After accomplishing what she set out to do at University Hospitals Health System in Cleveland, where she oversaw a major upgrade and full system deployment, Mary Alice Annecharico, RN, decided it was time for a new challenge. So she ventured across Lake Erie to Henry Ford Health System, a large, Detroit-based organization that is transitioning from a home-grown system to Epic’s EMR. In this interview, Annecharico talks about why Henry Ford appealed to her, the path from clinical nursing to CIO, and how her early career experience shapes her current role. She also discusses the importance of knowing what drives an individual, her IT philosophy, and why nurses can make effective CIOs.
- Balancing Epic’s expectations with internal challenges
- Best practices in CIO transitioning
- Don’t forget to mentor!
- “Develop a legacy of leadership”
- The most important question: “When you got the job, did you jump up and down?”
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We have so many disparate applications and systems in our community facilities, all of which need to be decoupled and integrated in this process. So it will be very carefully and responsibly working with each one of our communities of users to help manage the change and the integration.
We have monthly calls with their senior leadership team to talk about the transitioning of their resources into the account and where we have challenges with things that are deliverables and expectations on both sides of the fence and what we need to do to manage that relationship together.
If you are looking at change, you need to look at it for the right reasons for you, and mine has always been one of continued growth and development, and a challenge that I can embrace.
I think that in the CIO roles, many organizations do not take advantage of or leverage the incredible talent that exists there, and that many of them are seeking an imaginary leader from the industry who has a footprint of success rather than sometimes taking a look at what their own organic roots are.
The reception of me by this organization has been one of profound acceptance, excitement, and active requests for my engagement and involvement in decision-making. It’s been a wonderful, smooth transition thus far from just that relationship building side.
Guerra: Is it safe to say that you are working to get the organization to perform and to fulfill, as close as possible, to what Epic is saying you need to do? So you’re trying to get as much of that done as possible without breaking Henry Ford.
Annecharico: That’s right, absolutely. At the same time, it’s not breaking Henry Ford but it’s not breaking the system, because as I’ve described earlier, we have so many disparate applications and systems in our community facilities, all of which need to be decoupled and integrated in this process. So it will be very carefully and responsibly working with each one of our communities of users, wherever they are, to help manage the change and the integration in the space of what they know today and where we need to lead them for tomorrow. The formalized process that Epic is delivering to us, I think, will also help because we’ll all be moving in that same centralized, focused direction.
Guerra: You weren’t there when they signed the Epic deal, correct?
Annecharico: That’s correct. I had the privilege of being told that they signed the contracts, they won the Malcolm Baldrige Award, and were making me this offer to join the team to help lead this change. So it was done during the period of the interview cycle throughout this fall and concluded in November.
Guerra: We all know about Epic — that they prequalify their customers to a certain degree, if I’m describing that correctly, to make sure you’re going to do certain things. Is there a memorandum of understanding saying, ‘We will do these things’? And then we may be in a dynamic nowhere you’re on the phone with your Epic contact saying, ‘Well, we’re going to be able to do this but we are not going to be able to do that’.
Annecharico: Yes, there is a prequalifier. They realized that we were very focused on being able to achieve ICD-10 compliance within the timeframe that was required by the federal government, and that the driver for our timeframe and our integration strategy would be borne of that business reason, not necessarily the meaningful used dollars which will be significant over time. But we’ve already missed a window of opportunity in getting some of the early dollars just because of our time frame.
The memo of understanding is really built into the contract of what is to be delivered. We are also going to be in frequent contact with Judy Faulkner. There will be, at a minimum, quarterly meetings with her to help us benchmark where we are and what we need from Epic. We have monthly calls with their senior leadership team to talk about the transitioning of their resources into the account and where we have challenges with things that are deliverables and expectations on both sides of the fence and what we need to do to manage that relationship together. So it is a commitment that we will be in frequent and regular contact with them to manage.
