Perspectives Across the Healthcare IT Field
By Arika Lycan, Specialist, CHIME Foundation
Part 2 of our Perspectives series features the observations of three valued CHIME/CHIME Foundation members with experience in healthcare IT as both CIOs or the equivalent and as Industry partners. Having been on two different fronts of the healthcare IT field, they’ve gained many critical insights on the relationships between industry and providers. These lessons learned influence their current work.
Shane Pilcher, administrative director and CIO at Siskin Hospital, Drex DeFord, a self-described “recovering-CIO” and Spencer Hamons, executive architect and strategic adviser at NetApp, reflect on lessons learned from their varied experiences, and how these experiences influence their current roles in the industry.
Following are some of the many valuable insights they provided.
Q: What perspective can you share, having previously worked on the company/services side of healthcare IT?
Pilcher (current CIO, former industry partner): When I was on the services side of healthcare, I knew the CIOs were busy. However, I did not truly appreciate just how busy they are. I describe my current role to friends and peers as being like the carnival show where one person has a multitude of plates spinning on sticks, running from plate to plate to give it a little spin to keep it from falling. In many ways, that is how my days are. Even if all events in my day are planned (which rarely happens), there are so many projects, initiatives, strategies active at one time, you have to give each one enough attention to keep it “spinning” while you run to the next.
Hamons (industry partner, former CIO): After moving to this side of the industry, I had no idea about all of the intricacies surrounding manufacturers’ work with partners, distributors and “the channel” – and all of the rules associated with that interaction. Now that I have learned how all of these pieces of the puzzle work together, if I were to go back to a health system, I would manage my manufacturers and my partners very differently than I did in the past.
DeFord (consultant, former CIO): CIOs are not just technologists; they’re clinical and administrative health systems operations experts. If we’re going to make the move to value-based care and real patient engagement, we’re the most likely candidate to be the company’s digital health and innovation leaders. That’s a lot of responsibility … you’re going to need good help.
Relentless prioritization is absolutely necessary. Work with your team and your C-Suite to draw a line in the endless queue of requests. Kick ass on everything above-the-line. And, as actively and aggressively as you engage everything above-the-line, actively don’t do the items below-the-line. There will never be enough resources to do everything. Oh, that goes for your personal life, too.
Q: Do you do anything differently in this setting than you did on your previous role?
Pilcher (current CIO, former industry partner): Absolutely. Up until now, my entire career was on the acute care side of healthcare and most of that in clinical systems. Being an acute care inpatient rehabilitation hospital, I had to learn about the nuances of post-acute care to be able to strategically support every business unit. It was very much like drinking from a fire hose. In addition to that, I have had to get very familiar with hardware and the system administration required to keep the network healthy. While I don’t physically perform those tasks, I do need to understand it to a point where I can have an educated conversation around it and understand how it fits into our overall strategic goals.
Hamons (industry partner, former CIO): Although I worked hard to be a “strategic” CIO, focusing the majority of my efforts on initiatives with strategic significance to my health system – there were always those tactical activities that demanded some amount of my time. In my role at NetApp, I am able to truly focus on those strategically significant initiatives when engaging with our customers.
Q: What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were working on the other side of the industry?
Pilcher (current CIO, former industry partner): The biggest thing I wish I had known then was emails and phone calls not being returned is not personal. As stated before, I knew CIOs were busy but did not really understand how busy. I am out of my office more than I am in it. That allows me to be most effective for my organization. This, of course, means many phone calls go unanswered and emails sit in the inbox. In the course of the day, both voicemail and the inbox fill up. Due to the sheer volume of both, one has to “triage” them to identify which get returned and which do not. That is one thing the CFCHE certification is helping foundation members understand and gives them better clarity on the day-in-the-life of a CIO.
Hamons (industry partner, former CIO): I understand the interaction between technology manufacturers, partners, resellers, distributors and “the channel” much better than I ever did while working as a healthcare executive. Although I understood that some manufacturers incentivize their partners in different ways, I never quite understood just how much those “incentives” can sway members of sales teams to propose solutions that may not necessarily be in the best interest of their customers. While I can say that my company works hard to be at the top of the moral and ethical scale by avoiding many of these kinds of incentive offerings, there are plenty of companies out there that do not abide by the same standards.
Q: As a current CIO, does your role and experience change how you look at the techniques and tools that industry representatives use to approach and engage with CIOs?
Pilcher (current CIO, former industry partner): It certainly does. As I have mentioned, CIOs are extremely busy. Everything is competing for their time and attention. Not only do you have internal factors competing for their time and attention, there are also external factors. As a vendor, you should be passionate about your product or service. The challenge comes when the entire industry is passionate about their product and each feeling like it will solve a pain point for their clients. It is easy for that message to get drowned out among those internal and external competing factors. As CHIME has taught Foundation members in the past, relationships are the most important tool in your sales arsenal. The sales cycle in our industry is typically many months to over a year in length. We have to plan three plus years out, which is increasingly more challenging. This requires us to have conversations well in advance of the actual need so we understand what the market is offering and can work it into our roadmaps and budgets. When it comes time to have the serious conversations around purchase, I am going to look to someone I have developed a relationship with over someone who has sent a random email or phone call. So, while email is important to “keep in front of” us, finding ways to spend quality time in conversation at events is extremely important to helping your emails and phone calls to be “triaged” to the top of the list.
Spencer Hamons, CHCIO, CFCHE, FACHE – Executive Architect and Strategic Adviser at NetApp
Hamons previously served as regional CIO for NetApp’s Healthcare Division for the past 3.5 years. In 2018, he’s made the move to NetApp’s Service Design Team, where he offers strategic guidance for all industry verticals. His healthcare CIO experience started in the Houston area in the late 1990s and has taken him to Colorado, Alaska and New Mexico, where he held positions as both CIO and COO. Hamons joined NetApp as CIO of the Healthcare Division in 2014. Outside of work, he volunteers with various veteran groups (he was a Combat Medic in the Army) and is a pilot with the New Mexico Wing of the Civil Air Patrol.
Drex DeFord, CHCIO, FHIMSS, FCHIME, FACHE – Recovering CIO
DeFord is an independent consultant with a long career as a healthcare executive, including his experience as co-founder and CEO of Next Wave Connect; executive vice president and CIO at Steward Healthcare in Boston; senior vice president and CIO at Seattle Children’s Health System and Research Institute; and corporate vice president and CIO at Scripps Health in San Diego. Prior to that, he spent 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, where he served as a regional CIO, a medical center CIO, and chief technology officer for the USAF Health System’s World-Wide Operations.
Shane Pilcher, CHCIO-Eligible, FHIMSS – Administrative Director and CIO at Siskin Hospital
Pilcher joined Siskin as their administrative director and CIO in July 2015. Previously, he was a consultant with Stoltenberg Consulting for 14 years, working with many projects as part of the implementation or optimization teams and system selections. During his time at Stoltenberg Consulting, Pilcher’s later roles included account manager, then vice president, where he designed and launched their help desk service line.
More Foundation Insight Volume 2, No. 3:
- CHIME CIO Members by the Numbers – Some Helpful Demographic Statistics – Rose Lucas
- Save the Date – Mark your Calendars for CPES18 Sept 5-7 – CHIME Foundation Team
- Upside Down Focus Group: Marketing and Selling to CIOs – Rebecca Scholten