Dignity Health: Compassionate patient care and passionate IT

2018 Best Places to Work in IT: A mix of innovative assignments and a focus on community and personal engagement is this health care provider’s prescription for transformative IT. 

dignityhealth
Dignity Health

Hello Humankindness. It’s the branding campaign for Dignity Health, but it gets to the heart of the health care provider’s culture and serves as a rallying force to keep IT employees happy and engaged.

“Hello Humankindness is our brand promise — we invest in it, we believe in it as individuals, and we align the culture in IT with that premise that we are here for the patients,” says Deanna Wise, executive vice president and CIO for the fifth-largest health system in the U.S., with nearly 60,000 employees and an IT staff of close to 1,500. “We empower people and encourage them to engage and participate and solve things. They feel like they have an ability to make a difference, and that ability to make a difference fulfills them in their jobs.”

Empowering IT workers to stretch their wings on creative projects in areas such as big data analytics and digitized patient experiences while encouraging participation in everyday acts of human kindness is what sets the Dignity Health culture apart from other IT organizations, Wise explains. And it helped the Phoenix-based organization rank as the No. 32 large company on Computerworld’s 2018 Best Places to Work in IT list.

Making a difference can come in the form of innovating new systems that transform patient care, such as the health group’s Sepsis Bio Surveillance Agent, an analytics effort that provides early warning alerts that identify patients at risk of septic shock, or the Perinatal Predictive use case, an analytics model that calculates the probability of complex fetal complications. But Dignity Health IT employees also make a difference by giving back to patients and the broader community, Wise says. Just one example is that of an IT support staffer who was formally recognized companywide, not for his client skills or technical prowess, but for giving a teenage patient a much-desired haircut.

disnity evp cio deanna wise Dignity Health

"We empower people and encourage them to engage and participate and solve things," says Deanna Wise, executive vice president and CIO at Dignity Health.

“He was fixing a device in the patient’s room and the teenager expressed concern he needed a haircut,” Wise recalls. The staffer, who is a barber on the side, spoke to the nursing staff and arranged to come in and cut the patient’s hair. “It made a huge difference in how the patient felt, and even though it wasn’t his job, he came in and made a difference,” she says.

IT staffers are also encouraged to give back to the community through company-sponsored charity events. Wise says members of the IT team recently participated in a local program to help feed hungry children and were encouraged to do so on company time, not on weekends or after hours. “It was a bonding experience, but we were doing something focused on community … and we want to sponsor and promote that type of work,” she says.

For Cheryl Martin, an application systems analyst, that commitment to kindness and community fosters the kind of culture that makes her proud to be a member of the Dignity Health IT team. Martin, who has worked in IT health care for 27 years, worked at Dignity Health for 20 years, left briefly for a year to pursue other ventures, but then returned, enticed by both the career opportunities and the strong company culture. Martin is also one of many Dignity Health IT employees (38% of the total IT staff) who are able to work remotely — mostly from her home office, with a couple of days a week spent in the local Reno, Nev., satellite office. She stays connected to her colleagues through WebEx meetings and videoconferencing and says she doesn’t feel disenfranchised from the team.

“Communication is key — we always know what’s coming and what changes are being made,” she says. “The leadership from the top down has a good communication sense.”

cheryl martin dignity Dignity Health

"The leadership from the top down has a good communication sense," says Cheryl Martin, an applications systems analyst at Dignity Health.

While Martin enjoys the flexibility to work from home (especially not having to commute on the many days that it snows in northern Nevada), she says the real draw is how the company treats employees, particularly the way it encourages career growth and exploration. Martin, who works on the team supporting Dignity Health’s supplier and materials procurement systems, says she has been encouraged and supported with training to branch out in different areas where she has interest.

“They give you the opportunity to learn and grow,” she explains. “In many places, you get pigeonholed by expertise in one particular area. Here, they are big on supporting personal growth as well as professional development.”

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