If anyone would’ve told Keith Fraidenburg back in 1998 that not only would he still be with CHIME 19 years later, but that he’d be traveling to countries like Singapore to meet with healthcare leaders, he’d probably think they were crazy. But there’s nothing crazy about it; CHIME has transformed from a group of 192 CIOs to an organization with a global health IT presence. In this interview, Keith Fraidenburg talks about his new role as COO, what’s happening with the National Patient ID Challenge, what CHIME hopes to accomplish with its global reach, and what he believes will be the biggest topics of discussion at HIMSS, and what attendees can expect from the Spring Forum.
Our members are anxious to hear something, but in the absence of any real information, all we can do is make sure that the administration knows we’re here and that we’re happy to provide education, meet with their team when they’re ready, and be ready to advocate for our members when the time comes.
While the programs and the technical requirements are different, the leadership challenges are very similar, and that’s where we instantly connected with them. All CIOs face challenges in creating a vision, connecting it back to the organization’s strategy, and determining IT’s role.
They are managing so much change — and not just technological change, but organizational change. They’re at the tip of the sphere, and there’s literally zero room for error. And that puts an immense pressure on our members.
There’s nothing like spending 90 minutes with your colleagues and peers talking about those issues that are really critical to your role, to your profession, your organization, and to the industry, and sharing ideas and solutions.
Gamble: Hi Keith, congratulations on the new role. What are your primary responsibilities as COO?
Fraidenburg: Thank you. It’s been fun, challenging, and exciting so far. Prior to this role, I was a chief strategy officer and I will continue to help Russ [Branzell] and our board work through CHIME’s organizational strategy at a high level. My focus now, as membership continues to grow, is to ensure that operationally we’re aligned, staffed, and resourced to provide the level of support our members have come to expect — both domestically and internationally.
Gamble: So you certainly have a lot on your plate, and I imagine one of those things is the new administration and all the changes that are anticipated. How are you working to keep members informed?
Fraidenburg: As you can imagine, there are a lot of unknowns in DC right now with the new administration. Our public policy team is making sure the administration is aware of CHIME and has access to our experts, Leslie Krigstein [VP of Congressional Affairs] and Mari Savickis, [VP of Federal Affairs], who work on the Hill every day.
But there’s very little information right now as to the direction that the administration is going to take with respect to health IT policy. We can certainly make some assumptions based on media reports and some of the Senate-level hearings, but we don’t have a lot of concrete details right now. So what we can do right now is focus on what we know. Both CHIME and AEHIS recently submitted comments on behalf of our members with respect to cybersecurity guidelines, and we’ll continue to stay on top of those issues. We know our members are anxious to hear something, but in the absence of any real information, all we can do is make sure that the administration knows we’re here and that we’re happy to provide education, meet with their team when they’re ready, and be ready to advocate for our members when the time comes.
Gamble: Sure. And one of CHIME’s biggest initiatives has been the national patient ID challenge. Where does that stand at this point?
Fraidenburg: We are in what is called the final innovation round — the million dollar round, which is very exciting. We have 371 registered competitors right now who are working hard to make sure they’re able to submit their entries. And while there’s no guarantee that all of them will submit, we’re hopeful many of them will. The deadline for submission is in March, and there will be a judging period from March until June, during which submission prototypes will be tested and evaluated for their ability to meet the rigor that was detailed in the guidelines.
The ultimate goal is to identify a solution to the national patient identification challenge, and we’re nearing that stage. It’s been a long process, as you know. We’ve been working at this for about two and a half years in total.
Gamble: It’s a pretty complex issue.
Fraidenburg: It is, and our entire industry knows this. But what we were encouraged by in the concept blitz round — and I think we’ll continue to be encouraged by this as we communicate with some of the competitors — is that there are some amazing ideas out there. There are people who are absolutely compelled to try and solve this, and clearly understand the magnitude of this.
Gamble: I’m sure it was satisfying to see patient identification addressed as part of the 21st Century Cures Act.
Fraidenburg: It was. Our public policy team has worked hard to raise the level of conversation about patient identification in DC. They’re advocating strongly on behalf of our members. And our members are the ones who are driving this by consistently telling us that this is one of the biggest challenges they face toward achieving the opportunities we have in front of us with electronic medical records. If we truly want to achieve ultimate interoperability, we’ve got to solve this issue.
Gamble: Let’s talk about CHIME’s international efforts. What are the primary goals, and how do you plan to grow that at a manageable pace?
Fraidenburg: First of all, we are 100 percent committed to supporting our members within the US and we will remain committed to that. What we’ve learned in the past few years, as Russ and some of our board members have traveled oversees and met with health IT leaders and CIOs across the globe, is that they need the same type of support as CHIME members here in the US. They’re very excited about the opportunity CHIME has to bring the types of support structures, services, and professional development programs we offer — such as our Certified Healthcare CIO program — to their organizations in Europe, South America, and Asia. They don’t have these offerings right now, and they need them desperately.
In the US, we’re lagging behind in terms of health IT, and many countries like Singapore are way ahead of us from a technical perspective. Where they’re falling behind is from a leadership and executive development perspective, and those are areas where we believe CHIME can help. While culturally, there are differences around the globe, when you look at executive-level challenges, like working with boards and stakeholders, those are pretty universal. We’re working with HIMSS’ international team to extend support to those markets.
Gamble: So as the focus pushes past Meaningful Use, it’s becoming more practical for US-based CIOs to collaborate and share best practices with leaders in other countries. Is that the idea?
