During Health IT Week, Industry Leaders Discuss HIT Initiatives and Driving Policy Change | Heather Landi | Healthcare Blogs Skip to content Skip to navigation

During Health IT Week, Industry Leaders Discuss HIT Initiatives and Driving Policy Change

October 6, 2017
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At the tail end of 2017 National Health IT Week, which ran Monday, October 2 through today, a webinar focused on the industry leaders who are driving change, both by championing health IT initiatives at their own organizations or by advocating for policy change at the local, state and federal level, offered interesting insights on leadership and policy development.

The webinar, sponsored by HIMSS (the Chicago-based Health Information Management Systems Society), featured women health IT and informatics leaders, including Liz Johnson, R.N., chief information officer, acute care hospitals and applied clinical informatics at Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare, a 77-hospital health system; Teri Takai, now senior advisor at the Folsom, Calif.-based Center for Digital Government (a national research and advisory institute) and formerly CIO of the State of California; and Lisa Gallagher, managing director at London-based PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) health industries advisory practice for cybersecurity and privacy.

The speakers come from different areas of healthcare IT—Johnson comes from a clinical background in nursing and nursing informatics and now hospital CIO; Takai, as former CIO of the State of California, advised the state’s governor on the direction of information technology during the state’s modernization project; and Gallagher has an engineering background and is now focused on healthcare data security. Yet, what struck me is how similar their stories were as it relates to championing health IT initiatives, with change management as a central issue.

Takai said, “One of the things about health IT is that it’s really important that you have senior level engagement at the organization that’s going to use the system and use the data. One challenge over the years in getting health IT to happen is it’s a change management issue; it’s about people.” Takai, who also served as the CIO of the Department of Defense as well as CIO of Meridian Health Plan, noted the importance of building partnerships and collaborations. To get that change management to happen, she said, “It was important, at a state level, to engage the large payers and large providers in the state to make sure they were a participant and bring everyone in to get their input. We conducted some town halls to make sure that people that wanted to have input could be engaged in giving input. Number one, it’s make sure you’re engaging the right people, and, second, that you are defining what you’re overarching goals are for that collaboration and allowing a venue for everybody to have an opportunity to have their voice heard.”

Johnson also noted the importance of effective collaboration to move forward on enterprise-wide IT initiatives. “You need to recognize that, within that group, there are competing efforts and agendas, and you have to clearly articulate your vision, where you want to end up at the end of the effort, and stick to that focus,” she said, adding. “Health IT is about our patients, but you have to acknowledge that we are also a business, so you need to balance those two things.”

The speakers also addressed the importance of health IT leaders advocating for policy advancements at the national, state and local level and the challenges of policy development.

“When we talk about advocacy, some of our biggest challenges are working with federal, state and local people who don’t understand healthcare or health IT, any more than we understand how to run the FDA. We have a huge job in front of us to help educate them,” Johnson said. Johnson has been involved in advocacy work for many years and served on the Health Information Technology (HIT) Standards Committee of the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) after the passage of the HITECH Act. Her advice for advocating for policy changes with policymakers and agency leaders: “Start with getting on the same page with them, then go with a clear ask. What is very effective is to take a specific ask and make sure they know why you are asking for it, and how they can help.”

As the challenges of healthcare IT are unique, and can impact the delivery of care to patients, it’s crucial to convene those challenges and implications to state and federal legislators and government agencies as they develop new healthcare regulations, laws or guidance, Gallagher said. “We need to explain, ‘If you are writing policy or regulatory guidance a certain way, what would be the true impact on healthcare organizations and on the patient, especially in terms of patient safety?’ You have to speak to them on their terms, and explain the implications. We need to talk about the impact in terms of the clinical workflow and patient safety. With us being at the table and with those dialogues, we can say, ‘This might work, but we might consider writing the guidance this way, so there is less impact on the patient.’”

The speakers were then asked to highlight what changes they are focused on advocating right now. Gallagher, with PwC, said she continues to advocate, as she has for the past 10 to 15 years, for getting the healthcare industry to converge on a common framework of security principles and practices. “That will enable us to measure [security] maturity against the framework. It’s a good way to all go down the same path together and speak the same language, and it speaks to all different sizes of organizations. We can measure and compare ourselves to the framework and to each other," And, Gallagher noted, "It seems to be taking hold now.”

What's more, Gallagher added, “When it comes to health IT policy, we should talk about what we want the end state to be. Keep that end state in mind and that helps us communicate in terms of policy.”

Takai said the work she is doing with the Center for Digital Government focuses on helping states work on data analytics. “One example that has been in the news a lot is using data analytics to address the opioid crisis. My work is around looking for those organizations that are doing best practices and then share those best practices across other organizations.”

Johnson noted that she is currently advocating on behalf of healthcare provider organizations for more harmonization among the various agencies within HHS—ONC, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the FDA and the Office for Civil Rights. “I’m working with them diligently so they understand that what they do impacts us every day and we need to make sure they don’t have conflicting guidance.”

Johnson also said that she learned the importance of advocating for change years ago when she served as a nursing leader and recognized, along with other informatics leaders, the need to have up-to-date patient data at the bedside, which helped to drive efforts to digitize healthcare information. Her advice for other healthcare IT leaders: “Use your voice, be loud, be strong, nothing changes unless you call attention to it. Put your voice to your passion and your commitment to solve a problem.”

Takai and Gallagher also advised patience and persistence in pushing health IT initiatives and policy development. As the healthcare industry continues to undergo transformative change and as the pressures on healthcare leaders continue to mount, strong leadership in health IT will be needed, so it may well be worth it for HIT professionals to heed all of this practical advice.

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
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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.

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Cerner President Zane Burke to Step Down This Fall

September 10, 2018
by Heather Landi, Associate Editor
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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.


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Leadership Changes at HHS as CIO Transferred to New Role

August 21, 2018
by Heather Landi, Associate Editor
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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.

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