Randy McCleese on What it Means to Be CIO of the Year | Healthcare Informatics Magazine | Health IT | Information Technology Skip to content Skip to navigation

Randy McCleese on What it Means to Be CIO of the Year

February 8, 2018
by Rajiv Leventhal
| Reprints
The distinguished CIO talks about rural healthcare challenges, noting, “Even though we are in unique geographical locations, we all have same issues.” He also gives his thoughts on why meaningful use Stage 3 should be delayed.

Last month, two prominent health IT associations—the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS)—handed out their annual John E. Gall Jr. CIO of the Year Award to Randy McCleese, CIO of Methodist Hospital in Henderson, Ky.

The award—named after John E. Gall Jr., who pioneered implementation of the first fully integrated medical system in the world in El Camino Hospital in California in the 1960s—is given annually to a CIO who has shown significant leadership and commitment to the healthcare industry during his or her career.

The associations mentioned in a press release at the time that one key factor that sets McCleese apart from many other CIOs is that he has been able to overcome the several obstacles that come with being in a clinical IT role at a rural healthcare system. They noted that he faces the same demands as his larger and urban organization brethren, but on top of that, he also must consider the needs of patients in remote towns and how to sustain those facilities and services.

In the announcement, the associations said that McCleese has addressed policy makers in Washington, D.C., executives in health systems, his peers at health IT conferences and IT students at his local university. “As a CIO, he has led strategic initiatives to bring innovations that improve efficiency and patient care to small and rural hospitals. And he has managed to do these herculean tasks—with limited resources—while also devoting countless hours to organizations that share his passion for healthcare IT and professional excellence,” HIMSS and CHIME officials attested.

To this end, McCleese recently spoke with Healthcare Informatics Managing Editor Rajiv Leventhal about these specific challenges, what winning this award means to him, how he’s been able to have success in this role, and how he sees the policy landscape shaking out. Below are excerpts from that discussion.


Integrating Data Sources for Successful Care Delivery

The advances in and availability of data from disparate sources create new opportunities and frontiers in care coordination for complex patients. These can range from mobile health/Internet of...

First off, congratulations to you for getting this award. What does it mean to you?

I am not sure that it’s really sinking in yet. It’s difficult to try to describe how I feel. I am elated, proud, and thankful that my peers have considered me to be in this unique group of people who have received this award. When I saw the list of past winners, I thought, wow, how in the world can I be on this [list] of giants in the industry who have received this award in the past? It’s flattering to be among them. I have spent my healthcare career in small hospitals and community hospitals, and in rural environments, which is not a glamourous place to be, but at the same time, it’s so vital to what we’re doing with health IT.  

The associations noted that you face unique challenges as CIO of a small and rural healthcare system. Can you explain those challenges in some more detail?

I have said this and I think some have picked up on it—in the small hospitals we have to do as much work to meet the regulatory requirements, and interoperability and security, as the large organizations do. But we can’t become specialists at any one of those since we can’t afford the staff to be become specialists in security or interoperability. Those duties may be associated with three or four other primary duties for a person who does that kind of work.

For example, I have one person on staff here whose focus is on interoperability, but that means what does he have to do to work with the ACO (accountable care organization), what does he have to do with the submission of data for quality measures, what does he have to do with multiple HIEs (health information exchanges), and what does he have to do to share our data with payers and others who need to have the data coming out of our system? So we can’t have one person focused on each of those, but rather one person focused on all of them. Contrast that with someone at a large organization, and they may have a person who does nothing but security, one person who does nothing but ACO work, and one person who does nothing but HIE work. That is a challenge to find and keep people who are good at doing those kinds of things.

What other factors do you think have been keys to the success you have been able to have as a CIO?

One of the biggest things that has gone into this is my persistence. Over the years, I have been very persistent and vocal at all levels, be it local, within the state or in Washington, D.C., and emphasizing the differences, or at least the uniqueness, in the things we’re trying to do from a rural healthcare standpoint. And I have also tried to [emphasize] some of the burdens that have been placed on us by regulations in the rural and smaller hospital environment. I think that carrying that same message every time I have had the chance to has made a difference. I have had the chance to represent a huge chunk of healthcare in this country. Even though we are in unique geographical locations, we all have same issues.

You helped found the Northeast Kentucky Regional Health Information Organization (RHIO) and you serve on the Kentucky Health Information Exchange (KHIE). How do you see the future of regional HIEs?

As the Northeast Kentucky Regional Health Information Organization has developed over the years, we had intended that to become a health information exchange. And then as HITECH (the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act) came out, and as the Kentucky Health Information Exchange got off the ground, the Northeast Kentucky RHIO morphed itself more into a regional extension center-type support mechanism, supporting primarily physicians and making sure providers in the region were meeting meaningful use requirements. We tried the health information exchange, but at the time we were trying to do it, that was the time in which KHIE was getting off the ground. So the Northeast Kentucky RHIO left some of that work to the state HIE by default.

