Don’t Be Late For a Very Important Date!

UGM

Attending UGM this year?  Be sure to not miss the Leidos Health gathering on September 21st from 6pm – 9pm at The Great Dane Pub and Brewing Co. in downtown Madison. Come meet and greet our Epic Leadership team, consultants, and sales team.

If interested in attending, please email me at Douglas.Herr@Leidoshealth.com.  If unable to attend UGM, but would like to hear more about Leidos Health, feel free to reach out to me directly as well.

 

REAL ID…required enhanced Identification for domestic travel in 2016

TSA-Passport

Dust off those Passports and get ready for yet something else to bring with you on a weekly basis…but I wouldn’t panic or worry just yet.  I’ve seen TSA let travelers through with an insurance card…so good luck getting this pushed through.

Three quick facts:

  • The Real ID Act will require Enhanced Driver’s License or a passport.
  • These forms of identity are state-issued IDs with advanced security, a passport, or a passport card.
  • TSA says it will happen sometime in 2016 (depending on what state you live in).

Check out the facts from Homeland Secrurity at http://www.dhs.gov/real-id-public-faqs

2015 Resolution…Pick an airline, any airline

resolutionReflective today on the decisions made in 2014. Without a doubt, the decision to take more direct flights and reduce my overall travel time, will have consequences well into the New Year. My resolution is to return to the age old philosophy all us travelers should have, stick to one airline!

Miles flown in 2014 (by airline):
Delta – 65,850
JetBlue – 15, 254
US Air – 21,345
United – 36, 418
American – 6, 400

That is a total of 145,267 flown this year. Yet, I’ve only made Gold on Delta, Mosaic on JetBlue, and Silver on United. Had I flown Delta, as I normally do, I would have made Diamond. I will never fly United again, so those miles are just wasted. This was the year I thought I would give JetBlue a try. While the direct flight options won me over…their horrible record for on time departure has convinced me to stay away.

After 10 years one would think that I would never deviate from the rules of the road. I’ve never left Marriot and never left National. Why I thought I would experiment with airlines, I’ll never know.

Wishing you all a very happy New Year! May we never be swayed again.

End of year rush…for status!

endofyear United

It is the season for shopping, holiday parties, decorating the tree, and of course…rushing to make status before the end of the year.  With only 22 more days to travel this year, we are down to the wire to meet those required miles, segments, and dollars spent for your airlines status.  Here are some ideas to get you where you need to be.

The most common scenario I’m hearing right now is…”I’m short on dollars.”  Above is an example of my United status, who I try to never fly.  I’m $123 short to meet status.  Are you kidding me?!  My options are really to buy another ticket, buy an upgrade or extended leg room seat, or call United and buy miles (dollars spent on purchases count towards status).

endofyear Delta

A colleague of mine was short $759 for Delta and her ticket was $756.69.  She was going to be $2.31 short for Diamond.  Crazy!!  Since she is already Platinum, upgrades to extended leg room seats is free.  She called the airlines and asked if they could remove that benefit, so she could pay for the seat upgrade ($70), which would then meet the qualifying dollars for the year.  Smart idea…but remember, that you have to do all this prior to flying.

endofyear status

Short miles for multiple airlines?  Buying multi-airline tickets can be a pain, but it often times can be cheaper, so the client won’t complain.  I just bought a Delta and JetBlue combination ticket which will give me my required miles for both airlines.  Most travel agencies used by consulting firms (Concur, for example) have this option.  You’ll be happy you changed terminals in 2015 when you’ve got that status.

Just a few ideas.  Share your ideas in the comments area below.  Hope you all make your status for next year.  Happy Holidays!

Dear Holiday Travelers: A Must Read List

Security

A good friend of mine, who is a fellow HIT consultant, recently posted a hilarious set of rules for the holiday travelers. With her permission, I’ve decided to share these with a couple edits and additions of my own. In hopes to ease the pain for those of you who have to travel, whether for work or to see family this holiday season. I’m sure you can all relate to these:

• If you get randomly selected for TSA PreCheck, that means you do not have to take anything out of your bag and you do not have to take off your shoes or coat. If you accidentally do, please do not hold up the line putting everything back on – wait until it goes through security!

• If do not have status with your airline nor are traveling first class, DO NOT stand in front of the gate or block those who are from boarding. Hang back a little and wait until they call your zone or section. Your seat is not going anywhere.

• You are only allowed 2 carry-on items. One bag (and be sure you can actually pick it up) as well as one personal item that will fit under the seat. Don’t try to bring on 3 or 4 or 5. The gate attendant will make you condense your items. Be smart and just check your bag! It truly will save you, and everyone else, time.

• If you must take a phone call on the plane before taking off, or after landing, DO NOT talk to your friend or family member on speaker. Nobody wants to hear your loud annoying conversation.