Fraidenburg: Yes, that’s exactly what we uncovered as we’ve traveled around the globe. I remember meeting with a group in Spain, and one CIO remarked that they had a government mandated program that was similar to Meaningful Use. And so while the programs and the technical requirements are different, the leadership challenges are very similar, and that’s where we instantly connected with them. All CIOs face challenges in creating a vision, connecting it back to the organization’s strategy, and determining IT’s role. The context may be different, but the leadership challenges are very common.
CHIME’s role in working closely with the HIMSS international team is to help elevate those leaders. And so yes, we support technical leaders, but if you want to learn technical skills, CHIME is not the organization for you. If you want to become a better leader in particular and apply that in a health IT context, that’s where CHIME can be effective. And that’s what we’re going to focus on the international front.
Gamble: Let’s talk about the new CHIME Board Chair, Liz Johnson. What do you think she’ll bring to the role?
Fraidenburg: Liz is an amazing leader and we are truly blessed to have her on our board. She has a long and storied career in healthcare, and she has a deep informatics background as well. As the nature of health IT continues to morph and evolve, that perspective is going to be incredibly helpful. We’re excited for her to lay out her priorities for CHIME at the upcoming CHIME-HIMSS CIO Forum in Orlando.
Gamble: Right. Speaking of the Forum, what do you expect will be the biggest topics of discussion among CIOs and other health IT leaders?
Fraidenburg: Change leadership is a core theme with our keynotes, because it is one of the most critical areas for CIOs. They are managing so much change — and not just technological change, but organizational change. They’re at the tip of the sphere, and there’s literally zero room for error. And that puts an immense pressure on our members.
Our role in developing programs like the Spring Forum is to help them through these challenges by providing them with tools and opportunities to network with their peers and talk about how others are working through change.
Gamble: I noticed a lot of variety in the lineup of speakers. Was that done intentionally to give a broad perspective?
Fraidenburg: It wasn’t necessarily what we planned, and yet, we couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. We love the variety of topics and speakers. I think we’re hitting on a number of key issues, from cybersecurity to analytics to the Internet of Things, and then with our closing keynote speaker, Dr. B.J. Miller, bringing it back home and talking about why we do what we do. At the end of the day, it’s not about widgets or technology. It’s about the patients, and it’s about helping them. I think Dr. Miller is going to deliver a very heartwarming and powerful message that will inspire our leaders.
And of course, cybersecurity is one of the hottest issues for our members. It’s what keeps many of them up at night, so it makes sense for us to try to integrate some aspect of that into our program. But we want to do that in a way that’s interesting and unique, and so we invited Kevin Mitnick to talk about the art of deception. I think it will be fun, fascinating, and scary at times, and at the end of the day, attendees will have something they can take back to their organizations and consider when it comes to overall information, security, strategy, and policy. It’s a really interesting take on it, and we’re excited to have him on the program.
Gamble: What about some of the other offerings that will be available for CHIME members?
Fraidenburg: We plan to hold roughly 100 focus groups with our Foundation Firms between Monday and Wednesday. These are terrific opportunities for vendors and consultants to seek advice and input from CIOs, and for CIOs to contribute that advice and direction back to the industry, and of course, to network. There’s nothing like spending 90 minutes with your colleagues and peers talking about those issues that are really critical to your role, to your profession, your organization, and to the industry, and sharing ideas and solutions.
Gamble: And for some brave souls, there’s also the opportunity to walk around the exhibit floor.
Fraidenburg: Absolutely. I like to get out there and meet with our foundation firm representatives and learn about new trends. It is a great opportunity to meet with members, talk about what they’re looking for on the floor and who they’re speaking with, and get an idea of what challenges are. All of this helps guide us organizationally in developing the right programs and services to support our members and our foundation firms.
Gamble: I’m looking forward to it. Now, to get some background on you, you’ve been with CHIME since 1998?
Fraidenburg: Yes, it’s been a tremendous ride.
Gamble: And a few years ago, CHIME changed the makeup of the organization and brought management in-house. What has that been like from your perspective?
Fraidenburg: It’s been terrific. Russ came on board as our CEO early in 2014 — that was the beginning of the transition from an outsourced model to an insourced model and redesigning how we work as an organization and how we get things done. It’s been a crazy busy couple of years. Our membership is growing gangbusters. We’re in global markets now providing support to health IT leaders around the world. Our foundation is healthy and striving.
And again, as our membership continues to grow, both in terms of size and needs, our challenge is to make sure we’re continuing to look at our resources and our structure, and that we’re positioned, staffed, and resourced to serve them in the best way possible. That’s our goal in life here at CHIME. Under Russ’ tremendous leadership, we now have the structure, the tools, and the flexibility to do that in ways that we never thought would be available to us. It’s just very exciting.
Gamble: I’m willing to bet that in 1998, you never would’ve pictured yourself traveling to Singapore with CHIME to speak with health leaders.
Fraidenburg: No. In 1998, I never could have pictured myself being with CHIME for nearly 19 years. But the reason I am is because I absolutely love the members that we get to work with, partner with, and support every day. They are amazing people who will stop at nothing to move healthcare forward. They’re just wonderful people, and every day, I cherish the opportunity to work with them.
Gamble: Well, this has been great. Thanks so much for your time, and I look forward to speaking with you again!
Fraidenburg: Likewise, Kate. Thank you.