Interview with Kurt Hornung Healthcare IT Director

March 02, 2021 Walt Sparling Season 1 Episode 11
Interview with Kurt Hornung Healthcare IT Director
Show Notes Transcript

In This Episode: 

 In this episode, I interviewed Kurt Hornung, a Sr. IT Director from Weeki Wachee, Florida that works in the medical industry for a major hospital group. Kurt manages about eighteen IT people between four hospitals and IT Interns. Currently, he is responsible for managing around 20+ projects and also serves as the Facility Information Security Official for HIPAA. 

Some of the following links are affiliate links which may earn me a commission if you click a link and go on to make a purchase; it does not cost you anything extra but helps me cover the cost of the blog and podcast. Thanks for your support!  

Favorite Tool(s): 

  • Excel 
  • IPAD w/Magnetic Keyboard 
  • True Colors - Personality profiles by color: Orange, Gold, Green, and Blue 


  • When overburdened - "I have no more Care to Share" 
  • "Lack of communication breeds frustration."



project, PMP, people, project management, work, big, moved, Lean Six Sigma, hospital, lean, facility, task, deadline, construction, pm, spreadsheets


Walt Sparling, Kurt Hornung

Walt Sparling  00:12

Welcome to the pm mastery podcast. This podcast is all about helping you master your project management skills by sharing tips, tricks, tools, and training to get you to the next level while sharing the stories of other project managers on their journey in project management. And now here's your host, Walt Sparling.

Walt Sparling  00:36

Welcome, everybody to the current episode of pm-mastery. Today I am interviewing Kurt Hornung, a senior IT director in the medical space. Welcome to the show, Kurt.

Kurt Hornung  00:48

Hey, well, longtime listener first-time guest

Walt Sparling  00:51

Awesome. Love to hear that. What I want to do is do our traditional questions, find out a little bit about you find out your favorite tools, your struggles, etc. So let's start out by telling us a little bit about who you are.

Kurt Hornung  01:07

So I live up in Weeki Wachee, Florida, the home of the mermaids. I was born in Pennsylvania, moved out to Texas and my parents retired in Florida 37 years ago. So that's where I'm living right now. Currently, a husband of 25 years, father have two sons. No pets, but I consider the kids to be like pets. I like to boogie board,  play ping pong darts, pool, and into some cryptocurrency. 

Walt Sparling  01:44

Oh, good deal. 

Kurt Hornung  01:46

We try to eat organic 80% of the time. So I try to be holistic, or I'm trying to be healthy, and make it to retirement where I'm actually going to be feeling good. And looking good. Instead of trying to spend all my retirement money on getting better after dealing with work for 35 or 40 years. 

Walt Sparling  02:07

Good plan. Definitely a good plan. I'm working on similar goals myself. So tell us a little bit about what you do in your day job as a senior IT director.

Kurt Hornung  02:19

So the senior IT director is over several other IT directors at other hospitals. Basically, when you start out in IT, you could start out as tech work your way up to senior tech then associate director then director of IT. Then there's a senior IT that ends up being over several other IT directors that might be in the zone that you're covering. So I deal with four different hospitals, including my own, that cover three different counties. About 18 people, including IT interns, we have a really cool internship program with a community college, that we're able to have them come and work with us. And then pretty much as the IT director in healthcare it. It's mostly project management that I do because there's a lot of projects, initiatives, tasks that come from our corporate office or division office, and then the facility itself. So I do a lot of different mostly project management of trying to get things implemented, upgraded. I'm also the facility information security official because of dealing with health care and dealing with HIPAA. And basically, I work at a hospital that has about 1400 employees. 

Walt Sparling  03:50

Good deal. Good size. All right. So you're juggling a lot of stuff?

Kurt Hornung  03:57


Walt Sparling  03:58

Awesome. Sounds like a lot of work. Why do you do it?

Kurt Hornung  04:05

I could say for the money, but I work so many hours that I'm probably not making enough per hour that I should. So the reason I got in so IT, you know covers a lot of different boundaries and a lot of different industries. And my brother actually got me into it. When I was in ninth grade, he worked for Amoco, and he was doing IT and he said you know what, this is the up-and-coming thing. And ironically, we were using the Radio Shack TRS80s to program on, so that's how old that is. But I was like, you know what IT seems to be the place to go. So I started doing it working actually for an oil company. And then I moved into a banking company. Then I moved into a construction company. And then my mom was actually volunteering for a hospital and she told me an IT position was opening. So I decided to go ahead and apply and got hired over 30 years ago in healthcare IT, which is kind of different than other industries. You would think being project management, we're pretty much trying to go by the nine steps, but most of the time when I get into the kickoff call, they're already in step four. It's like, yep, come in, here's a toolkit, and you're gonna start working on this, and it's gonna be done in like, you know, two months. And we're like, okay, you know, what about the other 20 things we're working on? So, but mostly, that's why I got into it. I like IT Health care. I like helping the people that take care of the people and implementing things that help them improve how they take care of the people.

