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Chuck Podesta Shares His Perspectives on CIO Leadership and Current Challenges

November 14, 2016
by Mark Hagland
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UC Irvine Health’s Podesta shared his perspectives on leadership issues and challenges facing CIOs

Chuck Podesta, CIO at UC Irvine Health, the integrated health system at the University of California-Irvine in Orange County, California, spoke on Friday, Nov. 11 at the Health IT Summit in Beverly Hills, sponsored by Healthcare Informatics. At the Sofitel Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills, Podesta delivered Friday morning’s keynote address, entitled “Partnering with the CIO: Views from an Expert Healthcare IT Buyer.”

In his speech, Podesta spoke very bluntly about the challenges facing CIOs in interacting with some in the vendor and consulting community, emphasizing that CIOs have very little time, and that many of the maneuvers that certain vendor and consulting firm representatives make can actually alienate CIOs in terms of wasting their valuable time. That said, he also made it clear that he is looking for smart vendors and consultants to partner with him and his team at UC-Irvine Health, to take on the challenges facing their organization and all patient care organizations in the current operating environment in U.S. healthcare.

Afterwards, Podesta, who has spent more than two full years now at UC Irvine Health (he joined that organization in September 2014), sat down with Healthcare Informatics Editor-in-Chief Mark Hagland for a discussion of some of the top challenges facing CIOs in the current moment. Below are excerpts from that interview.

Given the dizzying pace of change right now and the many challenges facing CIOs, this is a time involving unprecedented pressure on healthcare IT leaders. What would you say to CIOs and other healthcare IT leaders about the present moment?

Yes, the times are changing faster than ever. And what I say to CIOs is, I ask them, who are you using to help you with all of this? Who are the people you’re using—other providers, as well as vendors—to help you with all this? The other part would be to start breaking down some of the things that are on our IT strategy roadmap right now. One example would be security. We know that the presidential election won’t change what’s going on with security at all—that’s a given. And nothing will change in terms of the analytics needed for population health. And even if they were to throw out the ACA [Affordable Care Act], the commercial payers are all focused on population health and moving towards risk, so the analytics need will be important anyway. And I don’t believe that the value-based aspect of career and payment—high quality and low cost—will go away; that’s a given. And the private insurers have bought off on that. So I don’t think the clock’s going to go back on any of that.


Chuck Podesta speaking at the HIT Summit

Given how much is going on, it seems clear that prioritization is going to be a huge issue for CIOs, along with IT governance and project management. Your thoughts?

The first analysis you need to participate in is this: of your top 25 things on your list, what are the 15 things you can let go of. Now, you need consensus in your organization, of course. So you’ve got to go to your governance, and then make the hard decisions. What’s happening in organizations is that they’re not letting go of anything on their plates, but instead are adding new items based on new demands. But again, your partners can help you.

And that group will include consultants, vendors, associations, and other partners?

Yes, absolutely. I’ve been telling consultants, the best that could happen would be the uncertainty of this election result, because there’s chaos, and you guys as consultants thrive on chaos. And now we have great uncertainty.

You’ve been at UC-Irvine Health for just over two years now. And you’ve made progress in numerous areas. What critical success factors have been involved in your progress so far?

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