He’s been in the news recently for his advocacy efforts, but if you know Cletis Earle, you know it’s just one of the many passions that drives him. In addition to heading up CHIME’s diversity initiative along with Liz Johnson and Myra Davis, he’s set to begin a term as Board Chair in 2018. On top of that, Earle is one year into the CIO role at Kaleida Health, an organization that’s going through a period of rapid growth. Recently, he spoke with healthsystemCIO.com about the “adapt and adopt” approach he brought as the new CIO, why leaders need to not just think outside the box, but traditional healthcare when it comes to population health, and why he believes we’ve entered a “new day” with cyber warfare. Earle also shares his thoughts on how his team is looking to “tap into the social experience” with patients, and how the CIO role will continue to evolve.
- Kaleida’s wayfinding app
- Working with a “forward-thinking” team
- “We have to make things simple & easier.”
- CIO as a marketer
- Lack of representation among women & minorities — “We need to change that.”
- First step in making a change: “Talk about it”
- Tapping into military experience
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We have to make things simple and we have to make it easier for our customers, and have technology not be just that deterrent factor. Because it can be; it can be so disruptive people don’t want to use it. So there’s a fine line between putting something in place and making it accessible and easy to utilize.
The CIO is going to take on the role of a marketer. They need to be able to tell organizations what’s available, what’s accessible, how do I connect with you, and how do I provide the best service to you.
It’s very powerful having our female CIOs go into these school systems and say, ‘there are opportunities for people who look just like me and just like you. You don’t have to be an athlete, you don’t have to be a music star.’ There are other things to aspire to.
If everybody is thinking the same way — if everybody has the same model, then how are we going to become innovative? If you have people from different walks of life, different thought processes, we can bring in a significant level of change, and that’s what we need in our industry: change.
Gamble: From the parent perspective, I think some of the initiatives you’re talking about like wayfinding tools and Uber-like solutions can make a big difference when you’re doing things like looking for parking, because it is very stressful.
Earle: You just hit it right on the head. You said it’s stressful. We want to, where we can, take out the stress. Imagine having a parking spot reserved for you before you even come in. This app brings you to that location and you have a parking spot reserved; that’s where we’re talking about taking this solution. It’s exciting because, again, I’m working with a team of executives here that are really forward-thinking. They realize we have to make things simple and we have to make it easier for our customers, and have technology not be just that deterrent factor. Because it can be; it can be so disruptive people don’t want to use it. So there’s a fine line between putting something in place and making it accessible and easy to utilize. That’s the kind of wire act that we continuously try to tap into.
Gamble: And with a lot of the things you’re talking, it shows that evolving CIO role, especially when you talk about meeting with the mayor of Buffalo and thinking about areas that in the past wouldn’t have been in the CIO’s realm. I’m sure it’s interesting to be part of this evolution.
Earle: It has. I personally see the role of the CIO changing and evolving. Being in the vice chair role with CHIME and taking over the chairmanship role in 2018, we really want to reinvent and continue to reinvent the role of the Chief Information Officer because that’s where it is. So whether it’s CHIME CIO 2.0 or different types of initiatives, obviously there’s going to be continued growth and development in this role. I think that as the industry moves outside of the four walls, the CIO has to do the same. It doesn’t make any sense, if we are becoming a community-based, value-based solution, that all of our to-dos stay within the walls. That means, we have to now get out there and really connect the dots.
And don’t get me wrong, you do the work. You still have commitments internally, but you have your technologists, your CTOs and your CISOs helping you out. But the CIO is going to take on the role of a marketer. They need to be able to tell organizations what’s available, what’s accessible, how do I connect with you, and how do I provide the best service to you.
And it doesn’t matter who whether it’s a municipality or another provider. We’re just here, and I’m excited to be in a community that allows us to do that and have leaders that believe in us enough that can enable us to get out there and really help reinvent this role of CIO.
Gamble: Right. Very interesting. Now, the last thing I wanted to talk about was the initiative you’re involved in with CHIME — in your spare time, of course — to promote diversity in leadership.
Earle: The diversity campaign that we have going on is very exciting. As an African-American, I believe it needs to be said that there is a significant lack of diversity within technology as a whole. And in healthcare, it doesn’t get any better. So I’ve partnered up with Liz Johnson out of Tenet and Myra Davis from Texas Children’s to help with this diversity project that CHIME is undertaking to help extend and help raise awareness on the opportunities out there in technology for these folks. If you look at your own institution, you realize that the amount of females in the IT organization is highly under-represented, and we need to change that. We need to be able to get on our soapboxes. We need to talk to people and talk to schools and talk to universities and put in programs around the country and around the world, to be frank, as CHIME has extended itself throughout different countries now, to say, how do we make a difference? How do we start to educate others that there is a significant amount of opportunities for diversity within healthcare IT and IT as a whole?