Walt Sparling  05:53

The deal now, do you have any certifications?

Kurt Hornung 05:56

I actually have a certification from Villanova University. Unfortunately, I never did take the test. So I know that's bad on me, and everybody is probably shaming me on the podcast, but unfortunately, things came up. I actually got moved from one hospital to another, because I got the certification, and they were building a $250 million hospital. And they say, Kurt, we want you to project manage this.

Walt Sparling  06:28

You got a project management certification, not a PMP.

Kurt Hornung  06:31

Yeah. So I got certified and was ready to take the test. But then I moved, kind of the new job kind of took over. And then started working on the new hospital, planning for two years, and then building it for two years.

Walt Sparling  06:47

So a little interesting tidbit, you and I actually have a history. 

Kurt Hornung  06:52

And oh, yes. 

Walt Sparling  06:54

A long time ago, when I was back doing design work, I was big into AutoCAD and doing CAD stuff. And you were a networking guy, Novell, if I recall, right?

Kurt Hornung  07:07


Walt Sparling  07:08

And we decided to brainstorm and start our own company. And we called it CAD net, and for CAD, and networking, and we built custom systems for doing AutoCAD for architects and engineers, and then installed networks for them so they could network their offices. And we did that for about six years, I believe, before I ended up selling the company and going to work for someone else. 

Kurt Hornung  07:33


Walt Sparling  07:33

Yeah. So that was a ways back. But that was fun. 

Kurt Hornung  07:37

Good times. 

Walt Sparling  07:39

Now, with all this stuff, it sounds like you're pretty, pretty busy with just your responsibilities. What do you do to keep up? You know, as far as keeping your education up and learning new things?

Kurt Hornung  07:52

Well, the company I work for has several different project management, Harvard mentor classes, and other healthstream classes and is internal to education for project management, specifically dealing with IT. But then they also just kicked off and started a Lean Six Sigma project. And my boss a year plus ago kind of challenged me and said, You know what, I think the Lean Six Sigma Green Belt would be, you know, help you compliment your project management. And they really like IT getting Lean Six Sigma because we're in so many sandboxes and so many departments in a hospital. And we can look from the outside in and say, Wow, that process is just messed up. You know, here's how we think we can fix it. And it might not even include IT, it might just be, you know, we really need to figure out how you're going to be better with this, or how we can decrease and do other things. That was one of my big schooling things was they had through Vanderbilt, my company had gotten certified through Vanderbilt, and was able to teach the five-day class and take the three-hour test. And then you had to do two projects in a year to go ahead and get certified as a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt. 

Kurt Hornung  09:19

So, that's been my big thing that I've been doing now to kind of improve. And Lean Six Sigma is kind of funky because if someone gives you a problem, and you figure out how to fix it, it's not Lean Six Sigma. You're supposed to know or not know how to fix the problem when it comes to Lean Six Sigma. And that's kind of hard for me and probably other project managers who are tasked or logical oriented. And as soon as we hear a problem, we're like, oh, yeah, we just do this isn't this. Well, the first thing they teach you in Lean Six Sigma is, if that's what it is, then go do it. But if you have a problem, and you have no idea how you're going to fix it, and you go through the five steps and do the analysis, then they then it's a Lean Six Sigma project. So that actually took me a little bit to grasp that there are things like that. That's been my biggest work on education. And then now I'm looking to finally go back and work on my PMP. I actually joined the PMI years ago and meant to get my PMP. And never went ahead and went through with it. But now I'd like to go ahead and do that in the next year or two, and get my PMP, to finalize kind of having both Lean Six Sigma and a PMP for helping me with all the projects and initiatives, and being able to see how to improve processes.

Walt Sparling  10:52

Well, I've got some connections for you when you get into the PMP. Some Facebook groups and some training sources on Udemy, that are great for people that are trying to get their certification. Alright, so you've got some internal sources you've done sounds like a lot of it is internal. 

Kurt Hornung  11:10


Walt Sparling  11:11

What about challenges? What kind of challenges are you facing like now in your job?

