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Sue Schade’s Leadership Vision

January 14, 2015
by John DeGaspari
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The CIO of the University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers reflects on her recognition as ‘CIO of the Year’

Sue Schade is the recipient of the 2014 John E. Gall, Jr. CIO of the Year Award, in recognition of her professional contributions over a 30-year career in healthcare IT, 15 of which has been spent as a CIO. The award, which is sponsored by the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), is named in honor of the late John E. Gall, Jr., who pioneered the implementation of the first fully integrated medical information system in the world at California’s El Camino Hospital in the 1960s. She will officially receive the honor on April 14 at the 2015 HIMSS Annual Conference & Exhibition in Chicago.

In an interview with Healthcare Informatics, Schade, who is CIO of the University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers in Ann Arbor, says she is “humbled and truly honored” to receive the award. “Past recipients of the award are some of the biggest leaders in our industry. There are a lot of great role models there, and I hope I can be one as well,” she says.

Schade joined the U-M Health System late 2012 to oversee the launch of its new electronic health system (EHR). Prior to that, she was CIO of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, which received national recognition for its balanced Scorecard initiative under her leadership. Asked what projects stand out for her she named the Balanced Scorecard, which is in many respects an early incarnation of the focus on analytics, as well as the implications of EHRs for patient safety. Looking forward, successful health information exchange has also been very positive, she says.

In a recent post on her blog, Schade notes that “Awards don’t happen for CIOs without great teams. I am extremely grateful for all of the talented and dedicated IT teams I’ve worked with over the years.” She also reflects on the importance of being a role model—both professionally and in her personal life.

“At the end of the day, there are all sorts of projects that we can say we have got done,” she says. “From a leadership perspective, the development of the next generation, being a good role model, and helping to bring people along” is important to her, she says, adding: “As a female leader in a more male-dominated field—and that’s changing—I try to be a role model to young people, in particular, in terms of what  they can do.”

Asked what policy challenges most concern her as a CIO, Schade cited meeting policy mandates: “How many things we are trying to do in a given time. In the end, we are all trying to do the right thing from the patient’s perspective,” she says. At the same time, ICD-10 is not a can that should be kicked down the road any more, she says. “If we are going to be ready, let’s get it done.” Overall, policies should enable, rather than restrict, new technologies that can improve patient care, she says. “Obviously, we need to focus on privacy and safety, the privacy and security of our patients,” she says. One example is telehealth, a technology that represents a lot of potential for patients, yet also demand reimbursement policies around what a physician can bill for, she says.