And as I look at the state HIEs, especially in Kentucky, they are providing a significant number of services in addition to just exchanging data between providers. They are also the intermediary between providers and the state agencies that require data from the providers. So we don’t submit anything separately; we just submit out data to KHIE, and they submit whatever subset is needed to the stage agencies that need to have data from the providers. So I see that part as still continuing, but as we move forward with other things going on in the industry, and I know that KHIE has joined forces with the Indiana HIE, and is working with [an HIE] in Ohio, they are coming together as consortiums of HIEs and sharing data across the country. And that exactly what needs to happen; we as people are mobile. So I see the market adapting and getting us to the point where we get the care we need [wherever we are].

You have been involved with various health IT policy initiatives. Do you think the industry is in a good place right now with MACRA, meaningful use Stage 3, and the 21st Century Cures Act? What would you like to see changed, if anything?

It is causing a lot of burden and stress on us, especially from a requirements standpoint. Just last week we had a conversation with some folks doing some research for CMS (the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services). And I sat in room with five clinicians, four of them being nurses, and I emphasized to the person who was working for CMS that I have five folks who are clinical people but are gathering data for quality measures. None of them are doing anything relevant that has to do with hands-on patient care. And in an environment of our size, that’s a significant number of people who are essentially pushing paper so that we meet the quality measures that we have to meet.

I know in the long run we have to do these things, but we are spending lot of time just verifying that we are taking good care of patients, when we can better utilize the skills of those clinical folks in direct patient care. So that concerns me; the reporting burden being placed upon us is huge and a lot of is dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s when we need to being paying attention to how to do a better job of taking care of patients.  

How can these concerns that you and many of your colleagues have be better portrayed in government regulations?

The regulations are forcing us as providers to do things must faster than the speed at which the culture is changing. We would like to snap our fingers and get every doctor to fully utilize an EMR (electronic medical record), but that will take quite a bit of time to adapt to the technology and the terminology. I am concerned we are pushing providers too hard to meet the regulatory requirements when we need to give them more time.

When I think about meaningful use Stage 3, I think leaps are being required. And I think it needs to be delayed for a while, maybe a few years, so we can perfect what we are trying to do now.

Can you offer one or two pieces of advice for other CIOs who might be struggling to succeed in this always-changing healthcare environment?  

Get to know the business and network as much as you can. There is not one of us that’s as good as all of us. By having a vast network of different people around the country, I can call on others when I don’t know the answer. Building that network is one of the best things a CIO can do.

2018 Raleigh Health IT Summit

Renowned leaders in U.S. and North American healthcare gather throughout the year to present important information and share insights at the Healthcare Informatics Health IT Summits.

September 27 - 28, 2018 | Raleigh


Why A.I. Will Never Replace Recruiters

September 12, 2018
| Reprints
AI can be a great tool, but recruiters aren’t going away

I remember fear settling in like a big dark cloud when I opened my search practice in 2005 with all the dire predictions of how the Internet and all the online hiring websites were going to put recruiters out of business. Many articles were written on the demise of the recruiter as Monster.com would literally scare us out of business.

Then came other job opening aggregators like Indeed.com, ZipRecruiter and a whole host of other websites chasing HR gold as if there was a switch they could simply flip to eliminate the human touch that recruiters bring to the table with engaging candidates, only to be replaced by a text message alert or an email notification of all the new jobs that were now open. The only thing they were missing were qualified applicants.

These predictions never came true and all the prognosticators simply forgot what recruiters actually do every day that their technologies will never replace. CIOs need to remember the critical nature of hiring leaders and team members for key roles in their organization. Candidates need to be vetted and coached to listen to an opportunity to join your team when we call the candidates. You have to remember:

  • We talk with people. Yes, we use a cell phone, or now a VOIP phone, and actually engage in a dialogue with candidates about opportunities. It’s a novel approach—I get it.
  • We engage with people that will never look on those job posting sites because they are not looking for a new job. Period.
  • We contact passive candidates that up until our call were never going to leave their job because they are so focused on the now that they don’t even think about looking on a website for a job they are not even interested in.
  • We help clients and candidates come together on the right offer and provide two-way communication during the hiring process, so each party has a deep understanding of the other party’s point of view. Online sites—well you get the picture…
  • We hammer out the details of relocation packages with our clients and the candidates and their families to make sure the move is done smoothly to allow the family to begin their transition to a new city. It’s the personal touch that matters here because we are dealing with people’s lives.

Fast forward: The next wave of artificial intelligence (AI) products for hiring are cropping up everywhere and we are hearing similar calls for recruiters to give up and retreat as the latest algorithm and data analytics tools are able to speed up the hiring process supplanting recruiters. Within seconds, these tools are touting they can determine who the perfect candidates are based on the analytics and machine learning tools designed for hiring. Guess what? It won’t happen.

