How EHR users are advancing the future of healthcare

Episode Summary

The MUSE community of independent MEDITECH users is celebrating 40 years of sharing their knowledge and experience. Join us for an engaging discussion with its CEO Alan Sherbinin.

Episode Transcription

Title: How EHR users are advancing the future of healthcare

Guests: Alan Sherbinin, CEO, MUSE (Medical Users Software Exchange)

Host: Christine Parent, Associate Vice President, MEDITECH

Alan: This truly is a user-driven organization, that every event we plan starts with a blank slate, and we've got a conference coming up next year, and I've got a blank bulletin board beside me, and so we offer a call for presentations, and the presentations come pouring in, and we create a schedule, and we have a terrific conference.

Christine: Welcome to another episode of MEDITECH podcast, the leader in healthcare technology empowering you to be a more informed Healthcare consumer and provider. Hear the latest from our friends and colleagues in the US, Canada, and abroad on topics we think you should know about. Today I'm happy to welcome Alan Sherbinin, CEO of MUSE. The Medical Users Software Exchange, MUSE, is a community of MEDITECH users and related professionals who come together to learn and share their knowledge and experience. We'll hear how MUSE has developed into what it is today, providing quality learning and sharing opportunities to over 5,000 members. We'll also learn about some current initiatives for members and discuss some exciting upcoming networking opportunities. Welcome, Alan, glad to have you join me today.

Alan: Thank you, Christine, I appreciate the invitation.

Christine: First, I'd like to share with our listeners that 2023 marks a huge milestone for MUSE, your 40th anniversary. Congratulations. So with that said, let's start with a brief history of MUSE and how and when you became interested in leading this organization.

Alan: Thanks, Christine. I thought we agreed that I didn't want to discuss MUSE. I'm kidding. Of course, we'll discuss it. Interestingly enough, MUSE was formed in 1983, which is 40 years ago, according to my math, and it was started by representatives from four of MEDITECH's earliest customers. It was Faulkner Hospital, Brockton Hospital, Cape Cod Hospital, and Holyoke Hospital. All in your neighborhood there, and they believe that MEDITECH users should be sharing their successes and the issues they were having, so they planned and staged a meeting at the Boston Long Wharf Hotel, and there were 30 people in attendance at that first meeting, including some Canadians. I think Hamilton, Ontario was one of your customers, and some folks came down for that meeting. And now, it is 40 years later, so our mission remains the same, we're offering networking and educational opportunities to the MEDITECH users. 

Christine: Always amazing to hear the journeys of some of these organizations and where they began, so continuing with MUSE's journey, how has the organization grown to what it is today? 

Alan: It's interesting when I've been asked about the history; I'm sometimes embarrassed to say that nothing's changed. For 40 years, we've been putting people in a room together so they can network, and then I think, well, we've been putting people in a room together for 40 years so that they can talk about lessons learned and best practices and sharing their solutions, so that's something to be proud of for 40 years, but that's not to say there have been zero changes. There have certainly been changes in our delivery methods. We've got virtual options now, we have many more events, we have many more topics, and we're much more of a year-round organization than we were initially. In those olden days, it was just an annual conference and that was it, but now we've certainly changed. I guess one of the most significant changes is to our website. It's improved tremendously since 1983, and it's a very active forum on there now, very engaging, lots of users, and the advantage of that, of course, is the ongoing networking opportunities that are time zone independent, and we've got people from Canada and the US and some of our international users participating. 

We've still got a strong membership base over 600 hospitals and over 100 vendor members, and of course, we've always had a dedicated group of eager volunteers, and that includes our board of directors and committee members and, of course, the staff. That has changed. I started with MUSE in 1999, and I was the first hire of the organization. At that time, the board of directors felt that it was too much to manage an organization of this size just with volunteers, and I was lucky enough to be selected for that position and set up a home-based office and continue on, and now we've got three other staff members, but we're still considered a small staff association, and we do an awful lot with that core group. I think the other thing that probably hasn't changed but continues to grow is the networking opportunities. There is a real focus on shared solutions, and what I realize is that the users through MUSE often create their own contacts and their own network of peers, so that's always interesting. 

And I guess the final point, the other value is MEDITECH's participation. MEDITECH has been at all of our events and on our webinars and answering questions and providing support, and that's certainly key to a successful user group. But by now, I've forgotten the question, Christine. 

Christine: You did perfect, and I can't believe you were employee number one, so congratulations for still being there with the organization and growing throughout these years. Can you elaborate a little bit for us on why joining this user-driven MEDITECH community users group is unique? Any examples of MUSE members coming together to strategize on a common challenge?

