Its not Kim Kalajainens job to say noeven when the requests to her information technology department overwhelm its capacity. Its our job to figure out how to do it, she says. My greatest challenge is to plan out all the work and organize it and communicate it to everyone.
Some 130 projects are on the roster right now. In the past 2½ years, she has brought her hospital out of the IT dark ages and its on course to join the world of electronic health records by 2011 with an entirely new suite of financial and clinical software. The hospital now has powerful wired and wireless networks; everyone on the staff has Microsoft Outlook and Internet access; and the surgical staff has been outfitted with hands-free communicators, a technology that will eventually roll out hospitalwide.
When Kalajainen came to 252-bed Lawrence & Memorial Hospital, New London, Conn., in 2006, its IT was vintage 1980s, says Bruce Cummings, the hospitals president and chief executive officer. He had arrived on Oct. 31, 2005, to find a primitive e-mail system, virtually no clinical automation and not much connectivity among the applications that were in place. The IT department lacked a leader at the time, and Cummings made filling that position his first priority.
Im not a techie, Cummings says, but I appreciated that information technology was increasingly a matter of strategy and differentiation. He upgraded the position to a vice president who would report directly to him. Kalajainen, then CIO at 128-bed Rutland (Vt.) Regional Medical Center, stood out among the possible candidates and came onboard the following April.
Kalajainen, 40, had originally started out to be an engineer, attending Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where shes in the athletic Hall of Fame for her basketball career (including being named Most Valuable Player as a freshman). She quickly found that she hated chemistry and physics labs but loved math, and ended up switching her major. By the late 1980s, being a math major also meant learning quite a bit about computer programming.
After graduation, Kalajainen took a position in the financial services area of Andersen Consulting, doing programming and systems design, and after a few years moved to the insurance division of now-defunct Arthur Andersen Business Consulting. From there she segued into its healthcare division and found her passion.
Cummings says it was her top-flight project management skills that landed Kalajainen the job. She really took the bull by the horns and totally revamped the department, provided structure, and delineated everyones roles and responsibilities, he says. Cummings hasnt hesitated to tap her expertise even for areas outside of IT, having her help train managers in project management in other departments.