Friday, October 9, 2015

Five-Tidbit Friday: October 9, 2015

FREE CLASSES Did you know you could take free online courses, many of them for credit, from other leading universities such as MIT, Harvard, BU, Columbia, Berkeley, and Berklee at

WATCH THIS In this video, Margaret Heffernan makes a compelling case for getting rid of the pecking order, ditching “the superchicken model,” and helping one another at work.

JANET SAYS HI This weekend, SHARE organizer Janet Wilder joins UMass Memorial system leaders in Appleton, Wisconsin to look under the hood at Thedacare, a hospital network that claims “employees [of Thedacare] created a hospital department from the ground up – not only changing how rooms were designed, but also how care is delivered at the bedside. Janet will have a full report when she gets back.

WORKPLACE DEMOCRACY Earlier this week, Senator Bernie Sanders introduced The Workplace Democracy Act, an amendment to the National Labor Relations Act designed to undo “Right-to-Work” laws and other barriers to unions. Meanwhile, the White House hosted the Summit on Worker Voice.


See you here next Friday! Hope you have a great weekend.

Do You Know Your Department's Severe Weather Policy?

If you’ve worked at UMass Memorial through a snowy Winter, you probably know that, along with sloppy weather, there comes some confusion. We encourage you to plan ahead, and know what to do when travel conditions get tough.

Weather is coming
Now is a good time to remind your manager that they should cover your severe weather plan in a meeting with all of the staff in a staff meeting. If there is no plan, or it needs updating, we encourage SHARE members to be involved in figuring out what works for their department. See the Severe Weather Policy on page 103 of the SHARE Contract, which includes the following guidelines:

In order for employees to know what their responsibilities are in the case of severe weather, departments are encouraged to develop plans for their areas within the framework of the hospital plan. . . . Employees are encouraged to participate in the development of the plan for their department. Department severe weather plans could include: what staffing level is required in the case of severe weather (such as full staffing, skeletal staffing, or no staffing necessary); how employees will find out if they are required to be at work that day, who to call and how to reach them; and whether there is a difference in their department between the plan for severe weather and the plan for a declared state of emergency. Department managers should review the severe weather plan for their department with all employees annually before winter weather begins.

If you would like help developing or revising the policy for your department, please contact the SHARE office.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Five-Tidbit Friday: October 2, 2015

This is the seventh installment of Five Tidbit Friday, and this week we’ve got news items ranging from near to far and back again.

  • CANCER WALK Congratulations to participants of this year’s cancer walk! The roughly thirteen thousand participants this year have raised nearly $400,000 for cancer research and care. 20150927_093855.jpg

  • OTHER UNIONS, OTHER HOSPITALS The Kaiser Permanente Union Coalition has recently ratified a new contract agreement. The coalition represents over 100,000 healthcare employees, primarily in states along the west coast. This group of unions coordinates the largest Labor Management Partnership in the country. SHARE has been watching Kaiser Permanente closely, and in particular their “Unit-Based Teams” approach, which is designed to put employees directly in charge of important work-design decisions. Among other things, the new KP agreement includes:
    • Increased funds for employee training programs and for members’ tuition reimbursement,  
    • Increased training and accountability for frontline managers, and
    • New tools and support to increase the effectiveness of the Unit Based Teams
You can find even more highlights from the Kaiser Permanante agreement online, and read more about the effectiveness of the Labor Management Partnership in this report out of MIT.

  • INNOVATIONS in HEALTHCARE The Legal Services Corporation recently announced that Community Legal Aid in Worcester, Massachusetts will receive a 24-month $209,524 Pro Bono Innovation Fund grant to develop a partnership with UMass Memorial Medical Center. The model will address legal needs that can negatively impact the health of low-income and minority communities and interfere with healthcare providers’ ability to improve the health of these patients.

  • FREE SPEECH at WORK In national news, an NLRB complaint against Quicken Loans could redefine the rules of free speech in the workplace, reports the Detroit Free Press. The case is likely to have implications for social media. The ruling is expected to uphold current standards, including that "employees have a ... right to discuss wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment with fellow employees, as well as with non-employees, such as union representatives." Meanwhile, the US Department of Labor has continued its emphasis on employee rights with a Worker Voice Summit, which will underscore the value of worker organizing and collective bargaining, as a new #starttheconvo initiative invites frontline voices from around the country into that conversation.

  • happymoose.jpegMOOSE! SHARE members are now using ICD-10 coding guidelines in our hospital. The new codes allow for far greater precision, including for those patients receiving care as a result of “Burn due to water-skis on fire, initial encounter (V91.07XA),” or even less-likely conditions. At the time of this publication, our research team has not yet uncovered a code for “Incident with urban moose in Worcester County,” although we hear that a moose has been recently seen on our local streets. Drive safe.

See you here next Friday. Hope you have a great weekend.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Raise Reminder (and a Correction)

The SHARE pay raise will be reflected in the pay period that begins this weekend. For more details, please see this previous blog post about raises. 

(And apologies that that post needed correcting: due to the Columbus Day holiday at the beginning of that week, the first paycheck to include your new pay rate will come on Friday, October 16th, one day later than we originally printed.) 

