July 30, 2021: Cybersecurity is like Whack-a-Mole. You think you have one thing covered but the bad guys are 10 steps ahead of you. Cletis Earle, CIO for Penn State Health discusses the best approach to the growing cybersecurity threats plus telehealth, ERP, supply chain, return to work and the ever changing CIO role. How do you build a new hospital tower, new HR system, new time management system and a new rev cycle all in three months? What are the major challenges in terms of managing these projects? How do you stay connected to your staff in a remote world? And has being a successful CIO become more of an art than science?
Being Flexible as a Leader with Cletis Earle of Penn State Health
Episode 430: Transcript – July 30, 2021
This transcription is provided by artificial intelligence. We believe in technology but understand that even the smartest robots can sometimes get speech recognition wrong.
[00:00:00] Bill Russell: [00:00:00] Thanks for joining us on This Week in Health IT influence. My name is Bill Russell, former healthcare CIO for 16 hospital system and creator of This Week in Health IT, a channel dedicated to keeping health IT staff current and engaged. Today, we are joined by Cletis Earle the CIO for Penn State Health.
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[00:00:36] Just a quick note, before we get to our show, we launched a new podcast Today in Health IT. We look at one story every weekday morning and we break it down from a health IT perspective. You can subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts. Apple, Google, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast. You name it, we’re out there. You can also go to todayinhealthit.com. And now onto today’s show. [00:01:00] Today, we are joined by Cletis Earle the CIO for Penn State Health. Cletis welcome back to the show.
[00:01:05] Cletis Earle: [00:01:05] Thanks for having me Bill. It’s a pleasure being back.
[00:01:07] Bill Russell: [00:01:07] Man I love the Nittany Lions behind you. It looks, it looks really awesome. Of course I grew up in Pennsylvania and I know what a big deal Penn state is to to the people of Pennsylvania so.
[00:01:18]Cletis Earle: [00:01:18] It’s a pleasure being here. I’m very proud to have the lion on my bed is my background. And just being part of an organization that is has a reputation [00:01:30] of excellence. So very happy to be here.
[00:01:32] Bill Russell: [00:01:32] Yeah, absolutely. You got the dogs in the background. Are you working from home?
[00:01:36] Cletis Earle: [00:01:36] Yeah I’m working from home. So sorry about the background noise if you hearing it.
[00:01:39]Bill Russell: [00:01:39] Oh no we’ve all gotten used to it. It’s this, this is just part of the world we live in these days. So if people hear the dogs in the back, they sound like significant dogs. What kind of dogs?
[00:01:48] Cletis Earle: [00:01:48] Bernedoodles. So they we, we ended up getting two brothers, two siblings and part of the pandemic and they, we didn’t know the size. They [00:02:00] ended up being really big. So we have two, two big Bernedoodles. Yeah.
[00:02:03]Bill Russell: [00:02:03] I understand that was a thing. I mean, there was a lot of pet adoptions during the pandemic and I guess it’s not hard to figure out why that is but my daughter adopted a dog as well. And she was saying she had to wait.
[00:02:16] She had to wait almost I think almost two months before she could get a dog, because they were, they were all adopted.
[00:02:23] Cletis Earle: [00:02:23] It was adopted whether it’s the kennels, whether it’s the all the centers, it was tough. [00:02:30] I mean, the biggest, biggest, one of the biggest industries that had a great time was the dog industry.
[00:02:37] As a matter of fact, we’re still seeing components of it. Try to get your dog groomed. Now it’s almost impossible to try to get your dog groomed. So yeah, we’re seeing remnants of that. We hope everybody continues to keep the dogs though. Do not return them, right? Yes. That was the concern that people were just doing it for the pandemic, if you weren’t a dog lover.
[00:02:57] Bill Russell: [00:02:57] Yeah, it’s been interesting. We’re going to get into some of those [00:03:00] questions, but I want you to tell us about Penn State Health a little bit. Give us a little background. So you’re new there. You, the last time we talked, you were with Kaleida Health.
[00:03:10] Cletis Earle: [00:03:10] Kaleida and Great Lake Health West New York. Yep. And I came over to Penn State and Penn state and college of medicine as well. And state health in psychology and medicine. And it came here at the end of 2019 which my career with a good portion of [00:03:30] the career here at Penn State was pandemic, right. A few, a few weeks in then we started to see a pandemic and really had to pivot relatively quickly.
