Top 5 videos from HIMSS17

Top 5 videos from HIMSS17

Meet Drex DeFord: Former Air Force CIO who started as a rock-n-roll DJ

The Social Media Ambassador talks about post-CIO career moves, what he’s expecting at HIMSS17, his health IT hero and the first few years of his professional life. 
By Tom Sullivan
09:07 AM
Drex DeFord CIO HIMSS17

Drex DeFord has served as chief information officer of Scripps Health, Seattle Children's, Steward Healthcare, and the US Air Force.

Today, he’s the founder and president of, a digital health consultancy, which makes him a combination translator, tour guide, collaborator, teacher, story-teller — sometimes a shoulder to cry on. His twitter handle is @drexdeford and at HIMSS17 he will be among the Social Media Ambassadors.

Healthcare IT News asked DeFord about life after being a CIO, who his health IT hero is, and what he’s looking forward to at HIMSS17.  

Q: For starters here, after spending your career as a CIO, what is all about?
When I decided to take a step back two-years ago and rebalance my work vs. life, a lot of the people I’d worked with – health systems, CIOs, CEOs, vendors, VC firms, people in start-ups – they called me, and asked if I could help them with one thing or another. So I formed an LLC, with no intention of building a real consulting practice  – just a one-man-band kind of thing – and I needed a name and a domain. The “io” domain was available and popular, so I snagged it. That’s my job now – helping analog people better understand an already confusing healthcare system, in the context of a digital world. 

Q: What are you most looking forward to at HIMSS17?
Seeing my friends and colleagues. It's the HIT family reunion — all the relationships I've built over the past 20-plus years. And I always meet new brilliant people every time. It's THE place to connect and learn.

Q: What issues are top-of-mind for your social media followers?
I think we're all interested in the transition to value-based care, and how to provide better, faster, cheaper, safer, easier-to-access care for patients and families. On the blocking and tackling end of the spectrum is security and privacy; that keeps execs up at night. On the cool end is artificial intelligence, with the potential to change almost everything about healthcare delivery.

Q: Who's your favorite healthcare hero? Why?
After retiring from the US Air Force, my first CEO was Chris Van Gorder at Scripps Health. He's a front-line guy; going to where the rubber meets the road every day, seeing how policy works, talking to patients, and really getting to know all of his staff, holding them accountable, but giving them everything they need to get the job done. And, as a former police officer, he had a lot of good advice for me about really embracing my military background and using the things I'd learned there, to be a better healthcare executive. I was lucky to work with him.

Q: What's your pet peeve? (Either on- or off-line?)
On-Line: the person who connects with me on LinkedIn, then sends me a product-pitch 30 seconds later. Off-Line: Come on, damn it, get out of the left lane, ya slow-poke!

Q: What is something your social media followers do not know about you?
A: I was a rock & roll disc jockey the first few years of my professional life; I'm a farm-kid from Indiana; Served in Desert Storm, and I'm a retired USAF Officer. 

Related articles: 
⇒ Health IT guru Brian Ahier: A big fan of analytics, Don Berwick and Jerry Garcia
⇒ Linda Stotsky: She writes poetry, sticks up for underserved and loves ... boxing? 
⇒ Jane Sarasohn-Kahn: Health economist, woman in HIT, Social Media Ambassador

HIMSS17 runs from Feb. 19-23, 2017 at the Orange County Convention Center.

This article is part of our ongoing coverage of HIMSS17. Visit Destination HIMSS17 for previews, reporting live from the show floor and after the conference.

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