About Steven Lorenz

IT Director

Solaris Award Winners

Every year in November Solaris celebrates National Hospice and Palliative Care Month by recognizing some of our outstanding staff members with two very special awards. We truly believe that our staff members represent the very best in all aspects of the hospice industry, and it is with great pleasure that we share with you this year’s award winners.

The Atlas award is our non-clinical award, given to those who work behind the scenes to help maintain Solaris’ high quality of patient care. Though they may never sit by a patient’s bedside they are invaluable as a means of support for our clinicians and our patients.

2013 Atlas Award Winner: Tammy Mackenrodt

The Connie Fowler award honors the heartbeat of our company: the clinicians. Though the work is demanding and the hours may be long our clinicians consistently display each of our core values in their interactions with our patients and their families. This award acknowledges those who go even further in a field where “above and beyond” is considered the norm.

2013 Connie Fowler Award Winner: Charles West

Congratulations to both of our winners! We are thankful for the positive impact you make on those around you every single day.

It’s In Our DNA

Forbes.com recently featured an article discussing one of my favorite subjects: disruptive innovation. The article centered around a book called The Innovator’s DNA written by Hal Gregersen, Clayton M. Christensen, and Jeff Dyer. Within the book the authors pared the key skills of successful innovators down to just five:

Questioning allows innovators to challenge the status quo and consider new possibilities

Observing helps innovators detect small details – in the activities of customers, suppliers and other companies – that suggest new ways of doing things

Networking permits innovators to gain radically different perspectives from individuals with diverse backgrounds

Experimenting prompts innovators to relentlessly try out new experiences, take things apart and test new ideas

Associational thinking – drawing connections among questions, problems or ideas from unrelated fields – is triggered by questioning, observing, networking and experimenting and is the catalyst for creative ideas

While I wholeheartedly agree with the authors that these five skills are necessary for disruptive innovators I feel like a key skill remains missing from this list:

Ignoring the –n’ts

The –n’ts happen to be something that all of us wannabe innovators deal with on a daily basis. The –n’ts could be anything from the doubt that tells us we don’t have what it takes to the accepted rules that make us believe we shouldn’t be disruptive. The –n’ts are the voices that say something can’t be done or an idea simply won’t work. They are the hurdles we must clear before we are ever able to truly innovate (much less be disruptive while doing so).

Somewhere along the way the gentlemen listed at the beginning of the Forbes article (Jobs, Bezos, Branson, and Omidyar) developed the skill it takes to avoid the –n’ts. As a result these four, and numerous others like them, have changed our landscape for the better. They have pushed their respective fields further than previously thought possible, all because at some point they decided to stop listening to the –n’ts. Their innovations, disruptive though they may have been, created enhanced experiences for both producers and consumers. These were not innovations just for innovation’s sake; they were tangible steps forward in the way things are done.

That’s what we want to do here at Solaris. We have no interest in doing something new for the sole purpose of saying we were the first. We want to take similar tangible steps forward because we fully believe that disruptive innovation can lead to dramatic increases in the quality of patient care.

And while we still have skills to develop and –n’ts to fight through, the ideas tucked inside the notes piled on my desk tell me we’re well on our way.

An Extraordinary Purpose

About four months ago I found myself an unlikely participant in an unlikely situation, after having endured the unlikeliest of journeys. At the end of October, three members of Solaris (Andy Milligan, Luke Oyler, and Robbie Surratt) and I boarded a plane in Dallas and made our way towards Nepal. We were traveling halfway around the world in order to help a non-profit organization, MountainChild, bring medical care to the people of the Himalayas. It was an extraordinary opportunity to serve an extraordinary purpose.

We spent about a week trekking through the mountains with a diverse team and holding medical camps at various places along the way. The trek alone could inspire hundreds of blog posts that still would not cover all that we experienced. Suffice it to say that by the time the trek ended, the four of us were keenly aware we had left the mountains as changed men. It had been decided long before our boots hit the trail that we would spend our last Nepali night unwinding in a hotel in Thamel, a popular tourist district in Kathmandu. The team at MountainChild had already planned to take our large group to that area for a day of shopping, so it worked out well for the four of us to say our goodbyes and split off. Continue reading

The Old Road is Rapidly Aging

As an IT person working for a hospice company I am constantly attempting to find a harmonious balance between implementing technological advancements and mitigating security risks. In other sectors, IT departments can have something akin to carte blanche when it comes to new technologies and services. The world of healthcare is often a bit slower to adopt new technology for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which being the heavy amount of regulatory scrutiny that falls on providers. While new technology can lead to increased efficiency in the use of information it also tends to usher in scary new security risks. In the past this has made healthcare IT departments very gun-shy when it comes to advancements in technology regardless of the improvements they may bring in the practical use of information. More often than not these advancements were all but ignored in favor of current, secure, and comfortable systems.

But the times, as Dylan opined four and a half decades ago, they are a-changin’.

We’ve managed to achieve connectivity in ways once thought to be impossible. At any time, day or night, staff members can communicate vital information with one another through email and secure messaging. Critical business information can reach central locations from even the most distant outposts in no time at all. Our most productive computers are no longer tethered to an office desk but instead are being carried in our purses and pockets. We have unlimited communication power at our fingertips. And as every good IT nerd knows, with great power comes great responsibility. Continue reading

A Proper Definition of Hospice

On a cold and rainy day in the winter of 2006 I found myself navigating the altogether unfamiliar roads of rural north Texas, trying as best as I could to quell the nervous uprising in my stomach. One would think that the pterodactyl-sized butterflies having a party in my lower torso were simply a normal response to the situation: we had come to visit family in Plano for Christmas when a friend of ours scheduled a job interview for me at Solaris Hospice. It was a welcome surprise, but I was prepared for a vacation and not an interview. I had no design portfolio, no resume, and no dress clothes. But these things collected weighed far less on my mind than one nagging, gnawing question:

What in the world is hospice?

Being the son of a nurse I was somewhat familiar with the term. I’d heard it said in conversation numerous times but could not properly tie it to a definition. It was like one of those great character actors that you’ve seen in everything but can specifically remember from nothing; like knowing a face without knowing a name. What I knew of hospice seemed to fall in line with what everyone without firsthand experience knew of hospice: it’s for dying elderly people. Since I appeared to be neither, hospice was quite far from my daily thoughts. That is, until this particular winter day. Continue reading