[00:03:39] So you can imagine just like any other CIO who started last year. It was a very interesting time to start a new organization. Transformation, I can’t even tell you pivoting. I can’t even tell you how many times we had to pivot and transform. Not the traditional onboarding of a new CIO when you, when you come in here, you take care of the things that you really need to [00:04:00] take care of. I’m actually now starting to do many of my much of those elements a year and a half later. Because we just did not have the opportunity. We were heads down and really remediating to getting the entire workforce to work from home.
[00:04:16] I wouldn’t say the entire, obviously we have care providers, but a good portion of our workforce. We got them to be at home and then moving into the whole vaccination component. So very interesting dynamics up till recently, [00:04:30] vaccines. And now as globally going down as far as utilization. So we’re now getting back to normal believe it or not.
[00:04:37] Bill Russell: [00:04:37] Yeah, well as normal as it can get for a healthcare CIO.
[00:04:41] Cletis Earle: [00:04:41] Whatever, whatever normal that normal is.
[00:04:43] Bill Russell: [00:04:43] I remember somebody asked me how many projects are you currently working on to your health system? I was like, I think it’s like a hundred and twenty, a hundred twenty five. And they’re just like, you know which one do you give priority to? I’m like some days it’s whichever one I need to give a priority to. And other days you’re more strategic. It’s just, there’s a [00:05:00] lot going on.
[00:05:01] Cletis Earle: [00:05:01] 125. That’s a light day.
[00:05:05] Bill Russell: [00:05:05] So talk about, talk about Penn state health a little bit. So are you in a Harrisburg state college?
[00:05:11]Cletis Earle: [00:05:11] So we have about six or seven and wil be eight, depending on how you look at it. Different locations, whether the majority of our facilities are in central Pennsylvania, central Pennsylvania, proper. We are in my corporate area in Hershey. Sweetest [00:05:30] place on in the United States. It’s a really great dynamic.
[00:05:33] The majority of our organization centers around the college of medicine. Milton Hershey Medical Center was built to support the college of medicine. And that’s again, smack dab in Hershey, PA. We have other spokes out there or whether they’ve St Joe’s we have, we just took on another hospital from Geisinger, which is holy spirit. Building another hospital [00:06:00] in one of the areas on the west shore that’s going to be opening in less than 90 days from now Uncle Hampton Hospital. And we have another hospital that we’re building a brand new hospital on the east side of the shore called Lancaster. So again, multiple hospitals physical therapy or rehab hospital, Children’s hospital, adult hospital, where a collection of different facilities as we continue to grow in the region.
[00:06:27] Bill Russell: [00:06:27] Yeah, Hershey’s an interesting [00:06:30] place. I watched the documentary on Milton Hershey and that whole city was meant to be sort of a planned community that was built around his staff and his employees and providing them the best healthcare best education environment.
[00:06:45] Cletis Earle: [00:06:45] Yeah. If he’s not one, he’s going to be a Saint, that guy, that man is an absolute amazing. If you you’re that you saw the story about the man. Absolutely amazing what he’s been able to do and that culture that he’s established in that community [00:07:00] resonates throughout our health system. And that’s why it’s so important on all the things that we’re doing and how we’re looking to just really look out for them.
[00:07:07]Bill Russell: [00:07:07] I’m sorry, I digress once again, but I played golf once in Hershey and the whole time I smelled chocolate. And I have to apologize cause I did work. My internship was at M and M Mars in Hackettstown, Jersey. And there was plenty every morning you drove into town in Hackettstown and all you could smell is chocolate as far as you …… I mean, is it hard to lose weight in the [00:07:30] Hershey with the smell of chocolate?
[00:07:31] Cletis Earle: [00:07:31] Yeah, you smell it. And it’s just, it’s just what it is. You get, you get used to it. I don’t know if you could ever get used to it but at least you crack a smile when you smell the chocolate.
[00:07:41]Bill Russell: [00:07:41] So what’s the role the CIO entails? We’ve seen the CIO go in a lot of different directions. Digital CDO, CIO that kind of stuff. What does it entail at Penn state health and the college of medicine?
