Danny Scott considers himself to be ‘a cheerleader by nature.’ Perhaps that’s why he wasn’t fazed by the idea of taking on an IS leadership role just weeks before a scheduled Epic go-live. And it wasn’t a simple conversation; Good Samaritan was migrating from an in-house EHR to a hosted Epic model. The staff, understandably, were “shell-shocked,” but Scott saw it as an opportunity to create a better environment.
Three years later, the IS department at Good Sam is barely recognizable. Not only are service and ticket management processes in place, but now, thanks to an enormous effort, IT is viewed as a “true partner.”
Recently, healthsystemCIO spoke with Scott how he was able to develop a strategic plan, the change in thinking that was sorely needed among IS staff, and the importance of communicating and assessing needs when creating a strategic plan. He also talks about why he’s “excited, but anxious” about the future of healthcare, the skills he believes are most valuable, and how his background has helped shape him as a leader.
- 35 years in IS – “I’ve been blessed to have a lot of opportunities.”
- “Excited, but anxious” about the future of healthcare
- Consumer-driven care: “They’re going to demand convenience, flexibility & affordability.”
- Creating high-performers
- Attitude over technical skills
- “I’m a cheerleader by nature.”
- Leadership philosophy: “I’m here if you need me, but I’m not going to micromanage.”
- CIO’s role as marketer
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I’m at a point now where I get to take on more of a leadership role, and I absolutely love it. I love coming to work every day and seeing what opportunities come up.
Ultimately, our consumers are going to drive what we do. They’re going to demand convenience, flexibility, and affordability. They’re going to demand that, and we have to be able to deliver.
My job as a leader is to pave the way and say, ‘Go do what you’ve got to do. I’m here if you need me, but I’m not going to micromanage. You’re smart enough. You know what you’re doing; go make it happen.’
You need those stoplights and checkpoints in IT as well. You’re going to get from point A to point B. It may not be as fast as you want, but you’re ultimately going to get there; that’s what change management does.
It’s all about marketing. That’s what we’re doing all the time — selling ourselves. Making sure people realize the value we bring.
Gamble: Let’s talk about your background. You seem to have a good variety of experience; I’m sure it’s beneficial having worked in different capacities.
Scott: I’ve been in IT for over 35 years and I’ve been very blessed to have a lot of opportunities. I started out in operations. I like to tell people stories about data centers; now they’re all dark, but back in the day they were full of people running around like crazy. I’ve had a lot great experience, from working in a big shop to networking to the service desk.
At one point, I was with a large health system that went from having a three-person help desk to a 24/7/365 service desk. I was on the team that helped build that and put all the processes and procedures together. And in fact, I ended up managing and leading that effort. We went through a whole outsourcing engagement, which was a nightmare, to say the least. If you ever want to know what it’s like to be outsourced, I can tell you some stories. But even though it was bad from one perspective, it was also good, because it gave me the opportunity to do other things. That’s when I became involved in IT change management from a service management perspective. I did that for many years and was able to gain experience working with clients.
Right before I came here, I worked for an organization that had 2,500 IT associates. It was a massive shop, and my department was solely doing IT change management. That’s what we did all day: manage the hundreds of changes that happened daily.
It’s been great to have the opportunity to do so many different things. I’ve built servers. I’ve done router configurations — a lot of crazy stuff and fun stuff. I’m at a point now where I get to take on more of a leadership role, and I absolutely love it. I love coming to work every day and seeing what opportunities come up. To me, the most exciting thing is what I see happening in the next 10 years. It’s exciting beyond belief. We’re going to see some incredible things, and hopefully I’ll get to be part of that.
Gamble: It’s so interesting to try to picture what things are going to look like. When you look at healthcare and health IT specifically, there have been fits and starts. But in general, do you feel good about the direction things are going?
Scott: I’m excited, but I’m also anxious. It’s exciting when you think about the technology coming out where people can do a self-diagnosis from home and send that information electronically to a primary care physician. They’re getting the information to them without that extra step. That’s exciting.
And there’s telehealth. We recently kicked off an initiative where we set up a telehealth system at a local school. This way, parents don’t have to pick up their kids and take them to the doctor; we can do that at school. We have a video system set up where the physician can speak with the nurse at the school. And then, if it’s necessary, they can have the student come in for a visit. Or, they can just write a script, depending on the issue, and have the parents pick it up after school, and the student can return to class.
That’s exciting. I see more and more technology coming out — like AI, for example — that has the potential to change the world. But a lot of this is being driven by the government in terms of having EHR systems in place and promoting interoperability. That takes human resources. It takes capital. I’m happy about what’s coming, but my number one concern is, who’s going to pay for all of it?
When you look at us, we’re an independent hospital. We don’t have a $100 million budget, and yet we need to be competitive, because ultimately, our consumers are going to drive what we do. They’re going to demand convenience, flexibility, and affordability. They’re going to demand that, and we have to be able to deliver. The question is, how do you deliver all of that and stay financially viable? That’s the key. I love the technology. I love what’s coming. I love what I see, but again, a lot of that is being mandated by the government. They’re telling you that these things have to be done, and so you have to go out and do it to some degree. But who’s paying for all of it? That’s my concern.
Gamble: It’s a legitimate concern. You talked earlier about being great with what you have, which a lot of leaders can relate to. I would think it’s going to be even more important going forward to have that mentality.
