Thursday, February 7, 2013

Inspired by Whiteboards

I met my friend Peter at the coffee shop nearest his office. I wanted to reacquaint myself with his story. I heard about how he came to the US as a student from the Middle East with the intention of earning his education and then returning home, but the revolution that erupted during his studies changed everything. We talked about life and school and family… and then we got to the subject of work.

Peter is an author, teacher, and consultant, but his main focus is on his work as Director for Informatics at UW Medicine. He applies his leadership to IT solutions (applications) that help treat patients. I began to get it when he told me about an electronic whiteboard application he developed and implemented with his team. Seeing my interest (and at least some ability to keep up with what he was talking about) we were quickly in hospital units that were using the systems and I could see how revolutionary Peter’s invention was.

There wasn’t all that much in common with the old whiteboards; these giant monitors that hang throughout the hospital are a big data solution that is now a vital tool for everyone who serves patients… from surgeons, to nurses, to housekeepers. There is even a customer-facing version that helps the families of patients have instant access to information, making the waiting room experience far easier (pictured in the background above).
Basically, what Peter and his team invented is a user-focused and user-customizable system of dashboards (think heads-up displays in fighter jets) that are at all the right places in the hospital, and can even be accessed remotely on a variety of devices. Rather than whiteboards filled with outdated and illegible code words, these displays gather up-to-the-moment information that is sorted, processed, and delivered to the users who need it. The system isn’t just a high-tech gimmick; it translates directly into better service, immediate efficiencies, patient and practitioner safety... and, of course, saved lives.
I was blown away by how Peter has connected God’s work with his work. Here are just a few ways that come to mind:
·         Healing: God is using Peter to heal people. His skills are in systems, strategies, and leadership (not scalpels and bandages like his colleagues). He is Dr. Ghavami because of his PhD in Industrial and Systems Engineering, not medicine. But he is healing through his invention. People are getting the care they need, efficiently and effectively, in part because of Peter’s work.

·         Creativity: We may be most like our Creator when we are creating. When Peter and his team pulled together resources and data from all sorts of sources, the end result was a tool that was so much more than merely the sum of the parts. Peter created something vitally important that didn’t exist before, solving a long list of nagging problems and adding value that wasn’t even conceived of until after the tool went online. 

·         Efficiency: The system saves money and time, and helps deploy scarce resources. This is no small thing in a University Hospital and regional medical center. Having the right practitioner in the right place with the right equipment in the right room is vital when lives are at stake.

·         Dignity: This system allows more people to own and find dignity in their roles. Those charged with cleaning and preparing rooms use the system to prioritize their work. People who schedule scarce equipment and other resources use the system, giving them a view of the pipeline of work. Doctors use it constantly (even from devices like an iPad), allowing them to be more engaged with their work of healing, rather than getting bogged down in administrivia. And patient’s families and other caregivers use the system to both ease their anxiety and plan their role in bringing their cherished one back to health.

Thanks, Peter, for letting me burn up your coffee break. You’ve inspired me!


  1. For the its-a-small-world file... I confirmed that the data engine for the application is Microsoft SQL Server. I had a great stint last year supporting the team at Microsoft that brings that product to the US market.

  2. thanks, Dan, for the great summary of Peter's work and for putting it in a larger context of faith and blessing to others. Peter also plays a significant role as adjunct professor at Northwest University, where he teaches Information Technology Management to our business students.


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