CIO Chat – Cletis Earle, Penn State Health

This is a guest post provided by Cletis Earle, Senior Vice President and CIO at Penn State Health. Huntzinger periodically invites its clients and partners to contribute to The Huntzinger Blog.

By Cletis Earle, MS, CHCIO
Senior Vice President and CIO
Penn State Health

Time in Healthcare

30 years. I started my career working at the FDNY, and then I transitioned into working on the hospital side and, eventually, into IT.

Time in current role

Just about six months.

What are the greatest current challenges facing Healthcare IT?

The main challenge is the growth and change that the industry constantly faces. Healthcare is going through a major shift when it comes to taking care of patients with the triple aim. Add that to the physician burnout component – where they are being asked to do more with less – and the move from fee-for-service to a value-based care model.

Healthcare is looking to IT to accommodate these multiple needs while successfully implementing tools for the organization to achieve its goals. We’re moving at a pace that we’re not accustomed to maintaining and to keep up with the varying dynamics of change, we need specific skill sets and the ability to adapt to these changes that are taking place.

What will be the next major impact area of IT on Healthcare?

The healthcare industry needs to learn how to use its information more effectively. The industry is currently sitting on a treasure trove of data. That information needs to be accessed and analyzed for organizations to better understand their business needs. This means aggregating data from many different areas within the organization.

IT staffs need to get people the information they need. Plus, patients are becoming savvier with technology, and their information needs are evolving. Information needs to be consumable, and we in IT need to be better at how we deliver it. We need to look at value in a different way – not only at the value of data, but how we can best use it and get it into the hands of those who need it. Our customers are not just clinicians and payers but also our patients.

What is the biggest challenge of being a Healthcare CIO?

The industry’s payment model is fluctuating. Margins are starting to suffer, and without those margins, there is no mission. This makes it difficult to invest in technology.

Organizations are focusing on removing costs and, unfortunately, technology is one area that is experiencing budget cuts. The trend is to move more dollars to the bedside, but technology budget cuts make it nearly impossible for IT technologists to do their jobs successfully. The industry is cutting off the legs of IT professionals.

One thing that CIOs and organizations need to focus on is working better together. It’s imperative that we collaborate to take better care of the patient, as that is the ultimate customer we serve. We need care to be delivered in the most appropriate ways. The recent COVID-19 emergency is an example of how we need to more effectively collaborate to manage information, to set expectations for our customers and to deliver the best care.

This is a world where people can go to an ATM almost anywhere and withdraw cash. We need to adopt the same principle so that a patient can get care from anywhere. We need to catch up and do better.