Skip to content Skip to navigation

One-on-one with St. Vincent's Health System CIO Tim Stettheimer, Ph.D.

August 18, 2008
by root
| Reprints
As the IS component becomes more critical to an organization’s success, CIOs need to wear more than just a technical hat.

It is quite possible that Tim Stettheimer is one of the busiest hospital executives — or people, for that matter — in the country. In addition to serving as senior vice president and CIO at St. Vincent’s Health System in Birmingham, Ala., Stettheimer is also regional CIO for Ascension Health System in St. Louis, Mo., where he works as national advisor for clinical information systems development for the 20-hospital network. In addition to that, he is an active member of the CHIME board; still, he found the time to speak with HCI Associate Editor Kate Huvane about how he manages his time while balancing so many roles, and about the importance of leveraging CIO relationships.

KH: One thing that’s amazed me since I started at HCI is how many CIOs seem to know each other.

TS: It is actually a pretty small and tight community. I serve as a board member for CHIME; I just started a term this past January, and it’s one of the greatest deals, just having the opportunity to make even more connections and learn about some of the behind-the-scenes stuff on the professional organization side. But it is a small community, and if you don’t know somebody, you absolutely know you’re only one degree of separation there, at most. If you get into this industry, particularly at CIO level, somebody knows you — you never burn your bridges, because there are not that many bridges around. But it’s a great opportunity, just in terms of where we’re at in healthcare right now, and the needs and challenges.

KH: You have not one, but three professional titles — how on earth are you able to split your time among these three positions?

TS: I do have three hats, and that is in addition to my other professional hat as a CHIME board member. The CHIME board is a working board; for example, with CHIME, my unique responsibility on the board is to head up the educational efforts, which involves the fall forum, the spring forum, the regional lead forums, which are online — about 20-30 presentations or webinars each year, and to also deal with the CIO boot camp, the vendor or foundation firm boot camp, and a few other things.

KH: So your role with CHIME is obviously a very involved board position.

TS: Oh yeah, it’s pretty busy, but fortunately we have great staff there, so it makes a world of difference.

So aside from that, the professional contribution hat, which is actually pretty darn fun, I have three hats that I’m actually paid for. One is my role of senior vice president at CIO for St. Vincent’s Health System here in Birmingham, which is really four acute facilities and one pretty large non-acute. This is my home base; it’s where I’m sitting in my office right now. That was actually the job I was hired to into about five and a half years ago when I moved to Birmingham.

My other two roles have come about because of the evolution of our larger health system in terms of its IS structure, organization and capacity. About a year after I got here, I got a phone call asking me if we wanted to participate in some efforts that were going on at the system to try to look at how we wanted to restructure and redesign; because in the past, historically, we hadn’t done a huge amount across what we call our ministries. Our ministries are essentially our local health systems. Ascension Health is in 20 states and the District of Columbia, and Birmingham is one of its ministries. St. Vincent’s in Indianapolis is one that has even more acute facilities that we have down here. We have about 28 ministries, but there are about 72 hospitals. I’m not sure what the exact count is, sometimes it evolves and changes — like the ones in Birmingham (we actually acquired last year three of them). We’ve been going through some pretty significant growth here.

My other hat is regional CIO, which means I take care of southeast region for Ascension Health, which really encompasses Florida and Alabama. So I’ve got Mobile and Birmingham in Alabama, and in Florida, I’ve got Jacksonville, Pensacola and then we have some related facilities a little further out. We actually had a facility in Georgia that I was responsible for, but we divested that one. So I take care of the region, meaning that the CIOs at those ministries report up to me, and I go out and work with the executive teams and support the staff. Those are usually quarterly visits, sometimes more frequent; like in Jacksonville, I was out there every month, pretty much, over the last year, because we were acquiring the facility from Mayo, so I wanted to make sure I had a presence for that.

That happened in April.