Walt Sparling  11:16

Well, time, I mean, everybody would like more time. It just seems like there are always projects that are conflicting, or vying for bandwidth of, "Hey, we need to do this, hey, we need to do that". And in my world, in the company, I work for dealing with corporate division in the facility, sometimes all three are kind of in silos, and they're like, "Hey, we're gonna roll this out". I'm like, wait a minute, I'm already working on another project. You know, the biggest thing is, yeah, having enough time to be able to, to work on them, and give them the quality that you want. I always say I only have so much care to share. So when I'm working on board, when when I get like four or five different things, and I get a couple more requests, I'm like, listen, I don't have any more care to share this week. So I got to finish these projects because their deadlines coming up. And then I can work on that. And most time, people are okay with it, if you let them know, Hey, you know, I got this going on, but I can look at that next week. They're like, okay, you know, most of them don't say, No, I need to do it now. Now they understand.

Walt Sparling  12:33

If they put themselves in the right frame of mind, it's like, Okay, he's dedicated, obviously, to finishing projects, he's already got started. So when it comes to my project, he'll have the same dedication.

Kurt Hornung  12:44

Yes, and they know that sometimes, you know, I go to the Star Trek thing, and the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. So, it all all depends on what project I'm working on. And the biggest bang for the buck. And I'm like, listen, or I got deadlines, like the one construction one I'm working on right now. We got, you know, AHCA coming on Monday. So we've been busting butt all week, to make sure we get the part of the construction-ready, IT equipment looking all nice, just like if it's going to open because that's how AHCA wants to see it. When they walk in, it's supposed to be ready to open. So that was time-sensitive. So, I got a request for one project to work on some cafeteria trackers. And I said, hey, I need to push that out to the next week. And they're like, Okay, no problem. I think communication is the biggest thing, too, is being able to talk to everybody. But I always say "lack of communication breeds frustration", whether it's good or bad, it's good to talk to people. And most of the time, even if it's like, Hey, I can't do it now. But I can do it in a week or two. That's all they want to hear. You know, that's all they want to hear is just they know, communication, and that, yeah, I'll put that on the back burner, and then I'll get to it. And of course, resources. You know, right now, we take care of over 7,000 devices in six campuses, for just IT, then we also have all the projects that we do. So you can imagine we're usually dealing with 20 or 30, brake fix tickets a day, besides trying to work on all the projects for corporate, division, and facilities. So I'm always trying to balance everything and, and people will be calling me or I'll be on a conference call. And they're like, Hey, we want to do this in May. And I'm like, whoa, wait a minute. Let me check my calendar. No, no, no, doing another thing. Can I do that the week after? Okay. Yeah, we can look at that. And most of the time, actually, corporate indivision have gotten better now. Where if you ask them and there's enough time, they will reschedule because they're finally understanding that we don't just sit at the facility and wait for them to give us projects. You know, we're working on other things. So, but I think that's the couple biggest challenges of course, like I said, time is always the biggest. Everyone would love to have more time. 

Walt Sparling  15:02

Oh, yeah.

Kurt Hornung  15:02

More and more care to share.

Walt Sparling  15:05

That's the big one I like to care to share. Now, so we're trying to balance all these, obviously, and you're talking communication and tracking, what are your favorite tools that you use on a regular basis to do all this?

Kurt Hornung  15:21

Well, Outlook definitely is the biggest I have so many things that are in my follow-up. And that's some of the challenges too is I literally send emails and put dash follow up in the subject line, and copy myself. And then I move it over to a folder. And then in a couple of days, if I don't see, I'll go back and look. And if I sort, and I don't see a response, then I go back and follow up again. You know, using my Excel spreadsheets, I'm down and dirty, when it comes to projects, we'll put in four to six columns of what's the system? What do we got to do? How long is it going to take? You know, what is it needs to depend on to make sure I can move on to the next? miscellaneous comments, and is it completed? You know, and we do that, and actually, my, my company I work for is big in toolkits, too. So, after someone's done a pilot, they usually come out with a 22-page toolkit that says, hey, here's what the pilot came out with, here's everything that you should be able to do to implement a project. Seems like most of the time, they always miss a step or two, but they're pretty good. So and that's awesome. But we actually have done a lot of pilots too, which is a lot of paperwork and a lot of documentation, a lot of screenprints. But so Outlook Excel, WebEx meeting has become big, especially because the COVID last year, and this year, a lot of WebEx meetings now, instead of meeting in person, I do a lot of those I join a lot, I host a lot, you know, sharing the spreadsheets or the PDFs on whatever project we're working on or checklist. And then WebEx teams is what we use for like instant messaging. If I'm having to work on a project, sometimes I'll ping someone in corporate or division, hey, I need your help real quick. Or, you know, I need to submit this firewall request because it's coming due, and we need to hit this next milestone. Or my guys like, Hey, did you finish up this OR tracker that we needed to get done by the weekend. So it looks good for Monday. So kind of those are my, my go-to tools that ironically, I can do all my phone to which works out really well. So I can be portable and pretty much anywhere on my iPhone, and use all these tools. 

