If the recent trend in hospital consolidation is providing CIOs an education in change management, then Jonathan Goldberg is on his way to a master’s degree. Two years ago, three organizations — including St. Peter’s Health Care Services, where Goldberg served as CIO — merged to form a $1.2 billion IDN. But, as he quickly learned, “change doesn’t move fast,” particularly when the organizations that are joining together run different EHR platforms. In this interview, he talks about the need to focus on “the people aspect of integration,” why it pays to give physician practices some autonomy, and his organization’s data exchange efforts. Goldberg also talks about improving patient flow, his real motivation for seeking CHCIO certification, and why CIOs need to keep an open mind.
- IT rounding — “You owe it to the organization to be visible.”
- From NYC to Albany
- A “broad experience base” that includes vendor & consulting work
- CHCIO Certification
- The Jeeping world
- “There’s never a dull moment.”
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You owe it to the organization to be visible, and I think it’s the only way to really understand what’s happening. We didn’t necessarily need to spend millions of dollars to have someone tell us that, but sometimes it takes the discipline of having something held above your head to make it happen.
I knew in the back of my mind that taking this opportunity would get me to that next level, which is ultimately where I was trying to go career-wise. I almost had no choice but to take it.
There’s no doubt that there’s been a lot of pain and suffering along the way to get me here. But I can’t say it hasn’t been interesting.
I moved over into the consulting world and that was a great experience because it gave me opportunity to see health systems throughout the country. Every one of those different experiences brought a little to my knowledge base.
The organization is well-poised for where the CIO role is going and what we’re doing today. If I was going to support any organization in my role, that would be the one.
Gamble: It’s interesting what you said about the rounding. That seems like it’s something that’s valuable for a lot of reasons. It shows the staff that you’re engaged, but it also can help you to maybe see some smaller problems before they escalate.
Goldberg: It’s interesting. This is nothing against Care Logistics — certainly they’ve been a great partner of ours. But the reality is you don’t really need someone to tell you that you need to be rounding. It’s sort of a given that if you’re out there talking to people and you’re visible and you’re absorbing and seeing what’s happening and you’re dialoguing with the leaders who really run this organization and make it happen, it can’t help but improve things. It’s a no-brainer, but it’s so hard to do.
When I look at my schedule and when other leaders look at their schedules and you’re double-booked and triple-booked for meetings, it really makes it hard to find that time to get out, but you have to. You owe it to the organization to be visible, and I think it’s the only way to really understand what’s happening. We didn’t necessarily need to spend millions of dollars to have someone tell us that, but sometimes it takes the discipline of having something held above your head to make it happen.
Gamble: Absolutely. So I’d like to talk a little bit about your career past. You said you have been at St. Peter’s for 10 years. What role were you initially hired for at the organization?
Goldberg: When I first jointed St. Peter’s, I was in New York City, and a colleague of mine who was up here who I had worked with in the past asked me if I’d be interested in coming up to help them implement an ERP solution. I really was not interested and I told him, ‘Absolutely not.’ He said, ‘Just get up here. Stop whining, and take a look at the opportunity.’ Some of my hesitation was that it was in Albany, New York. I went to school in Albany and I swore once I left that I would never come back. So there was that trepidation.
But I did take the ride. It was a nice fall day and I drove up and met with him. He gave me the lay of the land and told me the ERP solution they were going to be implementing was imminent. But he also said they knew that they wanted to make a change at the CIO level, and were interested in me. He was insinuating that if I could make this opportunity work and create a relationship with the CEO and some of the other senior leadership team, it would be a great opportunity for me.
I knew in the back of my mind that taking this opportunity would get me to that next level, which is ultimately where I was trying to go career-wise. I almost had no choice but to take it; the opportunity sounded phenomenal, and it’s something that I certainly have not regretted. I helped get the ERP system kicked off and it was about nine months later that I moved into the CIO role.
Gamble: It’s really funny how things work sometimes. You’re thinking, ‘this is what I don’t want,’ and then you’re forced to see things in a different way and it seems to work out.
Goldberg: I certainly have earned my stripes, so to speak, in terms of some of the sacrifices I’ve made over my career to get to where I am. There’s no doubt that there’s been a lot of pain and suffering along the way to get me here. But I can’t say it hasn’t been interesting.
