CHRISTIAN LINDMARK, RCDD
Associate Principal of Technology
Mazzetti Nash Lipsey Burch
My name is Christian Lindmark and I am an Associate Principal of Technology at Mazzetti Nash Lipsey Burch (M+NLB). I lead our firm’s national healthcare technology consulting and engineering practice. I’ve been planning, designing, and implementing Healthcare IT systems for the past 8 years, most recently with M+NLB since March of 2010.
As a technology engineer and consultant, I am responsible for helping my clients envision, plan, budget, design, and implement technology systems and solutions, primarily focused within new construction, expansion, and remodel projects. These systems include: Structured cabling for voice, data, and video; nurse call and code blue; security systems, including access control, video surveillance, and infant protection; overhead paging; cable TV; local area network (LAN); telephony (PBX, VoIP and hybrids); wireless network; real-time location services (RTLS); distributed antenna systems (DAS); patient hospitality; data center planning upgrades; audio/visual; digital operating room electronics; staff, asset, and patient tracking. I don’t sell any products or have any formal affiliations with any vendors. Rather, it is my job to find the best product(s) and solution(s) for each of my clients. What works great for one client, typically does not work well for another. Welcome to the challenge of Healthcare IT!
BACKGROUND, EXPERIENCE, AND HOW I GOT HIRED:
There were not a lot of formal educational classes available when I began in this industry and there still are not many available. I received my B/A in Business Leadership and headed off into the world of finance before I threw it all away to get involved with telecommunications/technology. And if you can believe this, it was all on the encouragement of a girlfriend from college. It’s a long story, but that’s how I got introduced to this field. I received my RCDD (Registered Communications Distribution Designer) certification from BICSI in 2000, which laid the foundation for my understanding of the cabling and networking requirements for a host of technology systems. As the healthcare world started to see most of the technology systems begin to converge to a common network and cabling infrastructure through the 1990’s and early 2000’s, I was fortunate enough to be involved with many healthcare clients looking for answers and focused enough to lead them through these changes.
I networked a lot early in my career and made good friends within the industry. One of these good friends became an advocate of mine and helped accelerate my career by giving me more and more opportunities. As I continued to meet and exceed his expectations, he continued to trust me more and more. I now have two or three people like this. Finding mentors like this is very important.
The reason there are not many formal educational classes for this line of work, in my opinion, is due to the diverse roles that an individual must play to be successful and the difficulty in teaching each of these. The role I play in helping our clients realize their technology vision overlaps three different and equally important areas (groups of people). The first is the technical requirements of the systems (IT group), the second is the operational impact of the systems (clinical staff), and the third is the cost, design and construction of these systems (hospital administration, architects, contractors). This requires me to understand, communicate and build the trust of each of these groups of people, most who don’t understand exactly what the others do and don’t know how to speak each other’s languages. This really requires me to look at things from the perspective of each of groups individually, fully immersing myself in the challenges they face and objectives they are chasing. My third party, technology consultant/engineer perspective is only of value once I completely understand their challenges and goals and can help each of these groups better communicate with each of the other groups. It is at this point I can make technology recommendations and provide design solutions that will enhance patient care, increase care-givers efficiency, meet the architectural design goals, stay within budget and get implemented on time.
A DAY IN MY LIFE:
A typical day involves a lot of interaction with clients. My clients range from the architect who is designing the physical shape and space of the building, to the clinical staff who will be using the new technology systems, to the IT staff who will be maintaining and supporting them. There is a lot of education involved, as most of my clients don’t have the time in their busy schedules to stay on top of the newest technologies, so they rely on me to educate them and assist them in deciding which systems and solution are right for them. I typically manage 7 – 10 projects at any given time, meaning that despite what my calendar says I’m supposed to be doing any given day, I may be dealing with emails and phone calls from any number of these projects, sometimes even touching all of them in a day. These projects are each in a different state of design and implementation, so one project may be in the early conceptual/visioning phase while another is in the final weeks of construction. Each of these phases has different responsibilities for me. The life cycle of a typical design and construction project from initial planning to owner taking occupancy varies between 3 and 7 years, depending on size, funding availability and state regulations.
I also spend 15 – 20 minutes each day trying to educate myself on new technologies, trends, and solutions. Technology, specifically healthcare technology, is such a dynamic industry that it is critical to be on the forefront of technology advances, to always know more than your clients, so they continue to value the new ideas and solutions you bring to them.
