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LIVE FROM THE CHIME/HIMSS FORUM: CHIME’s Path Forward: CHIME’s Board Chairman Speaks

March 3, 2013
by Mark Hagland
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George T. “Buddy” Hickman speaks exclusively to HCI’s Mark Hagland about CHIME’s future—and Russ Branzell

During the CHIME/HIMSS CIO Forum, being held March 3 at the Hilton Riverside New Orleans Hotel, George T. “Buddy” Hickman, executive vice president and CIO at Albany (N.Y.) Medical Center and chairman of the board of the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based College of Healthcare Management Executives (CHIME), spoke exclusively with HCI Editor-in-Chief Mark Hagland regarding the strategic challenges facing healthcare CIOs right now and the recent selection of Russell P. Branzell as the incoming CEO of CHIME.

On a day when over 550 CIOs and other healthcare leaders were gathered in New Orleans for the Forum (co-sponsored by CHIME and by the Chicago-based Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society), one day before the main educational sessions opened at the HIMSS Conference, Hickman sat down with Hagland to talk about the strategic healthcare IT landscape, as he and the CHIME leadership see it. Below are excerpts from that interview.

With regard to the presentations and discussions taking place today at the Forum, what do you see as the most important issues facing healthcare CIOs right now?

I believe the themes of what we are working on as an organization are consistent with the things people are thinking about. If you think about our mission, professional development is one of the things people are very interested in right now. And in my view, the networking aspect of what goes on here on this particular day when we have the Spring Forum, is incredibly important. The programming is in some cases meant to be about professional development, as with Stephen M.R. Covey speaking this morning about trust as a component in healthcare organizational success, or Judy Murphy [Judy Murphy, R.N., deputy national coordinator for programs and policy at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT] speaking about the progress of meaningful use, also this morning.

As to themes, the agenda for the week [both at the Forum and at the HIMSS Conference] speaks to it, doesn’t it? There’s no doubt that a lot of energy is happening around public policy. At the same time, our public policymakers have positioned themselves carefully and appropriately with HIMSS and CHIME and some other associations, to have this big interactive and listening approach to what goes on this week. There are a number of listening sessions going on this week, as you know [at the HIMSS Conference], in which ONC and other federal officials are coming together in discussions with healthcare IT leaders.\

George T. "Buddy" Hickman

Do you think Dr. Mostashari [Farzad Mostashari, M.D., national coordinator for health IT] and his people at ONC are listening appropriately to the industry?

I believe they’re listening, and listening harder than ever before. I hold David [Blumenthal, M.D., former national coordinator of health IT] in high regard; he pioneered the vision, and frankly, that vision is being implemented. And Bob Kolodner [Robert Kolodner, M.D., who preceded as national coordinator for health IT] listened, too, and now Farzad is. And if you think of the top leadership at ONC, they came up through the provider side, people like David Muntz [principal deputy coordinator] and Judy Murphy, and Jacob Reider [Jacob Reider, M.D., chief medical officer], and indeed, Farzad himself—you’ve got people who are incredibly empathic, who know how hard this is to do. I spoke recently with David Muntz—and I know I can have a conversation where he knows what it’s like. He understands, for example, that I’ve got a vendor who’s trying to catch up to the additional requirements of meaningful use, because they’ve got to catch up quickly and get [upgrades] out the door. And this stuff is continuously coming at the vendors, as it’s coming at us. And the ONC is very empathetic.

Do you think the vendors are being responsible enough?

I think the vendors are doing the best job they can. I was talking to Claudia Williams [senior advisor, health IT, at the White House Office of Technology Policy] recently, and I described an example of an intimate group of CIOs meeting to talk about the meaningful use transition of care requirements, and was sharing with her some of our concerns at CHIME with some of the unintended consequences of some of the meaningful use requirements. Let’s take for example the need for a good medication reconciliation process. Med rec is supposed to occur with every transition of care, so that if you came into the hospital through trauma into surgery, there should be a reconciliation going into surgery, and then later another one when you change floors post-surgery, and another one at the point of discharge.