Anyone who knows Russ Branzell knows that he doesn’t shy away from making big statements, and he doesn’t mince words. So when the CHIME President says, “Everyone has to up their game,” he means it — and it be would be wise to listen. In this interview, Branzell talks about the skillsets all health IT leaders will need to help transform the industry, what he hopes to see in the Meaningful Use stage 3 final rule, and the enormous impact a 90-day reporting period would have on both hospital and physician practices. He also discusses CHIME’s Patient ID challenge, the personnel moves that he believes will help improve the organization, why CIOs shouldn’t be afraid to plagiarize, and what attendees can expect at the upcoming Fall Forum.
- Policy leadership changes
- Mari Savickis & Leslie Kriegstein — “True rock stars in the industry.”
- “Critique by itself can be just construed as complaining.”
- CHIME Technologies — “Focusing on new and innovative areas.”
- 2015 Fall Forum
- “We’ve made a big effort to make it not only extremely valuable, but also extremely relaxing.”
- CIO 3.0 — “Everyone has to up their game.”
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We try never to provide critique without the opportunity to also provide suggested solutions or improvements. Critique by itself can be just construed as complaining.
We really created this for the purposes of looking for innovative new ways to support our members. It could be through technology solutions, it could be through unique information sharing, it could be through purchasing power for our medium and small organizations that are maybe not part of a large GPO.
We’re very fortunate that we have a lot of people willing to share their information. The process of gathering information from others and then tweaking it for yourself is so much more time efficient than trying to be constantly innovating within your organization.
Everyone’s got to up their game for us to be successful. And what we really have coined as the CIO 3.0 is the new transformational leader. Their job is to really help guide, direct, facilitate, and support a pretty radical transformation period of time in healthcare.
There’s just a pace of change that’s so stressful that life itself is getting out of balance. If it was not out of balance before, it’s now so extremely out of balance that we’re seeing burnout, we’re seeing severe stress, we’re seeing things that we haven’t historically seen.
Gamble: In terms of some of the moves that the organization CHIME has made, I wanted to talk about some of the new hires. You have a new VP of Federal Affairs — can you talk about what this appointment means for CHIME’s members?
Branzell: Mari Savickis is our VP of Federal Affairs. Most recently over the last few years, we’ve always had two positions in Washington. One of our staff members left last year, so we took an opportunity to really look at this a little different than we have in the past, which was more of a vertical-type staffing with a senior person and a junior person.
What we said was, these areas are too critical not to have a great senior person in place for each of them, so we’re very fortunate that we were able to have Mari come on board. And her specialty really will be to focus all of her efforts to represent CHIME; to assist our members across the board to do education both within the industry, as well as within Washington on the federal affairs side, which is mostly the agencies, the White House and working in building those relationships and spending time really representing our organizations, but in particular, making sure we’re advancing health technology and being a resource to them.
And that’s one of the things that we’ve prided ourselves on, and that is the ability to be a resource to help, not just provide critique. We try never to provide critique without the opportunity to also provide suggested solutions or improvements. Critique by itself can be just construed as complaining, and we don’t ever want to be construed that way. We want to be a productive helper there, and we’re very fortunate with Mari coming on board with a lot of industry experience. With Leslie [Kriegstein] still on board, now as our VP for Congressional Affairs, we know have two really true rock stars in the industry that are able to focus and make sure we’re well represented in Washington, but more importantly that we’re getting the outcomes we need for members.
Gamble: And then of course a lot of people know Gretchen Tegethoff is now VP of CHIME Technologies, and I wanted to talk about this new initiative.
Branzell: Absolutely. This was an area that we had focused on before, but we had never formalized it. Though it was sad for us in seeing Rich Correll retire, he was spending a lot of time focusing on new and innovative areas for us to look into, and our Board of Directors made a decision to move forward a new branch for CHIME which we would call CHIME Technologies, which is all about providing solutions support for our members to make their lives a little less difficult. We don’t ever use the term ‘make it easier’ anymore, because there’s nothing easy about any of it at this point. And so we really created this for the purposes of looking for innovative new ways to support our members. It could be through technology solutions, it could be through unique information sharing, it could be through purchasing power for our medium and small organizations that are maybe not part of a large GPO. Those might be opportunities for our foundation members to actually offer solutions at a competitive price for them — those are areas we’re all looking into.
