When Joel Taylor sees people who are out of place and talking to someone in a completely different role, he doesn’t mind at all. In fact, he finds it to be inspiring, because it shows people are curious and willing to step out of their comfort zones. In this interview, the CIO at CarePoint Health System talks about what his team is doing to create growth opportunities in IT to make sure they’re able to retain top talent. He also discusses the multi-phased coordinated care initiative at his organization, the challenges in engaging with elderly patients, the power of organic mentoring how his team is working through data sharing hurdles with acquired physician practices, and how he’s working to make innovation part of the overall strategy, and not just “the next toy.”
- Staff engagement — “I see people that are out of place, and it’s inspiring.”
- Organic mentoring
- 2 years as medical group CIO
- “Anytime you change careers, you have a pause.”
- Handholding to foster innovation — “No idea goes unheard.”
- “You have to find a leadership style that matches your personality.”
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Ambitious, hard-working people do things on their own. And when they know they can and they’re empowered to do so, and they’re encouraged and supported, it just happens.
They saw me as the person here that had the right skills set and was demonstrating the right rules and doing the right things. It certainly wasn’t something that I was looking forward to do when I came here, but just kind of organically took its course.
If you’re not innovating, you’re failing. You have to be looking at the things you can do that give you a competitive advantage in your marketplace; that give you a more exciting way of providing care for your patients.
From an adoption perspective, handholding seems to be the best practice. You’re going to have to guide people to see why they need to do something, as opposed to just coming into a meeting and making a demand that this is something we need.
Leaders that are very successful have some pretty good clarity about who they are and how they behave and integrate strategies around that. Just saying, ‘I want to be like this guy or I want to be like that guy’ — the lack of individuality really breaks it.
Gamble: I would think it makes a difference if people can see that others are advancing and kind of know that the possibilities are there when the right opportunity arrives for them.
Taylor: It’s a funny thing. When you first have these conversations when something like this isn’t in place and you bring it up to people, there’s a lot of, ‘yeah right,’ and ‘yeah, that’s not going to happen.’ And then you do it once or twice, it blows people’s minds. And it’s kind of funny because then everybody starts running; everyone’s like, ‘Wow, this is actually real. I want to get on this train.’ You see a heightened level of engagement that didn’t exist before and a lot of excitement. As I walk around between meetings and pass by staff — I have to walk past my team to get to anywhere in the organization just based on where my office is — and I see people that are out of place, and it’s inspiring. I’m like, that’s the helpdesk person and he’s engaging with a business analyst. The helpdesk person, he’s engaging with a report writer. So you actually see it playing out and it makes you want to do it more.
Gamble: Is there a formal mentoring process set up or is it something where people are encouraged to talk to different departments and kind of just broaden that experience?
Taylor: It’s kind of an organic thing. I don’t want to really have a formal piece, because quite honestly, I’m busy enough. I don’t want to have to manage an education program, selfishly. But in reality, ambitious, hard-working people do things on their own. And when they know they can and they’re empowered to do so, and they’re encouraged and supported, it just happens. It’s a natural thing.
Gamble: Right, you probably don’t even have to mess with it.
Taylor: We really don’t keep tabs on it. A new position opens up and more often than not, somebody’s ready to take that role.
Gamble: Right. So in terms of your own career path, you’ve been with CarePoint for two years?
Taylor: Two years in July.
Gamble: And you started as a CIO of CarePoint Medical Group?
Gamble: How did that go as far as making the move to system wide?
Taylor: It was just a long process of attrition really. I guess at some point along the way, the things I was doing at the medical group got the attention of the organization at large. As the organization came into play and people moved into roles, I think they saw me as the person here that had the right skills set and was demonstrating the right rules and doing the right things. It certainly wasn’t something that I was looking forward to do when I came here, but just kind of organically took its course.
Gamble: And your role right now is CIO of CarePoint, and then you also have the Chief Information Security Officer role?
Taylor: Yeah, unfortunately.
Gamble: That’s a lot to have that as well.
Taylor: It’s a lot. I do have security managers on my team and they really fill that role, but right now, the expectation is that that ultimate responsibility falls on me.
Gamble: I can imagine that even with a team that is challenging just because of both roles being so consuming.
Taylor: Yeah, it is what it is.