ICD-10 Goes Live

Many SHARE members have been working very hard to prepare for today. We wish you well this week! It’s been years coming, and, as you’ve probably heard, the ICD-10 coding system goes live today, in healthcare facilities around the country, including our own hospital. The current 19,000 codes used to define healthcare diagnoses, treatments, and procedures will expand to cover 142,000 unique codes.

It will be a big transition, and transitions always involve unknowns. But SHARE coders couldn’t be better prepared, and we’re well-situated to take good care of our hospital.

Kathy Girouard (pictured), a member of the SHARE Executive Board, and a coder in the Heart and Vascular Interventional Laboratory (HVIL), explains that the job has always been difficult, and misunderstood. “A lot of my friends outside the hospital don’t understand what I do at all. Sometimes they even ask me, ‘Kathy, what do you do all day with codeine?’ The whole idea of coding is new to them.”

“When you’re doing the kind of coding that I do, you basically have to decipher a physician’s notes to figure out what they did with the patient. You end up having to understand procedures almost like you’re the doctor,” Kathy says with a laugh.

Coders at UMass Memorial have invested a lot of their time preparing for the new coding system. Some have likened it to speaking an entirely new language. A recent article in Scientific American, “Why You Should Care About the New Major Changes in Medical Billing,” explains that the new codes are often extremely specific. For example, the new codes can pinpoint more precisely the location of bone and tendon injuries, or the particular trimester of a pregnant patient.

The information is necessary to properly reimburse the hospital for the care it provides. The massive overhaul has some industry analysts worried that reimbursements will be delayed, or that errors will leave hospitals with some services unpaid altogether. Some physicians in other hospitals worry that treatment authorizations could be delayed, too. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, anticipating some confusion, has pledged to honor valid insurance claims that are within the right category, even if the specific code isn’t exactly right.

“We’re as ready as we can be,” Kathy Girouard says of the coders. Although that job title is now a hot commodity on the job market, SHARE members plan to use their years of experience to transition and implement the new coding system right here. Many have trained intensively for hours each week for the past two years.

The short-term effect of the new codes will likely involve some confusion throughout healthcare. However, in the long-term, the compilation of more specific data is expected to lead to better understanding of some medical conditions, breakthroughs in treatment, and better diagnosis of problems within healthcare delivery itself. We’re looking forward to using the new knowledge to take even better care of our patients, and proud of the work that SHARE members have done to get us here.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Five-Tidbit Friday: September 25, 2015

Welcome to Fall! For SHARE-UMMS, Summer closed out in a lovely way. Altogether, over a thousand members of our community participated in last week’s Chocolate Day, including SHARE members, other hospital and university employees, medical students, senior administrators, and even a few children. But now, it is time for another Tidbit roundup. Here are five notable and timely items:

  • This week, UMMHC and UMMS have been screening The Connection, a film about the science of mindfulness. UMass Medical School’s Center for Mindfulness has long been at the forefront of this research. The CFM provides an eight week stress-reduction program, which several SHARE members have attended. SHARE-UMMS Treasurer Kathy Bateman says she loved the program, and would attend again. “I learned ways to relieve stress right at my desk. I’d recommend it to anyone,” she says.
  • Employers are starting to catch up with the value of the research being done at UMMS. Internet-search giant Google (considered by some to be the best employer in the country) has even developed its own in-house emotional intelligence training program called “Search Inside Yourself” (Get it? It’s Google, after all.)
  • Any list of Tidbits would be insufficient to tackle an issue as serious as mental health.  That said, please know that there are many free and low-cost mental health tools available. We recently came across this useful (if somewhat glib) resource list. The list begins with a series of apps, most of which are designed to help build grit and brain muscles, and moves through to a valuable collection of hotlines and support groups. For more local services, please see this list of mental health providers in Worcester.
  • Mindfulness and self-care are only part of the equation toward improving what we do, of course. Right now, the work confronting almost every SHARE member is unnecessarily complicated, difficult, and frustrating. We want to eliminate needless headaches. We know that frontline employees need to be the ones to design work-systems. Too often our work requires heroic effort to do a good job, and there are too many pitfalls along the way. Our union is working to enable SHARE members to develop structures that minimize the likelihood of error, and make it easier at the end of the day to see more good outcomes coming from our hard work. One way you can improve work processes in your own area is to submit an idea to your department’s Idea Board. If you have questions about how to do this, or concerns about the effectiveness of your area’s Idea Board system, please contact Will Erickson in the SHARE office.
  • On a lighter note, you might, given its popularity, have already seen this related talk by researcher Shawn Achor. But in case you’ve missed it, here’s a link to “The Happy Secret to Better Work.” It’s funny and smart, and only a little over twelve minutes long.

The weather report looks beautiful for the next few days. Good time to get outside and move around.  It’s not too late to register for The UMass Medicine Cancer Walk, which has been an effective fundraiser for cancer research at UMass, and a meaningful event for cancer patients, their friends, and their families, including many SHARE members. See you here next Friday. Hope you have a great weekend.  

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Raise Time Is the Time to Evaluate Your Retirement Strategy