I travel 50% of the time, so having a smart phone is critical to successfully managing my clients. I get emails instantaneously sent to my Crackberry (as my wife calls the device I check 4 times a minute to see if I have new emails) and am able to provide my clients with quick responses or at a minimum, notify them I’ve received their email/voicemail and will get back to them by a certain time. The travel is not as ideal now that I have a family, but I also believe I’m providing an important service to the healthcare industry and hopefully enhancing patient experiences and ideally their outcomes with better planning, design, and implementation of technology.
I do have a great job and am involved in a great industry.
I believe that I have had an advantage in my career, one that wasn’t planned, in that I have a college degree as well as construction experience in the technology field. There are not many college degreed individuals who end up working in the telecommunications construction industry. It’s just not what you go to college to do. I would encourage someone looking to do what I do to get a college degree, focused on healthcare administration. Understanding the operations of hospital is very important. I’ve had to learn this through experience, rather than education. I would then encourage them to immerse themselves in the different technology systems, understanding the technical aspects as well as how they impact patient care. Go to work for a vendor or manufacturer that provides technology solutions to healthcare organizations. Learn how technology solves problems within healthcare. Continue to build that knowledge around other systems as well. Before you know it, people will start coming to you, asking you to help solve their problems. Being technical doesn’t mean you have to have a PhD to understand the inner-workings of the device, but it does mean you need to know how the system operates, how to design it to operate properly, its features and functionality, and can understand whether or not the system has been implemented correctly by the contractor.
Flexibilty, patience, and good listening skills are critical to being successful as a technology consultant and engineer. A consultant must be able to bring multiple ideas and solutions to a client. Bur first, a consultant must listen carefully to the issues, goals, and objectives. My clients do not want me to walk in and tell them how to do something, without first understanding what they are trying to accomplish and working to understand their organization and culture. Each healthcare organization has its own unique culture. A technology system or solution that works well at one facility may be a complete failure at another. It can be quite challenging at times to know that a technology solution that has worked well for other clients, will not work for this client for any number of reasons, from lack of financial support to lack of physician support.
Three final thoughts….One, healthcare is going to undergo dramatic changes over the next decade as reform takes hold. The role of technology will continue to evolve at breakneck speeds. I’m very excited to be at the forefront of what’s taking place and helping my clients plan for this change. I predict telemedicine, robotics, and virtual reality will be synonymous with healthcare in the next 10 years, pushing existing bandwidth limitations. The hospital’s data center will be brains behind patient care, not just sending and receiving data, but providing recommendations based on statistical analysis of the data compared with similar data from other healthcare organizations all over the world. As exciting as this will be, this reliance on technology, however, also possess a large risk, in that when technology systems fail or break, the care model breaks. No longer will patient data, such as allergies, be readily available in a paper file somewhere if the electronic medical record system is down, nor will medical images, prior diagnosis, or medication quantities be accessible. The proper design of technology systems is more critical than ever before and will continue to be so. Of equal, if not greater importance, is the disaster recovery planning that needs to be implemented. Unfortunately, I’m currently seeing a lot of money being spent on IT implementation, but very little on upgrading data centers and disaster recovery planning.
Secondly, as much as I talk about technology, I’m not in the healthcare technology business…I’m in the healthcare people business. My job revolves around meeting and interacting with people constantly. It’s the best part of the job. I’ve been able to meet people all over the country and all over the world for that matter. Technology is the common interest I share with most of the people I work with, in that we are looking for ways to use technology to make the healthcare experience better and less costly. I love technology and gadgets. I enjoy finding new technologies and understanding how they work, but if my job didn’t involve people, it wouldn’t be any fun for me. The sooner that anyone who is interested in this line of work can realize this is a people business, the more successful they will be and more fun they will have.
Finally, something my Astronomy professor in college told me that I’ve found to be one of the most practical things I learned in all of college. It was my senior year and the professor knew that 99% of the students in his class were there to get a science credit, not because they had any interest in science, yet alone astronomy. Everyone needed one science credit to graduate and Intro to Astronomy was easier than Intro to Biology. It was toward the end of the semester and he told the entire class that if they only learned one thing all semester to remember this. That was, “You can learn anything in a long weekend and while you may not become a guru in one weekend, you’ll know more than most people and be able to educate others.” Because of my involvement with technology and its dynamic nature, I have found this advice to be very valuable. Don’t be afraid sometimes to jump into something you don’t know as much about as you would like. You have to start somewhere. If you’re committed to learning, you’ll be surprised at how much you can learn in a short time and how soon people will start looking at you to educate them and help solve their problems. The Healthcare IT industry needs people to jump in and help plan the future of healthcare – it may as well be you!
Mazzetti Nash Lipsey Burch