INDUSTRY EXCLUSIVE: CHIME’s Russ Branzell Speaks First to HCI on New Initiatives, ONC

Feb. 23, 2014
On the morning of the CHIME-HIMSS Forum, being held Feb. 23 in Orlando, CHIME’s president and CEO, Russ Branzell, spoke first with HCI’s Mark Hagland about new CHIME initiatives, his first impressions of Dr. Karen DeSalvo, and the path ahead for the association

On the morning of the CHIME-HIMSS Forum, being held Feb. 23 at the Hyatt Regency Orlando, and sponsored by the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), CHIME president and CEO Russell P. Branzell, following opening remarks at the Forum, spoke first to Healthcare Informatics regarding several new initiatives taking place on behalf of CHIME members, as well as his first impressions working with the new National Coordinator for Health IT, Karen DeSalvo, M.D. , who took over the helm at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) on Jan. 13.

This morning, CHIME announced several new initiatives intended to enhance its educational and information initiatives on behalf of its healthcare IT executive membership. Those initiatives included:

  • The creation of three new membership groups within CHIME, to be rolled out sequentially. Those new groups will be dedicated to chief information security officers, chief technology officers, and chief applications officers. According to Branzell, there is the potential for well over 1,000 members to be added to each of these three new membership groups, which will be opened up, in that order, during 2014.
  • The creation of educational partnerships with both the Association of Medical Directors of Information Systems (AMDIS) and the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation, to offer two specialized programs based on CHIME’s popular Healthcare CIO Boot Camp.
  • Meanwhile, CHIME announced it is also bringing back its LEAD Forums as one-day regional programs focused around particular topics, as well as increasing the number of online educational opportunities.
  • The planned rollout of CIO Advisory Boards, with an initial emphasis on offering services to CHIME Foundation firm members.

CHIME is also developing a CHIME Speakers’ Bureau, to match qualified speakers with organizations that contact CHIME for speaking services.

At the moment of the announcements, CEO Branzell sat down with HCI’s Editor-in-Chief Mark Hagland, to discuss a wide variety of topics, including some of the announcements. Below are excerpts from that interview.

Let’s begin by talking briefly about the creation of the three new membership groups within CHIME. When will they be launched?

It’s official that we’re launching today. The security officer group should launch in the  late spring or early summer. The others will launch a quarter or two each after that.

How do you view creation of these groups strategically?

I think it’s critical as part of our mission to support healthcare information executives; that’s always been true for CHIME. What we’re doing here is making sure we’re supporting our CIOs and their staffs in all aspects of healthcare IT management.

Now, though you officially started as president and CEO on April 1 of last year, you actually had begun work earlier than that, last year.

Yes. I officially started in April, but really started prior to the Spring Forum, as a “very busy volunteer.” J

So after a year, does anything look different to you?

Well, I think significantly, yes. First, in terms of our public policy, we’ve truly shifted from taking a reactive stance to taking a proactive stance; instead of working “at” government agencies, we’re working with government agencies. And the next thing that’s different now is just the overall collaborative theme here; that level of collaboration did not exist a year ago. We really now have truly meaningful partnerships with a very wide range of associations. And the fact that a dozen different association leaders are sitting at our event today—a year ago, we would have none. So both of those things reflect a collaborative approach to creating change.

Internally, we’ve created an entirely new strategic planning, performance evaluation, and goal evaluation process. Last year, we hit 100 percent of achieving well over 25 strategic goals for the organization, by monitoring performance. And that process also helped us identify four key goals: education expansion, advisory services, speakers’ bureau, and new member organizations. Those were the top four out of 18 prioritized initiatives. This year, we’ll probably have 20 to 25 more initiatives. So if you look at this in terms of what you can achieve in an association, we’ve got about five years of pent-up demand for strategic development in the organization, on behalf of our members.

So we’re proud of where we’re at, but we’re not going to be pride-full. We know that there’s still so much potential for doing other things; because in the end, the reason we exist is to take care of our membership.

In terms of CHIME becoming considerably more assertive in the policy arena, has it turned out to be more challenging than expected?

Understanding how to navigate the system in Washington has turned out to be more complex than I had expected. Now, all the agencies, politicians want to do the right thing. We want to be a facilitator and glue to help bring things together, and I think everybody wanted that. And as we all work together as associations, we can get more done, we can get a more consolidated message out there; and as you get a consolidated message out there, the policy leaders actually eek you out. And where I felt we hit our stride was when Washington agencies, legislative and executive branches, started seeking our input as they were developing policies. And what comes out then, is usually pretty easily supported. Patient matching was a great example of that.

What are your hopes for working with the ONC in the next year or so? And what have been your first impressions of Dr. DeSalvo?

Dr. DeSalvo and I got to spend some time together in Washington two weeks ago. I am very impressed with her. What she did in New Orleans [as Health Commissioner] was amazing. I think she wants to do the right things in the right way. I think what she’ll carry forward in terms of Farzad’s [Farzad Mostashari, M.D., the immediate past National Coordinator] legacy is a personality of collaborativeness. And we bonded instantly, learning that we’re both University of Texas alumni. [smiles] I think she’ll take the positive things and advance them, the ones already created, and will bring forward her own new positive things. I’m very, very optimistic working with her.

So are you an approachable leader, or someone who’s going to work on the programs from behind? She is an upfront leader. And in this case, it’s very critical that we have an upfront leader, and she seems to be that person.

Overall, are you optimistic about the prospects for the next year for CHIME?

As always, I am cautiously optimistic. As I always say, “Semper Gumby,” always be flexible! We always have to make our plans and then stay flexible. And when I say we, I’m not just talking about me and the staff, me and the board, I’m talking about the organization and the members. We do need to continue to make significant changes on behalf of members. And our partnership today with NextWave Connect represents a $1,000 benefit to every CHIME member. If you look at the cost of a membership, that represents a 3X return, just based on that. And that probably wouldn‘t have existed in the past. And it’s due to the board membership: they’re cautiously “go, go, go.”

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