Gamble: Now, when you first came to CarePoint in the medical group role, so at that point, that was a new organization or was it a different medical group that had changed hands?
Taylor: It was a new medical group, and we had 17 physicians back then. It seems like five years ago.
Gamble: Did you have hesitation about becoming part of a new organization?
Taylor: Certainly anytime you change careers, you have a pause, right? But I knew a lot of the leadership that was here already, and the ones that I had met with had inspiring vision. I saw CarePoint going in a direction that was exciting, and to move out of the medical group specifically and into a true health system, certainly from a career perspective is an exciting opportunity.
Gamble: You had previous experience with group practices and I can imagine you’ve been able to draw on that experience in your role now, especially with acquiring so many practices and maybe being familiar with some of the needs of physicians.
Taylor: Absolutely. Being able to know that side of the business and have that a piece that’s something I don’t have to spend a lot of time learning about really allows me to focus on the other parts of our business that I’m not so educated on.
Gamble: The last thing I wanted to touch on was innovation. It’s something that’s interesting to me how CIOs can try to foster it without forcing it, as it’s something that really can’t be forced. What are your thoughts on that, especially in a time where everybody does have so much on their plates?
Taylor: Well, it’s the nature of our world right now. If you’re not innovating, you’re failing. You have to be looking at the things you can do that give you a competitive advantage in your marketplace; that give you a more exciting way of providing care for your patients that makes them want to come and be a part of what you’re doing—a way to improve the care that your physicians have and the tools that they have so they can be better doctors and better care providers.
So you have to do it, and I think one of the key strategies there is to be in tune with the strategy and vision of your organization as a whole and know where they’re headed, and being able to sit in a meeting and see a problem and a solution when it’s not necessarily being presented to you as such. I think from an adoption perspective, handholding seems to be the best practice in healthcare. You’re going to have to guide people to see why they need to do something, as opposed to just coming into a meeting and making a demand that this is something we need. And over time, helping your peers in the board room understand that you’re here to serve the business and that you’re not just an IT guy looking to buy the next toy.
Gamble: What about when there are people in different roles who do have ideas, is it something where they’re encouraged to kind of present that? Again, it’s probably something where there’s not necessarily a formal process in place but just knowing that anyone’s welcome to present ideas, that type of thing.
Taylor: Yeah, no idea goes unheard from my perspective. They’re always accepted with positive responses. A lot of times, it’s ‘you know, that’s a great idea. Let’s see if we can work with the vendor to get a pilot,’ and get that person involved in the leadership of that and engagement. And if it’s a good product, it’s something that we can move forward on, and we get excited after that pilot program and get a lot of buzz around it. If it’s not, sometimes you can quiet people through that process and just never having to say no. It’s a bad word.
Gamble: Right. If something isn’t the right idea for right now, it doesn’t mean it won’t be useful at some point.
Taylor: In the simplest terms, at least from my perspective, no fight ever got started because somebody said yes. So if you can prevent that type of visceral reaction from happening with people, then you can help foster collaboration and discovery — and discovery with clarity as opposed to discovery via rage. For example, ‘he said I can’t do this, so I’m going to prove it wrong, and I’m going to do it my own.’ And now I have a fight in my hands.
Gamble: Very interesting times we’re in. It’s great for me to hear a different perspective and see everybody’s leadership styles and how everyone’s handling the different challenges being thrown at CIOs right now.
Taylor: It’s funny, you spend so much time reading and everybody has leadership mantras and things they have. I think the reality is that you have to find a leadership style that matches your personality, and the way in which I lead is not going to be successful for every other leader out there, because it doesn’t match who they are. I think leaders that are very successful have some pretty good clarity about who they are and how they behave and integrate strategies around that. Just saying, ‘I want to be like this guy or I want to be like that guy’ — the lack of individuality really breaks it.
Gamble: Well, you’ve given us a lot of good thoughts. I want to thank you so much for taking some time to speak with us. I’d love to be able to catch up with you down the road or possibly meet you since I’m in New Jersey, a little south of you. Maybe at one of these events I’d love to say hello in person.
Taylor: That’d be wonderful. I’d love that.
Gamble: Great. Well, thank you so much and I’ll be in touch soon.
Taylor: You’re very welcome.