Scott: Right. And if you think about it, it doesn’t cost anything to be a decent human being. We talk a lot within our leadership team about what it takes to be a high performer. Last year I was able to attend the CHIME Boot Camp, which was a fantastic experience. I made a lot of great friends and learned a lot. At one of the panel discussions, I asked, ‘Do you expect every employee to be a high performer?’ And it was interesting because everyone looked back and forth at each other, and a few of them said, ‘Yes, I do.’
I came back and posed that question to my team, and ultimately my whole staff: should everybody in the organization be a high performer? I think ultimately the answer is yes, that’s what you’re hired to be. We don’t hire people and say, ‘hey, go out there every day and give us a 20 percent effort.’ We say, ‘Go out there every day and give 100 percent.’ And that doesn’t cost anything. Having a positive, can-do attitude doesn’t cost anything.
I recently spoke with a bunch of college kids about what I look for in résumés and interviews. I told them about the profile I use when meeting with people who want to work for our organization. I listed about 10 criteria, including work ethic, positive attitude, customer experience mentality, and other things along those lines. The last item on the list was technical skills. When I asked if they found anything interesting about the list, one person said, ‘Yes. Technical skills are at the bottom,’ and I said, ‘Exactly.’
Things like work ethic are much more important. I told them, ‘I can teach you anything. You’re going to get basic skills in college, but a lot is going to be learned on the job. You’re going to continue to learn throughout your career.’ I’m in my 50s, and I’m still learning every day. That’s what people are looking for. That’s what employers are looking for.
To your point of doing the best with what we have, that can-do attitude and being willing to make the extra effort and do whatever it takes to meet the needs of our customers, and ultimately our consumers — that doesn’t cost a penny. It’s about having the right positive attitude and giving 100 percent. I have a lot of people like that on my team. I’ve told people, I’ll put these guys up against anybody. There are some giant systems out there, but I’ve got one amazing staff here.
Gamble: It’s pretty clear from speaking to you that you really have a passion for this. That’s so important for people to see that in a leader.
Scott: I’m a cheerleader by nature. My wife and I help a lot of people. We’ve hosted exchange students through the years. We love supporting people. I’m a coach by nature. I’m a big cheerleader, and people seem to respond well to that. My job as a leader is to pave the way and say, ‘Go do what you’ve got to do. I’m here if you need me, but I’m not going to micromanage. You’re smart enough. You know what you’re doing; go make it happen. I’m here to help.’
Gamble: When you look at the past three years at Good Samaritan, I’m sure it’s been a whirlwind. But in general, are you satisfied with how things are progressing?
Scott: Absolutely. If you look at where we were and what we’ve become, it’s unbelievable. We just have so much more structure around what we do after putting in processes and procedures. All of that is required, because that’s how you manage the chaos. The way I used to teach change management in ITIL services was to compare it to stoplights. Everyone hates stoplights. They’re a pain. They get in your way, but we have stoplights because they manage the chaos. Without them, there would constantly be accidents. You need those stoplights and checkpoints in IT as well. You’re going to get from point A to point B. It may not be as fast as you want, but you’re ultimately going to get there; that’s what change management does. And so all of those processes and procedures help manage the chaos.
The thing I’m most excited about in terms of what we’ve done is that people truly see the value of what IT brings the organization. That’s what our greatest accomplishment has been. People will say, ‘those guys in IS are fantastic. They’re top quality people. They care about what they’re doing. Anytime we do anything, we have them at the table with us, because we need them in order to be able to do what we need to do.’ That’s what I’m most excited about.
Gamble: You used the word ‘marketing’ before; that’s very fitting. It seems like it has fallen on IT to educate people and let them know not just what IT does, but how IT can be a partner.
Scott: Right. During my first three months here, I went around and met with every single leader in the organization. I said, ‘Here’s my philosophy. Here’s what we do. We’re here to enable. We’re here to help you get what you need to help your customers.’ People appreciated it so much that somebody actually took the time and effort to do that.
I actually created a brochure discussing what each of our new departments do. And so, as new leaders were hired, I made it a point to introduce with them, and I’d always hand them one of those books. It’s a marketing tool, but it’s what we need to do. ‘Here’s what we do for you. Here’s the value.’
When I meet with senior leadership, it’s an update meeting, but it’s also marketing. I’m letting senior leadership know the value we bring to the organization. ‘Here’s all the work we’re doing.’ Some of them will say, ‘Wow, I didn’t realize all that was going on or happening.’ It’s all about marketing. That’s what we’re doing all the time — selling ourselves. Making sure people realize the value we bring.
Gamble: Well, I think that should about wrap it up. There’s always more to talk about, and I definitely hope we can speak again down the road.
Scott: Absolutely. I’m a very passionate person. I could literally talk about this for five hours.
Gamble: I appreciate your perspective, and the passion you have for being a CIO really comes through.
Scott: Good. I’m all about helping others. Just last week I spoke to someone whose organization was getting ready to go live with a whole new EHR system, but they still had some doubts. So I said, ‘I’ll come over there and we’ll have lunch or sit and talk, and I’ll tell you what I did and the lessons I learned about what to do and what not to do.’ It doesn’t cost a penny. It’s about developing relationships and helping each other. We’re all trying to survive at the end of the day. That’s all we’re trying to do. Whatever I can do to help somebody else survive, that’s what I’ll do, because I know when the time comes, they’re going to help me as well.
Gamble: Great. Thank you so much, and I’ll be in touch soon.
Scott: All right, take care.