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Edward Marx, CHIME Time
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CHIME Time: Embracing competition to transform healthcare


By Edward Marx
Posted: December 6, 2013 - 1:00 pm ET
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Healthcare is an uber-competitive market. While most of us have entered this field because of noble purposes, we still track our competition and devise strategies to ensure our own organization's success. Oftentimes, that comes at the detriment of others in the marketplace. Healthcare can become a dog-eat-dog world.

I get that. But I want to illustrate an alternative approach to success from a recent duathlon in which I competed.

Thanks to some gnarly 6-minute miles in the running segment, I entered the race transition area in the lead pack. Cycling was next, but that isn't my strength. Heading out on the course, I knew I would be unable to hold the advantage I'd earned in the run. Sure enough, a fair number of cyclists passed me. My hopes for a podium finish vanished quickly. Short of drafting behind another biker, which is illegal, I did everything I could to avoid getting passed again.

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No sooner had I made that commitment when the lead woman whizzed by me. I shifted into a higher gear, amped up my cadence and kept her within reach. Next, a collegiate athlete passed me and settled in between the two of us. The tempo seemed too slow, so I dug deep, took a deep breath and pulled out to make a double pass. I completed the pass but sensed another cyclist to my left. Sure enough, another rider pushed the tempo higher and held pace about five bike lengths ahead. After he settled on his line, the lead woman made another move. She took the lead of our race-within-the-race.

For the next 10 miles back to the next transition, unrehearsed, we each took turns at the lead and pushed the pace more than any one of us could have done by ourselves. As we tackled the last leg of the duathlon—a second run—we thanked each other for the competitive inspiration we had instinctively offered. We all earned top 10 finishes, and because of our differing age brackets, we each finished first in our respective age groups.

Following this train of thought, I've encountered more material and gratifying success by embracing competitors and leveraging one another toward reaching shared goals.

Helping one another accomplish big things doesn't mean you have to compromise values or strategic attainment. Why not learn from others' experiences and avoid duplicating failure or wasting resources? I suspect that, if we did this regularly in healthcare, we might develop into more efficient and effective organizations. Even better, the communities we serve would become the ultimate beneficiaries. Isn't that the goal?

I can't speak for the entire C-suite, but I know CIOs have become adept at this type of exchange. We have formal organizations such as CHIME that enable significant networking, but this also frequently occurs spontaneously in local markets. For instance, when I was serving in Cleveland, I routinely gathered with my peer CIOs to share ideas and lessons learned. In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, I reach out to peers, and we share nonproprietary information that will help us succeed.

Our communities view “healthcare” as one entity. This national entity promises transformative healthcare and well-being. Why would we-the-provider want anyone in our industry to fail at delivering on the promise?

Making this type of collaboration a reality doesn't take much. Just pick up your phone and make that first call; send out that first e-mail encouraging a connection. This healthcare stuff is pretty challenging to tackle solo, so why would I not want to reach out to peers who might offer help? If we are all truly mission-oriented as we claim to be, then let's bust up the cutthroat barriers that thwart the mission and undermine the promise.

Even in healthcare, it is possible for all of us to win.

Edward Marx is senior vice president and chief information officer at Texas Health Resources.


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