Alan: Coming together to strategize on a common challenge, I actually see that every time I go to a conference when people are trying to find a table at lunch, they're strategizing, they're trying to find the best table, they're waving their arms to find their peers, so it's lots of communication so that's always interesting. 

I guess one of the good examples is we typically have had peer group meetings, and years ago, it was based on the MEDITECH modules. We would set aside a room for the LAB users to network and the Pharmacy users to network, and that was an awful lot of the schedule for the events in those days. And there was one of those meetings, and I believe it was the Abstracting group, and I popped in to see how they were doing. There was only eight people in the room, and I thought, oh, this isn't going to go well, that you need that critical mass of users to really have those in-depth discussions, and so they seem to be doing all right. I went back a half-hour later, and they've put all their chairs into a circle, and they're all facing each other and leaning in and having good discussions, and then I went back after an hour, and they're still talking, and it was the end of the day, and I went back a half hour after that, and they're still talking, and I asked if I should order dinner for them, and they just said that they were having a good time sharing their stories. It was interesting that it didn't matter even how many people were in the room that they had that opportunity. ,

I think when you say user-driven, that really is the key. When someone asks how we put an event together, my stock answer is we find a nice hotel, and that sounds a little bit flippant, but I don't offer any education; this truly is a user-driven organization. Every event we plan starts with a blank slate, and we've got a conference coming up next year, and I've got a blank bulletin board beside me, and so we offer a call for presentations, and the presentations come pouring in, and we create a schedule, and we have a terrific conference, but if it weren't for the users providing those presentations, there would be no events, there would be no conference and likely no MUSE. It has to be user-driven, and I think that's to our success as well that we've been independent all this time and really relied on the users to step up and offer presentations. 

It's interesting that again, at the conferences, I'm often at the back of the room and listening to presentations, and more times than not, somebody sitting beside me will lean over watching a presentation, and say you know we know how to do that, we've got a solution to that, and I poke them, and I say, you're supposed to stand up and say that, and they think, oh, this is my first MUSE conference, or we're a small rural hospital, and there's no way I could know the answer, and I remind them that everybody's leading at some point, and for this particular issue, it's you that's leading the organization. Then they often do a presentation. We pride ourselves on the fact that MUSE offers a personal growth opportunity, so there are many people offering their first presentation at the MUSE conference, and we help them with their PowerPoint slides, and we make sure that they're prepared to offer a presentation, so that's all based on the user participation and user-driven. Then just getting back again to the people involved, the board of directors, the presenters who offer a presentation, is that the events and during webinars, the committee members, the board members, they're all volunteers. They all step up to participate, so if it wasn't user-driven, I don't think it would exist.

Christine: No, that's great, and I often think we have such a great base that's doing some tremendous things in the communities, and we just need them to amplify their voices and tell their stories, and this obviously is a great platform for them to be able to do that. What are some of the upcoming networking opportunities for MUSE members, and can you share what members can expect from these events?

Alan: Well, it's interesting that when I'm at a conference, generally somebody will come up to me and say they just had a great session, they were at lunch, and they sat down at a table with some strangers, and they realized they had similar issues and so they started talking and exchanged business cards, and they said that was the best session ever. And I kind of rolled my eyes and think, oh we do so much work to put together a conference schedule and a program perhaps we should just have an eight-hour buffet and everybody would be happy with that, that's the best networking event. I think that really defines MUSE, there are lots of those lunch-hour conversations and hallway conversations, but we do put some things together. 

We certainly have a lot of webinars. Generally, we've got a webinar a week, and over the last couple of years, we were offering 80 to 90 webinars because we had to move to the virtual option because of the pandemic, I'm sure you heard about it; it was in all the papers. That was one of our most popular webinars was when we had what we call jam sessions on COVID-19, and it was really again informal, and the first question is what's everybody doing, and there was a great round table with more than 200 people on those jam sessions talking about the COVID-19 issues. And especially with our audience, the MEDITECH customers and the MUSE members, it's healthcare and talking about strategy and talking about lessons learned and how they were managing it all, so that was certainly one of our prime networking events. 

We also have community peer group events. Those are typically one-day events where people can drive in and drive out and the same goals, just sharing solutions and offering tips and tricks. We've had events in Ontario, and there are upcoming ones in Ohio and Kentucky, and many more planned on the schedule. We also have an Executive Institute event; and that's typically for Senior IT Executives, the decision-makers, the CIOs, and we've got strategic topics for them. That event is often in January, and the next event is coming up January 8 to 10, in Southern California. There is also an opportunity there to meet with MEDITECH leadership, so we appreciate that. And we also have an annual MUSE Conference, as I've mentioned, and that's typically at the end of May or the beginning of June. The 2023 conference will be staged June 7 through 10 in Denver and again, much more of the same networking and education. There will be one hundred-plus educational sessions. MEDITECH will be there in full force. We offer continuing education credits for Nursing and Pharmacy, and all of these events are networking opportunities.