[00:07:54] Cletis Earle: [00:07:54] Yeah. So the CIO here and again, the dog’s barking really loud. I’m sorry but the CIO [00:08:00] here, you know what we’re traditional method.
[00:08:02] But when you add as a CIO for the college there’s a different element because it’s not just your traditional elder care technology but it’s around research, it’s health sciences. It’s a university and there’s a different dynamic on how we manage that way right. So we, we, I do see the CIO role continuing to evolve in that digital manner as we do the [00:08:30] traditional healthcare CIO things but as we move and I think the COVID processes expedited the initiative of being more digital. So in essence our customers now expect to use technology. They used it, many of them have used it to do vaccines and other things that they’ve been able to do, people are remote now. So I see this as a more of a natural progression of the [00:09:00] CIO helping in transitioning into that digital officer to allow for a better connectivity to our customers where they are. And I think that’s a demand that we’re seeing from the communities that we’re serving.
[00:09:15]Bill Russell: [00:09:15] The college of medicine and the academic medical centers a significant data load to lift because there’s all that research going on. There’s also grants and that kind of stuff going on. There’s just so many things that maybe aren’t completely different, but [00:09:30] they’re bigger in scope and scale and what I’ve heard from other academic medical centers is you have a pretty tech savvy group of people that have gotten grant money and are very th they have a lot of ingenuity.
[00:09:42] They tend to do things on their own and figure things out and put together these things. And then as the CIO, it’s sort of like, okay, put the security wrapper around this, put the, put the all the things you need to put around it.
[00:09:53] Cletis Earle: [00:09:53] Yeah, you just described AMC too. It’s a very accurate point. We are traditional where our [00:10:00] one facility, right. So research is inherently where we were involved in and petabytes and petabytes of data that we have to support, whether it’s on a research side, whether it’s on a traditional data side. So it’s not easy. They’re resourceful as you could say, our research is resourceful.
[00:10:21] They want what they want and rightfully so because they get grants. We have to be mindful of that. And we have to understand that there’s [00:10:30] challenges, particularly around intellectual property that we have to preserve, protect, and preserve. So there’s that fine line of allowing and enabling our researchers to be as transformative as they can to help them with their initiatives.
[00:10:46] But there is that sensitivity that we still have to protect the information. Right. And that’s where I have partnered with our CISO Matt Snyder. Amazing [00:11:00] individual to help tTransform the organization and deliver what we need to while keeping ourselves productive. In today’s world it’s actually very much an issue. As you can see the white house issued a release about security.
[00:11:15] And when they’re starting to talk about, Hey, we made it consider cyber threats no different than a terrorist threat. And we won’t be able to pay ransoms. Guess what? That’s a game changer, [00:11:30] right? Those are things that we need to start thinking through in a much more comprehensive way than we ever did before.
[00:11:37] Bill Russell: [00:11:37] Yeah, I’m going to, I’m going to come back to security. Actually I’m gonna march through some hot topics of the day. We’ll talk security, return to work. We’ll talk telehealth a little bit. But before I get to those things, what’s top of mind? As you look at this week or this month, what’s top of mind right now for the CIO at Penn State.
[00:11:54] Cletis Earle: [00:11:54] Yeah. So for me, we have about four major initiatives that are [00:12:00] going on, where we’re doing a new ERP solution. Actually that ERP solution is going to be going live in less than 15 days. We have a new revenue cycle system that’s going live and about four weeks we have a red sketch solution and the new hospital opening in October.
[00:12:24] So between now and the end of the year, we have projects that [00:12:30] would normally take companies, they would dedicate on that solely, singularly really. We have three or four of them happening all at one time. That’s for me, with, to be frank, it is the number one thing. Our board asked us Hey, has anything changed even though COVID was going on, did the landscape of our strategy change?
[00:12:53] Right. And the answer was no. So they said that you moved forward, you continue to march forward. And it’s great to [00:13:00] have a leadership. Steve Messina as CEO of ST with a phenomenal board to help direct us in that way. But it doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. We are going to have a lot of work and that’s basically top of mind for me right now.
[00:13:14] Bill Russell: [00:13:14] ERP, supply chain, a new hospital tower. Yeah sounds like a normal day.
[00:13:20] Cletis Earle: [00:13:20] HR, new HR system, new time management system, a new red skid system and new rev cycle. It’s yeah. [00:13:30] All in three months.
