In the healthcare IT workplace, 'a break' can really mean shifting gears

A month ago, I started a new interim CIO engagement. This time I am serving Stony Brook Medicine on Long Island in New York. My last interim CIO position at University Hospitals in Cleveland ended in October. Since then I have taken a break by design. When I started this new chapter, I wanted to work less than full-time over the course of the year and have more flexibility in my life.

During this break period, I wasn’t exactly idle. I spent a lot of time doing start-up work for my new health IT advisory firm, StarBridge Advisors. And of course, I’ve spent plenty of time with my family, especially my four grandkids. My husband of 40-plus years and I have had fun seeing each other so much but if you ask him, he’d say he was ready for me to be gone several days a week! He loves his quiet time and having the house to himself for a while.

This opportunity at Stony Brook Medicine brings a new set of challenges, but also many familiar ones I’ve seen before as a veteran healthcare CIO. The common ones include improving IT governance, supporting growth and expansion of the healthcare network, planning for new buildings that will depend on technology day one, and ensuring a stable production environment and strong security program. The new challenges include a primary EMR vendor that I have limited experience with and IT professionals who are unionized as state employees. But I’m no stranger to building strong and effective vendor relations and managing and developing people takes the same basic set of leadership skills regardless of the situation.

In these first few weeks, I’ve drawn on all the lessons of my last interim engagement. I’m still drinking from the firehose to get up to speed. And asking lots of questions to fully understand what I need to know. I’ve scheduled time with all the executives and clinical chairs to get to know them. Everyone is very accessible and candid with me. I’m asking all of them four key questions:

  • What’s working well in IT?
  • What’s working not so well in IT?
  • As an interim, how can I have the greatest impact?
  • What are the key requirements for the permanent CIO?

Nothing too “rocket science” about it – just gathering key information to understand the common concerns and develop the top focus areas for my interim time.

I’ve gotten to know my IT leadership team and some of the staff. I am learning the key projects, the risks, and what we need to do to keep them in a “green” health status. I’ve already introduced a few incremental improvements in how we work. My leadership team has been very open to the changes.

Stony Brook Medicine and Stony Brook University have beautiful wooded campuses that will be in full bloom in no time. This is my first experience on Long Island so it will be a new area to explore when I’m not working.

As a principal with StarBridge Advisors, I plan to do at least one interim CIO engagement each year along with consulting and coaching. Working as a CIO helps me stay grounded and makes me more effective with other future clients. And as overwhelming as days can be full of back to back meetings, tons of email and lots of issues to address, I do love working with teams dedicated to providing high quality, safe patient care. And the team at Stony Brook Medicine is proving to be a great one to work with.

We have already kicked off the search for the permanent CIO with Rudish Executive Search. The scope of this role encompasses the information technology needs of Stony Brook University Hospital and related facilities, Stony Brook Medicine University Physicians faculty practices, the Suffolk County Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment (DSRIP) Program and all clinical research performed within Stony Brook Medicine. Interested candidates can check out the position summary here.

Look for more blog posts in the coming weeks that cover today’s world of being a healthcare CIO.

This post was first published on Sue Schade's Health IT Connect blog.

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