Two years ago (while I was employed by The Otter Group) I worked with Ken Cohn, who is a general surgeon and a consultant at Cambridge Management Group, to create and manage a blog-based collaborative web site for a large hospital system. Ken invited me to co-author a chapter about that work in his recently published book, Collaborate for Success! Breakthrough Strategies for Engaging Physicians, Nurses, and Hospital Executives. Bill Ives also co-authored the chapter and recently published a review of the book here.
We were supporting a group of physicians who Ken shepherded through a structured dialogue process to help them develop strategic priorities for the hospital administration. They met weekly to hear and discuss presentations from department heads and then to generate recommendations. These were clinically active physicians with little time or patience to learn new technology. The challenge in supporting this group was to apply the web 2.0 tools and techniques while keeping the learning curve very flat.
Using the Blogware platform we built a site that was highly intuitive and easy to navigate. After a brief introduction to the technology, less than 15 minutes, the physicians could post and comment on meeting minutes, reports from department heads, and the document they were writing together. They could subscribe to notifications of newly posted material and could log in to the secure site from anywhere to add their own thoughts, experiences and supporting data. We kept the site uncluttered, only adding links and options once they were necessary (e.g., categories to track specific recommendations). Most important, we trained and supported an internal administrator to maintain the site, posting minutes immediately after meetings, using an aggregator to seek out and bring to the group new relevant information, and responding quickly to all user requests.
Bill Ives summarized the results:
The blog thus allowed panel members to interact outside the meetings, as new ideas surfaced and new issues appeared. The secure, password-protected site allowed members to engage in candid discussion. The blog also provided a convenient distribution point for downloading and commenting on material relevant to department presenters and their reports. The best came at the end as the blog’s search engine facilitated the creation of final report writing. A large amount of data had accumulated in eight months of meetings. Panel members could now search the archive to find recurring themes, as well as specific comments and examples that otherwise might have faded in memory or have been too time-consuming to locate in the minutes or reports buried in emails. The report was completed more efficiently and with greater use of all the data to achieve a more comprehensive, consensus-based set of recommendations. As one panel member said, “Having this organizational tool allowed me to recognize important themes that were relevant to the majority of the medical staff.” It also provides a simple and clear instance of the benefits of taking the new, more open, web tools and techniques inside the enterprise.
It was particularly gratifying that at the end of the report-writing process, panelists unanimously endorsed continuation of the blog into the implementation phase and invited hospital executives to become part of the blog community.
I am scheduled to do a teleseminar with Ken and Rob Schott, a physician who was part of the panel:
“Using Internet-Based Weblogs to Create and Sustain Virtual Physician Communities”
Wednesday 7/18/07, 12-1 PM EDT