• Most importantly if you are sick,and have to travel, WEAR A MASK! Nobody will look at you funny and we will all thank you for not spreading your germs.

A couple more:

• Don’t bring wrapped presents through security
• If traveling with children, don’t drop them off in my row and sit four rows behind me.
• It’s ok to remain in your seat and let others get off the plane, you are clearly not in a hurry.
• If your baby stroller is the size of a subcompact vehicle, leave it at home.
• Remember, you are not in your own personal plane.

Now I can bet that you’ll have multiple experiences with several of these. So my suggestion is to take a deep breath and relax. There is no gain from making a scene with someone or having an altercation with the couple carrying 3 children and 6 bags on the plane in front of you. If anything, be thankful that is not you! Enjoy your holiday travel.

How to explain “I am a Healthcare IT consultant” at the Holiday Dinner Table

dinner tableWe’ve all been asked the question…what is it that you do exactly?  For years my parents just tell people that I travel for a living helping hospitals with computers.  Although it is not completely off, it’s not exactly right.  Let’s face it, our career path is confusing to non HIT folks.  I thought I would share some tips and ideas that might actually engage family and friends during the holidays.

First lesson I learned, don’t mention Epic, MEDITECH, Cerner, Siemens, or any software company for that matter.  My entire family thinks I work for Epic.  I do not, nor have I ever.  I’ve had ongoing heated discussions with friends who insist Cerner did not buy Siemens, and that I don’t know what I’m talking about.  I try to avoid arguing with people as a general rule.  I just shake my head and say, ok.

Stay away from other HIT jargon like Meaningful Use, ICD-10, or Clinical Transformation.  Every year I’ve mentioned one of these, I have to listen to someone talk about ObamaCare, and how awful it is.  Really?  Did I mention anything about ObamaCare?  Sigh…

For the last couple of years my response has been simple.  “I manage consultants who help hospitals convert from paper to electronic medical record systems.”  I think this is pretty good, even though I actually originally built scheduling systems…but close enough.  If you are going to try to simplify what you do, keep it to something that people can relate to.

Here are some other good ones:

  • “I’m a computer programmer who builds software for hospitals.” – Now this may once again suggest you work for Epic…but hey, whatever.
  • “My company provides short term IT staffing support.” – I’m ok with letting folks think I work for a help desk.
  • “I travel for a living working with hospitals who need help with their computer systems.” – I like this one, as it usually opens a discussion about travel instead of work. Much more interesting to most people.

Statements guaranteed to confuse everyone at the table, but may get a good laugh:

·   I’m on the bench

·   I just got certified

·   The hospital is converting to Siemens

·   I have to provide go-live support

· My contract was extended

· I accepted a project based hourly position

· I work with Kaleidoscope and Stork

· I am working on my Six Sigma Black Belt

Regardless of whether your second cousins fiancee or your 19 year old nephew is inquiring, keep it short and sweet.  It’s an ongoing battle, but worth elaborating when you have the right audience.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Are Bench Benefits a Thing of the Past?

waiting-bench

No doubt consulting firms are looking at overhead expenses and cutting away.  The impact can be positive with less middle management and a return to focus on client delivery.  However, those consultants looking for full time salaried positions at a firm will be hard pressed to find a great bench benefit package.  Unlike the old days, were 90 days at full pay was the norm, firms are now pushing hourly project based employment with little to no benefits and with no bench policy at all.

I had hoped to list 15+ firms and their current bench policies.  I started collecting information over a month ago from friends and colleagues.  The struggle to collect the information was a combination of the majority of consultants being hourly project based, with no benefits, or simply not knowing their bench policy as it keeps changing.  Not surprisingly, the vast majority of consultants I spoke with said they don’t have a concrete bench policy, it’s at the discretion of the firm.

A simple snap shot:  smaller boutique firms are offering 30 to 60 days bench at full pay.  There is still a focus on employee culture, retention, and quality.  The bigger you go, you’ll find no bench policy and no interest in culture or retention.  Only wording that states “employment at the end of engagement is at the discretion of management.”  Obviously that is not really reassuring.  Several firms do offer a reduction in pay when on the bench.

I collected information on companies including Encore, Accenture, Beacon Partners, Logic, HCtec, CIS, ICG, HSM, ACS, and ESD.  I can’t share any complete summary because the majority keep changing their minds by either reducing days, altering % of salary pay, or removing the benefit all together.  With that said, don’t count on finding a firm that offers extended bench benefits.  30 – 60 days is the best you’ll find, and they’ll likely offer a lower base salary.  Average hourly pay for Epic consultants is $90.  I can’t believe I am saying this, but it seems hourly is the way to go.