You have to get out there and do something about it, and I think the first step is to talk about it; to be able to say, ‘there is a discrepancy and we need to find out why is that the case? Why do we not have a significant amount of diverse candidates going into schools, when it comes to application development, when it comes to engineering, when it comes to all of these other aspects of technology, and what are the things we can do to move the dial? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think we’re going to boil the ocean tomorrow to get this done. But the fact that you have organizations like CHIME willing to partake in this initiative and sponsor it speaks multitudes.
At Kaleida, we’re working with the mayor of Buffalo to say, ‘let’s get into the school systems, so let us talk to students.’ One of my colleagues from ECMC, Leslie Feidt, is getting involved, along with some other CIOs. It’s very powerful having our female CIOs go into these school systems and say, ‘there are opportunities for people who look just like me and just like you. You don’t have to be an athlete, you don’t have to be a music star.’ There are other things to aspire to in order to make headway.
An amazing fact is that the mayor here, and mayors around the country — as well as other municipal leaders — are excited to hear these things and because they too have initiatives. Now the key is, how do you wrap them all into one common platform? And CHIME is helping us do that, so more to come on that.
Again, I applaud Liz for all that she’s doing, particularly around highlighting the female initiative and making sure that we have better representation from women in healthcare IT. It also it ties in perfectly from a diversity standpoint, because at the end of the day we have a social issue, and the social issue applies to all candidates that are out there — or, I should say, not out there — and we’re just pushing forward when it comes to helping spread the word on how we can improve those circumstances.
And to be honest with you, diversity is exactly what we need. The reason I say that is because if everybody is thinking the same way — if everybody has the same model, then how are we going to become innovative? If you have people from different walks of life, different thought processes, we can bring in a significant level of change, and that’s what we need in our industry: change. I believe that with a women’s initiative and a diversity initiative and coming together, we will help bring forth change.
Gamble: Like you pointed out, this is not something that’s going to happen overnight but it’s getting into the schools, creating that awareness. And I’m sure it’s going to require a lot of patience because you’re not going to get results right away but this is a long term goal.
Earle: This is a long term goal. This a campaign. And it’s not just the school. When I spoke with Mayor Brown, he said, ‘yes, it’s good to have that initiative, but you also have to piggyback it with multiple others,’ and we completely agree. It’s a multi-pronged approach. You could start with kids; you could also have feeder programs into internships, work with school Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), and work with all the different types of trade associations to tackle it in multiple formats so you can really get out there and spread the word to a diverse group of people.
From my experience, we still don’t see a significant amount of people from the military that are in our industry. We know that there’s a significant amount of talent out there. How do we tap into them as well to get them into our program, so we can have jobs for them? They’re getting highly-skilled experience right now — how do we bring them into the fold.
So it’s a collection of ideas that we’ve put together. Some of them we’re acting upon and some still need to mature, but we are confident that the best piece right now is to at least have that discussion and create the platform. And then as time goes on it will mature and become more of a foster program that we will see consistent efforts toward for several years down the road.
Gamble: I think such a big part of it is making this part of the regular discussion. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that it’s uncomfortable for people to talk about, and that is part of the battle.
Earle: It is uncomfortable for people to talk about. When we did our kickoff, Russell Branzell, the CEO for CHIME, was joking around when we did our first campaign. He was outside and he said, ‘I’m not going in there,’ because it was a significant amount of people in the meeting, but we do need all types of people to come in. He knows that, obviously, because he’s helped kick off this campaign.
But the fact that we’re able to now talk about it is a significant advantage to where we were before. We are talking about it, and that’s great. And we’re not only talking, we’re doing, because we’re putting our money where our mouths. CHIME started those efforts obviously by investing and putting resources toward these campaigns, so kudos to CHIME and Russ and the entire team for helping us out and getting us off the ground.
Gamble: It’s going to be interesting to watch the progress of it.
Gamble: Okay, well I could always talk to you more, but I’ve taken a lot of your time, so I’ll let you go. It’s been really interesting hearing about the huge areas of growth at Kaleida and what you’re doing with CHIME, as well as your thoughts in general on the CIO role. So thank you so much for your time.
Earle: Thank you. It’s always a pleasure.
Gamble: I’ll be in touch and look forward to hopefully seeing you in the fall.
Earle: I’ll see you then.