Walt Sparling  17:47

That's cool. portability. 

Kurt Hornung  17:49

Yep. And then, you know, of course, hardware using the computer, iPhone, iPad, I have a little iPad with a magnetic keyboard. So I'll take it to different meetings, and I'll type in notes. And then sometimes if you know, the good part about my facility is they invite IT to everything. Because 90% of the time IT is involved in every project small to large. So luckily, they don't hardly ever get blindsided, or like an 11th hour like hey, by the way, this is gonna be delivered tomorrow and you need to do this, this, this and get it set up. Because I busted on them enough to say you're not going to get if you don't give me enough time, I'm not going to be able to meet the deadline, a lot of times I get invited, there'll be a small IT part. So I'll just sit there and kind of, like do some emails and act like I'm doing some taking some notes. But I'm actually cheating and doing emails. And then you know, go ahead and anything I know on the IT side, I'll go ahead and type all the notes and send it to myself, then I'll start developing the spreadsheet plan.

Walt Sparling  18:53

That's, you know, the interesting thing about the 90% IT, so you know, my background, I have a lot of it. And when I came here, that was one of my strong suits between the electrical, the mechanical, the architectural, the IT kind of could understand a whole project, but I would tend to analyze it with, like, almost tangible IT stuff and not think real deep. But I've learned since being here that okay, you know, we're gonna modify an electrical panel. Well, and I talked with the team, have you traced what's on that panel? 

Kurt Hornung  19:30

Right - What's gonna be affected?

Walt Sparling  19:31

Just like is an IT room fed off of that? You know, if so, that's going to be a problem. And then we have to go through a separate process when that happens, or is it going to shut down a mini-split that serving the server room? Or even the backup? So yeah, it's safe when we do our kickoff meetings. Now we invite everybody in the world, right? We tell them what it is, and then say, do you guys feel like you have a part in this?, and if not, you're welcome to come to you know, meetings down the road. Everybody's got so many meetings on their plate, but if if you think it might affect you, or you're not sure, you know, just keep coming back. But soon as you find out that it's going to affect the IT group in some way, let us know.

Kurt Hornung  20:14

Right now no, no, no, and that Yeah, I totally agree. And, and actually, in this specific facility I'm at and with this administration and manager, team or director team, I kind of take over and do a little more than just IT PM, because I'll throw together spreadsheets, I set up a SharePoint, I send everybody the link, say, hey, fill out your sections, what you're doing when you're going to do it, then we'll have a WebEx or we'll have an in-person meeting, six feet apart. And we go over everybody's section. And they've kind of like how I can go ahead and coordinate. And I mean, I coordinate all the way up to administration. I mean, I'll bust on the COO like, hey, when are you gonna get your pardon? Yeah, no Kurt, I emailed him. I'm gonna get it done next week. I'm like, okay, man, I'm just checking. So, and they're okay with that. So I do a little more than just the IT part. Because they like that I, I can kind of be aggressive without not being offensive, you know, I can, hey, I really need to get this part done. And here's the reason why. Because then I got to get this part done. And then this other guy's got to get his part done. And then it's back to IT because I got to get you to know, finalized. And they're like, okay, Kurt. Yeah, I'll get it. I'm like, can you meet this deadline? Yep, we're good. I'm like, Okay, so I've kind of gotten like, almost to be the facility PM, beyond just IT, it's just to make sure the whole project is coming together, and everybody's accountable. You know, so it works out well. And then, one of the last tools that I forgot to mention is, I took a True Colors class. And I don't know if a lot of people out there've ever taken it, but it deals with gold, green, blue, and orange, and basically gold is task-oriented. And ironically, I'm like 24 karat gold, like I'm very task-oriented. But the green is logical. Blue is kind of warm and fuzzy, and then orange is spontaneous. So that helps to sometimes, because since I'm pming, for multiple people, or multiple departments that aren't really part of IT, but need to get something done, I kind of approached them like, Okay, I know this guy's task-oriented, I can tell them this, or I know this guy's or ladies logical. So I'll say, Hey, here's why we need to do it. For you talk to another person. It's like, hey, how's everything going? Is it All good? You get, you know, warm and fuzzy, then you're like, Okay, when you get to get this done. So there are kind of different ways of how you deal with your audience. But that's one of the things they taught us years ago. Is this true colors about, you know, different personalities or different ways to deal with your audience?