Christine: Well, that's fantastic. I know that we've kind of did some work with you in that area as well, and we tried every channel to make sure that we were hitting the mark and reaching our customer base, so I applaud you for your efforts there, and you did a fantastic job. As you stated, and especially in the early days, it was more just getting together with the peers and finding out what was going on in their communities and sharing and exchanging stories, so they also didn't feel that they were just doing this alone; they had a whole network of people behind them. 

Alan: Yes, thank you, we were pleased with that and pleased that we could offer those programs for the community.

Christine: I'm excited about these events along with your 40th anniversary celebrations; do you have any special stories from the past that you would like to share with us?

Alan: One of the things I enjoy about the MUSE Conference is that it's a family reunion feel to it. We describe it like that or perhaps a giant family wedding because there are lots of people there from various backgrounds and various places, but they all come together for a common objective, and it's fun, and it's informal, but there's an awful lot of work gets done, and there's a lot of education there. I think what's most interesting is just those small quick hallway conversations. I like to plant myself in the hallway, and people will just come up to me and talk about a session they were just at and what they learned, or that they had participated on a webinar and that they really enjoyed it, or that they're looking forward to future events, so all of that's been great. 

We've certainly had some memorable keynote speakers. Ross Perot, who passed recently, was one of our speakers, and that was interesting. Dr. Oz, certainly in the news recently, and he was one of our speakers, so it's been enjoyable talking to some of those people. I think the other part of it is that I get some very interesting emails about events. People will ask me what they should pack in their suitcase. And when we were in Dallas that somebody wanted to know if they should bring their cowboy hat, were we going to have a western-themed event there? And I enjoy that because I think people feel that they can ask me those kinds of questions, that they're comfortable enough to ask those questions. And then the other part of it with just the stories that a lot of it comes out of the evaluation, so we have evaluations for all of our events, and for the annual conference, we wade through them all, and there are always interesting questions about the weather, which makes me feel good that they think I can control the weather at the venue. 

And then, there are always things that there are not enough sessions for MAGIC users, not enough sessions for Client/Server users, and then not enough sessions for 6X users, and we don't have enough healthy choices for breakfast, and there are too many sessions, and the days are too long, and the days are too short. We read through all of that and realize that we've just got the perfect level of dissatisfied customer, so that makes me feel good, too, that we're just meeting the mark with everybody.

Christine: Well, Alan, we have our own functions here at MEDITECH, and I have to say I'm also one of those readers of the survey, and I always think it's a great conference when everything boils back to the food or the beverages, so I have to say kudos to you if that's what you're hearing. And nice with the cowboy hats. You'll have to give us some tips of what to bring to Denver in June.

Alan: Yes, I'll check my inbox and send you the top 10 questions that have come in about Denver.

Christine: That'd be a great social media poll.

Alan: Good idea, yes.

Christine: So Alan, I always end the podcast with a personal or fun question, and this is Alan, head of MUSE, been their number one employee, so people want to know what have you been up to?

Alan: Really, that's really what people want to know?

Christine: Absolutely.

Alan: Well, it's interesting, Christine, that when you run into somebody you haven't seen for a long time, and for me, it happens regularly because we've got an annual conference and I see an awful lot of people once a year, and they always say what have you been up to, and I think oh boy I wish I had a better story. I should be saying that you realize that I climbed K2 this last year, and there was an awful lot of preparation and training, and it was a real challenge, and it was very rewarding, but you know the sad true answer is that my wife and I just finished watching Peaky Blinders for the third time and that doesn't sound like much of an answer. We generally, my wife and I walk the dogs, that keeps us busy. We certainly continue to work, and I've got lots of MUSE responsibilities that keeps me interested, and we've got four grandkids now, and that certainly keeps us busy, spend an awful lot of time with them, and that's what I'm up to.

Christine: Wonderful. Well, thank you very much for joining us today, Alan. We look forward to 2023, and congratulations again on your 40th anniversary.

Alan: That's great, I appreciate this opportunity.

Christine: Thanks for tuning in. Stay informed and subscribe to MEDITECH podcast and be sure to check out our Resource page for links from this episode. We'll talk to you next time.