Gamble: You had roles in different facets of the industry, like the consulting side and even the vendor side. I’m sure that that’s been pretty helpful having those different experiences and being able to draw on that in your current role.
Goldberg: I’ve had a pretty broad experience base. It’s funny — I had no desire to get into healthcare IT. My goal when getting out of undergraduate was to go into nursing home administration; that’s what I wanted to do. Sometimes life just takes you in different places and that first job or two ends up setting the stage for where you go.
My first job in healthcare was an entry level job with New York City’s public health system, New York City Health and Hospital Corporation. At that time it looked nothing like what it does today, which is a very well-run, well-organized, and great healthcare system that they can be proud of. This was a health system that was suffering financially. A lot of their facilities were in disrepair. It was a public health system that was very under-funded — I think 90 percent of their funding came through as Medicaid or indigent care.
I left there and I went to Sloan-Kettering, which was 180 degrees from public health. Again, it was a phenomenal opportunity in terms of working in IT as a project manager in the patient accounting department. I had both IT experience as well as operational experience because I was located in the hospital itself, in the patient financial services department. I was dealing with certain vendors and different experiences, and it spring-boarded from there into working for a vendor doing dispensing systems for supply and medications for Omnicell. That job had me traveling, working seven days a week, on call all the time. It was a startup company at the time — I was their 85th employee. It was something new and exciting, but it took a toll in terms of traveling and the amount of interruption it had on weekends.
I moved over into the consulting world and that was a great experience as well, because it gave me opportunity to see health systems throughout the country — on the west coast and east coast. Every one of those different experiences brought a little to my knowledge base. Hence, I think it did give me a broad perspective going forward for the other opportunities that I’ve had.
Gamble: And then you took the job and eventually landed the CIO role. I noticed looking on LinkedIn that you earned CHIME certification. Was it something where once you had the CIO role you wanted to really make sure you had all the tools you needed to really take that role and run with it?
Goldberg: That would probably be the answer I should give, if I was being politically appropriate. I’m very glad that I did the certification — it was a great learning experience. But in reality, the reason I did it was I was at the CHIME Fall forum and I saw a colleague I had worked with a few years back. We started catching up and she said, ‘I’ve got to go. I’m taking the CHCIO exam,’ And I said, ‘Oh yeah, I heard about that. You’ll have to let me know when I see you how it went.’ Fast-forward to some time later. She passed the test and I said, ‘Well, if she can do it, I certainly can do it.’ So it was a challenge to myself to say that if she was able to pass this test, then there’s no reason I shouldn’t be able to. And, hence, that was the initiation of the challenge.
I have a lot of respect for CHIME. I’ve been involved with the Fall Forum planning committee, and I’m actually working on a review of the test questions for the next CHCIO exam. I’ve been doing that over the last couple of months. So it’s been interesting. I think that with the test itself as well as some of the things they’re doing, the organization is well-poised for where the CIO role is going and what we’re doing today. If I was going to support any organization in my role, that would be the one I would point people to as being the one to be involved in.
Goldberg: A little sales job there.
Gamble: Of course. And I like that you gave us the real motivation for why you got certified. I mean, come on.
Goldberg: Absolutely. There’s always a reason behind what motivates people.
Gamble: Sure. Well, I’ve already taken up a lot of your time, so the last thing I wanted to ask was, what do you do when you’re not knee-deep in CIO stuff? What do you do to get away?
Goldberg: There are a couple of things. I recently got into the Jeeping world. I bought my first Jeep after longing for one for a long time. And once you get hooked into that — those who aren’t involved in that world probably won’t appreciate it — it becomes a giant toy that you never stop tinkering with and adding parts to. So I spend time on that. I’m also an avid watch collector, so I spend time — probably too much time, as my wife tells me — dealing with that. Right now, my main occupation outside of work is trying to get my daughter into college, and as far away as possible. That’s my motivation — to figure out how to get her out of the house. And at that point, at least for four years, it should be a somewhat calmer household.
Gamble: So even your hobbies outside of work are big projects.
Goldberg: No doubt about it. There’s never a dull moment. But life is short, so you have to make the most of it.
Gamble: Right, absolutely. Well thank you so much for your time, and good luck with everything coming up.
Goldberg: My pleasure. Enjoy.
Gamble: Thank you.