There are a few already that we’ve done, I’ll give you an example. One is that we worked with what happens to be the counsel to CHIME, and that is to provide very inexpensive contractual review for legal services with Gallitano & O’Connor. CHIME doesn’t make a penny off of that. It was a relationship that we created, and organizations of very large-sized down to small-sized organizations have taken advantage of that and they can get a high quality legal review at a very reasonable cost, and get it done in a very quick time frame. And that’s a solution that we put in place just because the need is out in the industry.
We’re hearing of a lot of other needs. We’re working with our members, and there are other things we’ll look at on that. Obviously, we’ve put it into a for-profit structure, not because we’re trying to go out make a bunch of money off of it, but part of that’s just the way that our legal counsel has told we need to represent this. And we’ll look for lots of different ways to provide services that are out there, but Gretchen’s a great person to do this. We’ll also obviously lean on her and her prior CIO experience to help us with a lot of other initiatives within CHIME, but in particular, we’ve tapped her to really lead this new area for us that we think has a lot of potential to help our members in their daily operations and to be successful.
Gamble: And then of course, I didn’t want to forget you also have a new Director of Communications and Public Relations with Matt Weinstock. I know that all the media people know him very well, so it’s good to see that he’ll be the media face of CHIME.
Branzell: It is absolutely fortunate that Matt joined our team. We are sad to see Stephanie [Fraser] go. She was just an incredible part of the CHIME family and team, and the industry as a whole, but if there was a person that can step into her footsteps, Matt Weinstock is a great person. He’s very well known in the industry, very well respected. He will continue the programs that are in place, and is already making a big impact in coming up with some new areas for us to not only spread the word of technology out there and what can be done, but also just continue to support a great team that’s moving forward.
Gamble: Okay, great. I look forward to seeing him. And I guess the last thing I wanted to talk about was that little event you have going on in a couple of weeks.
Branzell: Yeah, it’s going to be a busy time this fall; we have a lot of different things going on. We have our initial meeting for our new associations, which is going to be kind of a combined education and board meeting. Obviously, with those organizations being brand new — some of them just barely a year old or not even a year old, it’s going to be a smaller meeting. We’ll do that prior to CHIME.
We’ve got our largest boot camp ever for education prior to our Fall Forum, and then we have our CHIME Fall Forum coming up in Orlando, and we’re very excited about this program. Just like everything we mentioned, with all of our programs, everything we do in CHIME is to support our membership, both our CIO members and other HIT professionals, as well as our foundation.
So we’ve really made a big effort to make this fall event not only extremely valuable, but also extremely relaxing. We’ve really pushed hard for this to be an event for people to come, to take a deep breath, and catch their breaths from the industry’s pace that’s going on out there. We’re highly encouraging everyone to come pretty casual. We’re referring to it as tropical or Hawaiian casual while they’re there. We want them to come, take a deep breath, and relax, and we’re going to have a lot of things there to help them through that process. We’ll provide some great education for them, some great speakers along the way, great track sessions and great sharing of ideas, which is one of the things we’re really pushing hard on right now, is this absolute sharing of good ideas to help propagate best practice in the industry.
Gamble: I’ve seen kind of a trend that more and more CIOs are talking about stealing and how we all need to be ‘stealing’ right now — kind of a tongue-in-cheek expression, but it’s true. When you know other people have been able to figure out a problem that you’re working on, it just makes complete sense to take from what they’re doing and actually, like you’re encouraging in CHIME, to reach out and ask them, ‘Hey, how did you do this?’ And this seems like that’s a good opportunity for that.
Branzell: Absolutely. We always joke around about what we’ll be remembered for in our career and I always say the only quote I’ll ever be remembered for is, ‘Plagiarism’s a skill, not a crime.’ We’re very fortunate that we have a lot of people willing to share their information. The process of gathering information from others and then tweaking it for yourself is so much more time efficient, rather than trying to be constantly innovating within your organization. So we think we’re really primed to start this process of pretty ubiquitous sharing of best practice and actually making it impactful for organizations.
