By Jeff Rowe, Contributing Writer


If you had to choose one word to sum up Lakewood Health System's approach to all things IT, it would probably be: "flexibility." For one thing, the IT department at the central Minnesota-based organization has to be flexible because it supports a wide range of operations, including a hospital, five clinic locations, senior care services (long-term care and home health), ambulance services, behavioral health and memory care.

But according to CIO Jeff Osegard, a focus on flexibility is also key to how Lakewood manages its IT staff. "We try to focus on giving our staff the opportunity to put family first," he said. It doesn't hurt, he added, that "they can be counted on to self-direct. And their attitude toward working as a team is exemplary." 

For example, he noted, if staff members on call encounter an issue outside their expertise, they won't hesitate to reach out to colleagues, who, even if they're not on the clock, "will drop everything to come in and make sure things are working properly."

Given the range of enterprises the Lakewood IT department supports, Osegard said, he works hard to make sure his staff is as "educated as they need to be in order to make the best use" of Lakewood's ongoing IT systems upgrades. Among the educational tools Lakewood uses to keep its staff current: webinars, conferences and seminars.

At the same time, Osegard makes sure his staff gets the consistent recognition they deserve. Lakewood has implemented a "Shout Out Award" program, in which employees regularly nominate colleagues whom they think have performed "above and beyond" their usual responsibilities. Winners get applauded in Lakewood's employee magazine and are eligible for cash and other awards.

As Lakewood President and CEO Tim Rice sees it, "Our mission is to transform healthcare through innovation and service. To do that, you need to have exceptional information. So IT has a key role to play in the quality of  our service to patients."

In recognition of that key role, Rice said, Lakewood reconfigured its overall management structure. Whereas the IT department used to be part of Lakewood's administrative division, IT now has "its own division and division director, who is equal to all the other division directors."

To further ensure an open line between management and staff, Lakewood also implemented a program it calls Partners in Action. Under the program, different employees and managers are selected each month to meet with the president to discuss a broad range of topics, including employee benefits, division budgets, strategic planning and working conditions. Osegard said these and any other topics are open for discussion so that Lakewood employees recognize that their voice matters.

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