It was a beautiful, spring morning, and I had just "Gotten My Fix on Route 56" . . . (Well, it was actually a Chai tea from Eat n Park), but, nevertheless, my 90,000+ mile Jeep at that time was less than five minutes from work, just past the cell phone dead zone that I lovingly refer to as Radio Free Windber, when it rang. On that particular Treo, my first of five, the caller’s personalized ring was a jazz piece that I had down loaded from the web. Because of the jazz ditty, I Immediately knew that it was Zane, the 78 (now 80) year old, former Publicist for the Pittsburgh Symphony. Zane was living in Columbia, South Carolina, and his first words to me at 7:15 that morning were, "Hey, why aren’t you blogging?"
To this day he denies ever calling or saying this to me, but that’s how it happened. You can’t begin to make these kinds of things up.
Now don’t get me wrong, I knew a little bit about blogging from listening to the grand kid’s Ya Ya saying very bad things every time she watched television and her personal favorite politicians didn’t come on, didn’t win a debate or didn’t give the correct answer when it came to the economy, funding the war or world diplomacy. She actually had informed me about the popularity of some Blogs/weblogs, currently being written about, you guessed it, politics.
"Why?" I said to Zane. "I don’t know why. Sounds like a great idea. I’ll do it."
A few minutes later I was on the phone with "Web Man, my personal super web hero," a professional webmaster with whom I had been working for the past half dozen years or so, Mike Russell. Mike was responsible for helping us create a website or three, and, if anyone knew about blogging, it would be Mike.
Later that weekend, I started a hospital blog. It was called Windberblog, but Mike also named it "Nick’s Blog." In fact, it was the first hospital blog written by a CEO in the world. If you’re reading this for the first time, don’t be shocked. Hospital dudes are generally not real fond of risk taking, at least the 3,573 others with whom I have networked at one time or another. Leading the pack in innovation is usually not a great love of theirs.
When I tell you that this blog was hospital based, it was. When I say it was board endorsed? Well, that’s another story. That didn’t happen. In fact, it never really officially happened. Some of my board members discovered it and liked it, but, for the most part, it’s an older group, that doesn’t hang out much online. Sometimes, it’s just better to ask for forgiveness than permission.
It actually wasn’t until I started writing funny and controversial things that it became internally well known. Once after spending an entire week-end composing a very objective description of an upcoming major decision making process, my board chair received a call from a business leader suggesting that he fire me before I was sued, but, thank goodness, nothing was on that blog that made me particularly sue-able. Yes, it was transparent, but that’s the part I love about this new world order.
So, there is some little risk to this adventure.
After several months, a young Cornell grad by the name of Tony Chen, sent me an e-mail and invited me to become a guest blogger on his Hospital Impact blog at hospitalimpact.org. At that time Tony was a very erudite young employee of HFMA, and the blog was intended to reach out to hospital leaders in order to give them hints on "how to be the best run hospital in the world." That blog became my national philosophy soapbox. It also gave me a chance to spout off about "Planetree," an international organization dedicated to the demystification of health care. We actually considered calling it Windbercare at Windber, and, in fact, that is now what we do call it . . . currently under the Planetree umbrella.
It was almost a year later that Mike Russell suggested something called "YouTube." After about one weekend of exploring that site, we began transferring our advertisements, videos and speeches there. That went on until we had approximately 15 or so samples of our work under the moniker of Windbercare. (Is moniker a word?)
It was about the same time that Toby Bloomberg from Diva Marketing contacted me via e-mail for an interview that she ran on her blog, then Bob Coffield’s Health law blog, Trusted MD, HIStalk and several other bloggers linked to us and began to recognize our work and interact with us. We were invited to speak in Washington, Las Vegas and now Chicago regarding blogging, and word of our work began to spread in other directions as well with podcasts from HealthLeaders and others.
A new, local weekly newspaper invited me to write a comedy column for them. Yes, it was gratis, but they let me tag it with our windberblog info, and hits on Windbercare and Nick’s Blog, began to grow as my popularity soared as a local folk hero for these fun, baby boomer, kid-raising, memories at ourtownonline.biz under Nick Jacobs.
That, of course led to some of my blogs being picked up by Blue H News, an industry newspaper that goes to every hospital, except ours . . . but I’m sure it’s an oversight. George Page, the editor liked my stuff and only rejects about 50% of what I write. Hospital News of Western PA, Atlanta, Chicago and South Florida began accepting my submissions and I became a regular contributor there. The Johnstown Tribune Democrat has begun to print my weekly business-oriented articles, and Tony got me a gig writing for the Worldhealthcareblog.org website that is managed by Hylton and Francois. That’s my international soapbox.
Two weeks ago Tony also got me hooked on Facebook.com. That’s been just for fun . . . so far.
Long story long? This stuff works. Although it would be misleading to give full and complete credit to the blog, it sure has helped to elevate knowledge about our organization. Paul Levy of Beth Deaconess does his own blog now and is a CEO. The difference between Paul and me is that it is his personal blog, and he is living in a big city, my continuous fantasy.
Someday, maybe someone will pay me to write this stuff, or we’ll get sponsors, but it has been a real trip into Web 2.0, social networking. I haven’t felt this good about myself since I played trumpet for a living. As they used to say back in the 60′s,"It”s hip to be cool."