Gamble: Right. And in taking a look at some of the track sessions covering different areas, which I think is obviously helpful, it’s interesting to me to see some emphasis too on the role itself of the CIO and how that’s evolving; kind of getting out in front of that and talking about that at this conference and doing it with the people who are affected by it.
Branzell: Both in our regional leadership and development events that we did this year on the role of what we’re now calling the CIO 3.0, as well as building that into our spring program that we did, it was really kind of a propagation across all of the themes of the Fall Forum. And this isn’t just for the CIO, it’s really for HIT leaders.
We could say it for HIT reporters as well and the press, like yourself — everyone’s got to up their game for us to be successful. And what we really have coined as the CIO 3.0 is the new transformational leader. Their job is to really help guide, direct, facilitate, and support a pretty radical transformation period of time in healthcare. Everyone’s calling for it, everyone’s pushing for it, and the CIO in particular — but all HIT leaders, whether it’s CMIOs or nursing informatics or vendors themselves — all are going to have to improve their skill sets to a point in which they really are primed to not just support, which we have done a lot of in our careers and during this period of time, but actually also drive and identify and work through these process changes and organizational dynamics to create great change that actually has great outcomes.
And so I think that’s a goal for us not only in our track sessions and in looking for great things to do, but also in our speakers as well, and we’re fortunate to have a lot of great speakers during the event but three in particular that really fit in that model of helping the CIOs and helping our leaders be successful.
Shawn Achor is a well-known author-speaker on balance in life. One of the things that we worry right now about — and we try not worry about many things — is just the pace and the burden of work right now that’s being placed on individuals in all sectors of the HIT industry. Whether it be everything from the vendor side to the CIO side to the organizations themselves, to the people that utilize the solutions, there’s just a pace of change that’s so stressful that life itself is getting out of balance. If it was not out of balance before, it’s now so extremely out of balance that we’re seeing burnout, we’re seeing severe stress, we’re seeing things that we haven’t historically seen. We’ve seen stress — that’s true of all executives, but not to this degree, and so we’re fortunate to have a speaker like that coming in that will help with some of that education and understanding on how to deal with that.
Dr. Fareed Zakaria most people know from TV, from articles, and from books that are out there, but I think his point will really be about understanding this landscape of change that we’re about to going into, understanding the transformational requirements to have a successful health industry as we move forward.
And I think what will be a blast is our last speaker, Pamela Meyer. I’ve joked with Keith [Fraidenburg] that I try to be one of the most truthful people in life, but I’m a little afraid even to go on stage because she is an expert on lying and finding liars and telling the truth in everything you do. And so I told Keith I’m going to send him out on stage and see if she can catch him on something. But she’ll be a motivational speaker as well as an expert on understanding the criticality of open and honest personal relationships, so if something’s not going well, you should be honest about that and tell people exactly how it might work or not work, and so I think she’ll be a great speaker.
So along with our track sessions, our breakouts, our time together networking, we think we’re poised for a great fall program with one of our largest crowds ever. It continues to ramp up, but it’s really less about size than it is impact. And we’re really excited about the impact that this event has, both to create a casual learning environment and networking environment, but be impactful at the same time, which we think we’re poised for both.
Gamble: That sounds good. I know I’m excited for it. For the people in the media, it’s a really great opportunity to get in front of the people we talk to, but in a casual way. We appreciate that, so I am definitely looking forward to it.
Branzell: You all are always welcome, to say the least. We consider the press to be our partners in getting out these positive stories and identifying areas we can improve, and so you are an absolute welcomed part of the CHIME family and team, and so I think we’re going to have our largest press presence ever at this one. As a matter of fact, I already know we are, and so it’ll be great to get the stories out as well as a few critiques of the things we can continue to work on and do better.
Gamble: All right, great. Well, thanks as always for taking some time to speak with us and I definitely look forward to seeing you in a couple of weeks.
Branzell: Thank you very much for all you do.