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Turning to Leaders in a Time of Tumult

March 1, 2012
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Why the participation of David Muntz and Drex DeFord in the HCI Executive Summit is so encouraging


I’m often reminded of the immortal opening of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities: “They were the best of times, they were the worst of times.” There’s something about that line in the classic novel of the French Revolution that occurs naturally to me in times of great ferment; and this is certainly such a time.

The sense of frenetic activity and anticipation was never greater in the healthcare IT sphere than this past week, during the HIMSS12 conference, held during most of the week at the Venetian Sands Expo Center in Las Vegas.  I can’t remember a HIMSS conference that was more frenetic, actually—both in terms of actual activity (the release of the proposed rule for stage 2 of meaningful use), and in terms of how attendees felt and communicated with one another. On the one hand, our audience of healthcare and healthcare IT leaders have never been under more pressure to “deliver the goods” in more areas, related to accountability, transparency, quality, patient safety, cost-effectiveness, and the entire range of qualities and outcomes that policymakers, purchasers, payers, and consumers are looking for from healthcare providers.

On the other hand, in my more than two decades in healthcare publishing, I’ve also never seen more clarity regarding the overall direction of healthcare, both on the policy and strategic fronts in our industry. And it was clear to me that HIMSS attendees were very aware of this element of the landscape as well.

What I think is particularly important at times like this is to have bold, passionate, clear-eyed leaders in our midst, women and men who can peer into the future and help lead their colleagues forward into it. No one has a completely unclouded crystal ball, but there are healthcare and healthcare IT leaders who have the vision, intellectual heft, and spirit to move forward and, by dint of their personal authority and their experience in the field, to help point the way forward to their colleagues.

We at Healthcare Informatics are deeply fortunate to have two of those industry leaders in our midst right now: David Muntz and Drex DeFord. David Muntz, whom I’ve known for years, two months ago left his position as senior vice president and CIO at the Baylor Health Care System to join the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) as principal deputy. I’ve seen few CIOs anywhere whose natural authority matches David Muntz’s: everyone who knows him respects him, and, with his exceptionally wide network of contacts, pretty much everyone in the national healthcare IT leadership sphere does know him. Not only has David received numerous awards and recognitions over the years; he was already one of the key CIOs representing the CHIME (College of Healthcare Information Management Executives) board leadership to ONC, when he leapt over to that federal agency. No one who knows David doubts that he will bring a very strong provider perspective to everything that ONC does.

Meanwhile, Drex DeFord, who became board chair at CHIME at the beginning of this year, has an equally strong street cred among CIOs nationwide. As senior vice president and CIO at Seattle Children’s Hospital, Drex has not only led his SCH colleagues forward towards innovation and process improvement; he has a broad sense of where everything in the CIOs’ world is heading these days. As he said in a statement when he was officially named CHIME’s board chair in late January, “Technology is interwoven with every challenge—and the solution to every challenge—we face, from ICD-10 to meaningful use and beyond. To succeed, collaboration is essential, between IT and the c-suite, clinicians, the back office—everyone.”

What’s more, both David and Drex are people who are motivated forward by the opportunity to create change and nurture their colleagues, not by egotism. So it’s no wonder both men are viewed with such respect by their colleagues nationwide.

As a result, it’s a great personal privilege for me to be able to let everyone know that David Muntz and Drex DeFord will be the opening and closing keynote speakers, respectively, at the Healthcare Informatics Executive Summit, which will be held May 6-8 at the Marriott Orlando World Center in Orlando, Florida. Personally, I think that our healthcare IT executive and leader participants at the Summit will be fascinated to hear David’s perspectives on the MU process, now that he’s had a bit of time to settle in at ONC; and I also believe that attendees will be eager to discuss impending industry horizons with Drex, as he leverages his board chair position to help encourage and nurture his colleagues forward into the future, at a time when everyone in healthcare is being faced with significant challenges and opportunities.

I myself am very eager to listen in on and participate in discussions with David and Drex at our Executive Summit. Their keynote events, as well as numerous breakout sessions, will offer attendees the very latest and most strategic perspectives on the future we’re all hurtling toward right now. It’ll be a not-to-be-missed few days in May!

For more information on the HCI Executive Summit, please click here.