllus.net. That is www. B E R Y L L U S .net, and we can assist you in finding some of the best nursing informatics talent this continent has to offer. We’ll talk to you later! Have a great day! See ya!

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Things You’ll Learn:

  • Informatics is defined as the science of information.
  • In healthcare, you can’t turn off entire health systems for a short period to fix things.
  • Health is not 100% the care you receive in the health system. 
  • Social, economic, and political determinants play a major factor in how you get your health.
  • Informatics in healthcare could learn from the way Steve Jobs presented the iPhone, as he took the time to focus on what the consumers wanted and packaged it in the way they wanted it.
  • If you’re an informatics student trying to transition from your education environment into the real world, find an organization that you’re able to partner with and have them partner with you. 
  • Whether through internships, guest speaking at a class, or doing anything students must be involved, make themselves known, and network.

Resources:

  • Connect with and follow Jeffrey Weide on LinkedIn.
  • For more information on topics related to informatics or on finding talented informaticists for your organization, please visit the Beryllus Website