AI can be a great tool, but it falls dreadfully short of meeting hiring managers' expectations. It won’t wave a magic wand suddenly making hiring enjoyable and much quicker with the same quality as the work performed by most search firms. I’ve been in technology in some form or fashion for a very long time. I love technology and what technology can do to speed up productivity and actionable data I can use every day in the work we do. It’s awesome!

But to be clear, I’m not going away. I have seen this movie before and I am fairly certain I can tell you how it ends. The work recruiters do to find and recruit great talent is something humans must do.

More From Healthcare Informatics


Cerner President Zane Burke to Step Down This Fall

September 10, 2018
by Heather Landi, Associate Editor
| Reprints

Cerner president Zane Burke, who first joined the company in 1996, will step down November2, the Kansas City, Mo-based electronic health record (EHR) company announced today.

“Cerner has been a disruptive force of positive change across health care throughout its history, and I’m pleased with the accomplishments we’ve achieved together with our clients and the broader industry community,” Burke said in a statement. “Complex and evolving challenges remain, and Cerner is uniquely positioned to continue innovating for the good of consumers and health care providers.”

 “We thank Zane for his contributions to Cerner across more than two decades,” Cerner Chairman and CEO Brent Shafer said in a statement. “Zane leaves the company with a strong client focus and commitment to continued innovation, partnership and sustainable growth deeply engrained in our culture and leadership philosophy. I am very confident in the capabilities of Cerner’s strong and experienced leadership team.”

John Peterzalek, executive vice president of worldwide client relationships, will assume Burke’s responsibilities and the title of Chief Client Officer.

Since joining Cerner in 1996, Burke had a range of executive positions across sales, implementation, support and finance. He was named President in 2013 after leading Cerner’s client organization. Burke came to Cerner in 1996 from the consultant KPMG, and has held a number of positions in the company, including president of Cerner west from 2003 to 2011, and, more recently, executive vice president of Cerner's client organization.

During his five years as president, Burke has been involved in a number of significant deals, including playing an instrumental role in Cerner winning two massive EHR modernization contracts, first with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) in 2015, a $4.3 billion contract, and then just this past May, with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in a $10 billion contract.

During Burke’s tenure, Cerner also completed one of the biggest deals in healthcare IT history with the acquisition of Siemens healthcare IT business for $1.3 billion in 2014.

The Kansas City Business Journal reported on September 4 that Burke had exercised option to sell nearly $10 million in stock.


Related Insights For: Leadership


Leadership Changes at HHS as CIO Transferred to New Role

August 21, 2018
by Heather Landi, Associate Editor
| Reprints

Beth Killoran is stepping out of the role of CIO at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and is moving over to a new role at the Office of the Surgeon General, within HHS.

The news was first reported by Federal News Radio. In an email, a HHS official confirmed that Killoran, who stepped up to the HHS CIO role in July 2016, has joined the Office of the Surgeon General at HHS to develop a "comprehensive information systems strategic plan for the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.”

The HHS official also confirmed that Ed Simcox, the HHS Chief Technology Officer, will take on the added role of serving as the HHS Acting CIO, until a permanent selection is made. “Simcox has led multiple, large IT transformation efforts, both as an industry executive and consultant. As HHS’s CTO, he leads HHS’s efforts on enterprise data management, data sharing, technology-related healthcare innovation, and public-private partnerships,” the official said via email.

Simcox started as the HHS CTO in July after serving as acting CTO starting in May and deputy CTO since July 2017, according to Federal News Radio.

Killoran began working at HHS in October 2014, moving over from the Department of Homeland Security. At HHS, she has served as the acting Deputy Chief Information Officer and as the Executive Director for the Office of IT Strategy, Policy and Governance. The HHS official stated that Killoran has served in a number of high-level information technology positions at HHS, “providing leadership on a number of high priority projects.” Killoran also worked for the Department of the Treasury, where she provided IT infrastructure support and operations for over 20,000 employees across 1,500 locations.  During her tenure, she provided IT operational support in response to the 9/11 and Oklahoma City bombing events, the HHS official said.

Federal News Radio reporter Jason Miller reported that, during her time as HHS CIO, Killoran tried to move the agency forward in a number of areas through an updated strategic plan and a more aggressive approach to cloud adoption. “Recently, Killoran led a reorganization of the CIO’s office, naming Todd Simpson as the first chief product officer and promoting innovation,” Miller wrote.

Killoran becomes the fourth major agency CIO to be reassigned during the Trump administration, joining former Treasury Department CIO Sonny Bhagowalia, former Agriculture Department CIO Jonathan Alboum and FEMA CIO Adrian Gardner, according to Federal News Radio’s reporting.

See more on Leadership