I think the other piece of the process that is a profound support for us is our colleagues in the industry who are using Epic are wonderful watchdogs and the provocateurs of how Epic is where it is in its development mode. So we’re getting the best of what has gone before us. We have industry colleagues across the landscape of our academic and experiential organizations that represent what it is that we’re going to go through. And there’s a great level of confidence that we’re being advised well by our peers in areas that they’ve gone through and the lessons learned. The active user group of Epic is also going to be important to us, as well as other professional organizations like HIMSS and Scottsdale Institute, etc., where we already have the footprint of relationships that we can draw from.
Guerra: I’m only going to keep you a few more minutes. I don’t like to keep anyone more than an hour, but I want to ask you — do you have any advice to your colleagues about switching organizations from what you’ve learned so far about either leaving an organization and how to do that properly, or how to transition to a new one in the first few months.
Annecharico: Thank you, great question. A couple of things: the decision to move my career all the way along has been one built on opportunities for growth and development rather than stagnation or complacency. And I saw this as a truly growthful opportunity from a professional and personal perspective. If you are looking at change, you need to look at it for the right reasons for you, and mine has always been one of continued growth and development, and a challenge that I can embrace. As far as lessons learned, in terms of leaving the footprint of who you are and the best of who you are in an organization that you’re leaving behind is really predicated on leaving behind potential leaders to fill in that space, both at the University of Pennsylvania and at University Hospitals. I believe that I left each one of those organizations in the space of competent leadership that can assume the role and responsibilities and not miss a beat in the context of continuing the development and maintenance of application systems and services.
Guerra: So always mentoring someone to help people grow.
Annecharico: My role here, and my role in each of my other organizations, has been to develop a legacy of leadership and leave the organization better than I found it with the footprint of who is in the wake of the opportunity of continuing to lead the organization. I think that in the CIO roles, many organizations do not take advantage of or leverage the incredible talent that exists there, and that many of them are seeking an imaginary leader from the industry who has a footprint of success rather than sometimes taking a look at what their own organic roots are.
Guerra: As a final question I have to ask you, this is a big job, big interview process, and a lot of competitors going for the job. When you received the news, did you jump up and down?
Annecharico: Two people jumped and down, actually. Yes, I did. I was very excited, and as a matter of fact, my sister, who lives in Detroit, Carol Anne — I come from a large family but I had a footprint of siblings gathered all throughout the United States — was most excited next to me because she would have a sibling in the state for the first time in our adult life, so that was exciting. Thank you, that was a great question. I’m very excited and I will tell you that the reception of me by this organization has been one of profound acceptance, excitement, and active requests for my engagement and involvement in decision-making. It’s been a wonderful, smooth transition thus far from just that relationship building side.
I’d like to mention one thing, Anthony. In addition to being distinguished by the offer of this job, I was also made editor for the HIMSS Journal for Health Information Management (JHIM) this last year. And that is also another door opener from the perspective of having been on the editorial board for the previous 10 years when Rick Lang turned over the role of editor to me. It opened my eyes to a world of incredible opportunity in working very closely with the columnists and the peers across the industry who write incredibly high-value, peer reviewed articles for the journal. I think that too is something that I would like to foster in the industry in terms of how we give back and what is the value of the things that we’ve done and what we’ve accomplished in implementation and looking at the mobile device strategies and security and all the things that we think about on a day-to-day basis. But I have a new eye and appreciation for that relationship that I now bear with HIMSS.
Guerra: Very good. Like I said, we could certainly talk for another hour, but you’ve got a big job to do, so I’m going to let you go to it.
Annecharico: Thanks, I’m probably late for my next meeting, but more than you can imagine I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to have this conversation with you today, Anthony. It was delightful.
Guerra: Much, much appreciated. Are you going to HIMSS?
Annecharico: I am. I will be there Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.
Guerra: Great. I will look for you there and get to say ‘hello’ in person. Thank you so much, Mary Alice.
Annecharico: Thanks, Anthony. Take care.
Guerra: Have a great day.
Annecharico: You too.