Walt Sparling  23:00

Well, there are so many things like that. There's the enneagram, there's the DISC profile, there's, we have one in our company - yeah, we do the animals, and are you a panda or an owl or an eagle? So that's interesting. I've never heard of the true colors. I'm gonna have to look that up. That sounds really interesting.

Kurt Hornung  23:19

Yeah, it goes along with I think it was called Myers Briggs way back, where it tells you introverted or extroverted. And there are different levels. So if you know you're dealing with someone that's more introverted, you're not as aggressive, you know, you kind of tried to just slowly get into it and talk to them and, and explain the why. Because sometimes the introverted people are more logical, extroverted or more task-oriented, so it kind of combines.

Walt Sparling  23:46

So you're definitely more extroverted from what I recall?

Kurt Hornung  23:51

Yes, they tell me that a lot of people don't realize or don't think I'm in IT, because I actually have a personality. That's what I heard.

Walt Sparling  24:01

That's one of the things I liked about IT is, you know, you don't have to be a hermit, you can still be outgoing. And, and it's actually easier to deal with customers when you are.

Kurt Hornung  24:11

Yes, you make them at ease. You explain, you understand, you empathize, in a sense, sometimes of their problems, or what they're trying to achieve, or resolve. And then you tell them, yes, you know, I can't say, I can totally get this done. But let me come up with some stuff. And we've never really tried to say no, we'll say, let me look into it. And then most time, we can come up with an alternative. Because sometimes we have to follow information security, we got to follow HIPAA, we got to follow policy, procedures, practices, protocols. And some people sometimes get way out of the box. I'm like, Whoa, yeah, we can't really do that. But hey, let me look into it. And I'll give you an alternative.

Walt Sparling  24:55

Good deal. All right. So last question. And this is something you've probably heard on some of the other episodes, which is, did you know, and the point of this is to share something that you may know that a lot of the audience doesn't. So do you have a good Did you know?

Kurt Hornung  25:14

Yes, actually, I was watching. I forget the game show. And this was one where it says Q is the only letter that doesn't appear in any US state name. And I literally thought about it from the time, I'm like going through, I Googled all the states, I'm like, damn, they're right. There is no Q. So that was a Did You Know.

Walt Sparling  25:37

Good deal that, that I haven't heard that one before. Awesome. Well, do you have anything else you'd like to add about yourself or what you do?

Kurt Hornung  25:49

No, just power to the PM people, because it's a really good trade and a really good skill that I know, every industry needs. I was glad I was able to participate in this interview, and, and kind of share my experiences of healthcare IT and doing PM skills.

Walt Sparling  26:11

Yeah, and that is cool. We, I'm trying to get as many people from all levels, positions, industries. I'm heavy on the construction side, just because that's been big in my background, and what I do right now, but I do have, we have a programmer that's on hook to come up here soon. in conversation with an environmental person, which is really interesting. And trying to think some of the other stuff. I've hopefully got another IT individual. So I want to reach out, I want to, you know, a lot of people that I see online are doing this certification, and the thing is, it's not any specific industry. It's just how you do stuff is what the project management processes are. But you can apply it to anything, it's hard, I would say to go from IT to construction, or vice versa. But as long as you have the logic, and you understand the processes, and you're task-oriented and you have good communication skills, you can go across industries.

Kurt Hornung  27:14

Oh, yeah. And IT is definitely in construction anyway. I mean, it is in every, you know, area, it seems like whatever you're working in, there's always a little or a lot of IT, because we've been building and doing construction for 10 years after building the new hospital. And I've gotten way deep into way too much of construction to figure out when they're doing this, pouring this, when they're putting up. You know, I'm always about when's the final clean so I can start, you know, putting in my equipment.

Walt Sparling  27:45

Yeah, I know working in construction, IT is always in our way. 

Kurt Hornung  27:49


Walt Sparling  27:52

All right, sir, I appreciate your time. And for everyone else out there. If you are interested in being interviewed on the podcast, please go to the website,, and you'll find a link in there where you can download the questionnaire, some tips and tricks about the podcast interview, and set up a calendar event, and we'll get you on. So I hope to see a few people do that. And everyone. Enjoy. We'll see you on the next episode of pm-mastery.

Kurt Hornung  28:24

Thanks Walt.

Walt Sparling  28:25

Thanks for listening to the pm-mastery podcast @ Be sure to subscribe in your podcast and until next time, keep working on your craft!