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Tom Dorsett

ReCap of the HR Series

By Article

I am an optimist. I gravitate toward stories that are heartwarming and inspirational. If you’re like me, then you likely experienced COVID news as an assault on your state of mind.


For months, there was a dearth of positive news as devastating COVID stories dominated the headlines. As an optimist and business leader, I responded to this crisis in the only way I could: find and promote good stories that offer a light during this dark time, highlighting inspirational individuals on the frontlines of the pandemic. The series was called, “The Unsung Heroes of COVID, Interviews with HR Professionals.”


I prioritized HR because there was a conspicuous absence of news reports about the people who were managing the work lives of others, helping employees get up and running with remote home offices, and/or improving facility safety for those who needed to work onsite. I was lucky to speak with high-level professionals who gave a firsthand account of the front lines of human resources during a global disaster and how they kept a positive outlook.


From these conversations, a few themes jumped out and they are instructive. First, was the idea of business culture. Dee Marrs, President of AustinPeopleWorks pointed to the adage “culture eats strategy for lunch,” and said that HR and Leadership must ensure that the right culture is supported and ferociously protected. As companies pivoted to a remote work environment, Mrs. Marrs pointed to examples of how to ensure ‘respect in the workplace’ and going beyond a weekly check-in call. Companies shifted their focus to think more carefully about health and wellbeing as well as keeping remote employees engaged, excited, and feeling valued.


Melissa Morgan, HCM Process Consultant with Paycor made an important observation, she noticed two different mindsets among business leaders, and it mattered. There was panic mode, which resulted in furloughs, closings, and contractions. Then there was the optimist mode, which calmly recognizes that tough times are cyclical and businesses can still thrive.


Optimists have used this time to prepare for the future because they understand that great change, even very tumultuous change, is a time for growth and helping others. And this last point – helping others and being engaged on a social level, is critical. David Hughen, Founder and CEO, AustinWorkNet pointed out that Millennials and Zoomers just entering the workforce want to attach themselves to companies that do social good. Companies that have in their DNA a cultural commitment to give back to the community are better able to differentiate themselves and attract great employees to create high-performance organizations.


The topic of the “new normal” for remote work has been discussed ad nauseum but I’m mentioning it here because our Series’ participants talked about innovative hybrid environments around workplace expectations.


Debbie Smith, Executive Vice President of Human Resources with E2Open said they were in no hurry to get everyone back to the office. Some people may be able to continue to work from home indefinitely while others struggle to maintain boundaries at home. She highlighted that employees may be getting more work done at home because there is no natural stopping point. Her concern was that staff are overworking not underworking. She said the main goal is to make sure employees take care of themselves first. E2Open is now offering to cover internet charges over what their employees would normally use at home to help defray the cost of home offices.


If companies move to remote office permanently, it highlights major cost savings from commercial real estate rents, utilities, and other expenditures associated with large offices. A fraction of those savings could go to employees to incentivize working from home.


The question of keeping people connected is still a concern. David said he has been inspired by the humane ways in which organizations are maintaining comradery in a virtual environment, like Zoom happy hours and games. We also heard about LinkedIn contests for the best home-office photo and free mental health services for employees.


We are grateful to our participants, leaders in HR, for providing some good news and interesting ideas during a difficult time. Their time and effort is so valuable to the lives of so many. As many HR professionals already know, you can’t spell “hero” without HR.


Moving forward we will be launching our new blog series as we continue exploring overlooked professions for inspiration and knowledge. Next up, we will be featuring Pharmacists and their role in helping control drug costs. You may not know it, but your pharmacist is doing a lot more than putting pills in a bottle. You will be surprised and amazed.

Google’s Controversial Ascension

By News, Press

Google’s Controversial Ascension

Jan. 6, 2020

The recent controversy over Ascension’s contract with Google is not surprising and should be seen as a teachable moment. Patient Health Information (PHI) is sensitive and people are right to feel protective of their information. After all, who wants their private health challenges posted on the internet?

It’s clear that Google did not release private health data to “Google”, their public search engine but the distinction seems lost in the court of public opinion. Google is a victim of their own success as “Google” is now a verb, not just a company and people are confused about the difference. Google, and companies that partner with them, should announce any new partnerships immediately and explain the services being provided, especially in the realm of healthcare. It’s too important to blunder.

I am an entrepreneur and I work with healthcare data to solve real human health problems that could not be addressed without access to private health data. My company, RazorMetrics analyzes patient’s prescription drug information and then makes recommendations to patients and their Doctors about lower-cost alternatives. This program saves the patient’s real dollars at the pharmacy. This program would not be possible without access to health information.

Current health data privacy laws strike just the right balance. If privacy were made too tight, then data would be locked into unusable silos and this would harm society. If privacy is made too loose, then healthcare information could be weaponized and would harm individuals.

Ascension had the right contract with Google, it’s called a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) and it defines who owns the data and how the data is to be managed. Thee BAA allows Google to be the steward of patient data, conduct analysis and provide insights to benefit Ascension’s patients and their care. That’s all they can do. They cannot advertise to patients, as this would be totally illegal.

These agreements are important and legally binding. The BAA is a standard contract between healthcare entities and companies that work with data to improve patient care. They generally state that the Private Health Information is the property of the healthcare entity and cannot be used by the contracting firm for any other commercial purpose. The ability for 3rd party companies to work with private information under contract for the betterment of patients is called “Safe Harbor” under healthcare operations within the HIPAA framework.

I have worked to bring unique solutions to serious health problems by using healthcare data in new, innovative ways but this would not have been possible without BAAs and Safe Harbor rules. The way this worked with my first company ePatientFinder, the Hospital retained ownership of the data and through the BAA, we agreed that ePatientFinder would work on behalf of health organizations to identify alternative treatments for patients with chronic diseases through clinical trials. This helped patients locate trials after regular healthcare treatments failed.

As someone who specializes in healthcare technology, it is clear that Ascension and Google should have announced the partnership and offered patients the ability to opt-out of the program. But, it was not wrong for Ascension to try and maximize benefits to their patients by using one of the best data managers and most secure cloud storage facilitators in the world.

Health and Human Services recently announced they will be conducting an inquiry into the Google and Ascension partnership and this is good. They are exercising their proper government oversight responsibilities and I predict the inquiry will be good for the situation. It’s important to show that our current privacy laws are strong and that the system we have in place works for individuals and for the betterment of society.

Tom Dorsett, CEO


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