[00:13:35] Bill Russell: [00:13:35] Thanks for carving out at least an hour for us. We really appreciate it. Well, I guess, I guess we’ll see, we’ll see you next year after you’ve done all these projects.
[00:13:44]Cletis Earle: [00:13:44] You know what though, just to, to point, and this is good and bad of COVID . You know this hot topic. We have over the last year, we have established this process of doing things and working at the speed and pace which I don’t think it’s [00:14:00] sustainable. Right for a long haul. I’ve talked to a lot of colleagues and I know others feel the same way that it’s just draconian as far as the amount of work. This is what happens when the industry continues to evolve.
[00:14:12] So I think this is something that not just for me, I know a lot of other colleagues across the globe are experiencing very similar elements of the work that needs to get done. And it’s just going to be at a pace that we’re going to have to be able to manage in the near future.
[00:14:27] Bill Russell: [00:14:27] Yeah, I’ve yet to talk to a healthcare CIO who said [00:14:30] I’m bored. There doesn’t seem to be anything to do. Let’s March through some of the hot topics. I mean, these are just some of the things that keep coming up as we talk to CIOs. Return to work. How are you approaching this as a health system? Return to work onsite is probably the best.
[00:14:46] Cletis Earle: [00:14:46] Yeah. Yeah. So our organization we’ve decided that we’re going to, at least for the most part, particularly around the shared services that we give people options. Right. We give them a job. And we [00:15:00] are anticipating about 50% of the workforce that are non bedside, nonclinical at the bed will be hybrid.
[00:15:10] So we are in that process right now. Our IT division, we’re going through a change. So the changes we’re refabbing a building and it’s going to be our IT headquarters. And so that’s not going to be done. Oh, by the way, that too is going to be done at the end of the year.
[00:15:27] So you know where we’re going to move into [00:15:30] this new fabricated facility. We don’t have that space now. Right? We are consolidated. So for the good portion of our teams are gonna remain remote and in that hybrid state, until we move into a much more complete infrastructure or building. But the same thing applies to the rest of the organization.
[00:15:51] So whether it’s our financial teams and others, those that are traditional back office that are not required to be at the bedside, we [00:16:00] expect to see the same kind of facilitation for that workforce. So we do still see that about 50% will remain working in the hybrid space. So a lot of hoteling. Right. Making sure we facilitate the hoteling so when they come, they have ability to be onsite, but working through that element of being more, more flexible and how we manage our teams.
[00:16:24] Bill Russell: [00:16:24] Any major challenges from a management standpoint in terms of [00:16:30] managing these projects, managing these people, connecting with the people?
[00:16:33] Cletis Earle: [00:16:33] Yeah. Well, I think there’s a value that the fact that over the last year and a half, we’ve been able to manage people in different ways. Right. Particularly being remote. So I do think from our point of view, if we’re going to have people on site we need to have our managers. Figuring it out, right?
[00:16:51] So our goals are, you’re there, if there’s gonna be people on site, you have to have managers that have face time, right? So giving [00:17:00] people the ability to help them they, they want to be on site. They also want to interact with their managers and in that sense. So the goal here is we all need to just be more creative on how we’re adjusting to the hybrid model that we’re putting in place.
[00:17:15] And also what about the 50% of the folks that want to be on site permanently. So a hundred percent work at the office. So there is that collection of, well, we need to match the right manager, [00:17:30] right? If the manager wants to work from home a hundred percent and that staff member wants to be at the office a hundred percent, then there has to be some give and take.
[00:17:42] And that’s, I think that’s the biggest hurdle that we have to work through. I won’t pretend that we have it down. We are working through that dynamic now, but again, I know this is not just an IT thing, this is across the board and I think we’re just going to have to be as creative as [00:18:00] possible, to meet our, our, our customers and our customers being our employees. Right. Cause I always say we are all each other’s customer. So we are going to have to meet our teams in where they are so that we are recognizing their needs in order for us to be successful.
[00:18:15]Bill Russell: [00:18:15] We can talk about that for the next half hour. Let’s keep moving though. So Security, there’s there’s been several, let’s just call them warning shots across the valley at SkylLakes, St. Lawrence and others last year by the ransomware [00:18:30] attack but this one at Scripps.
[00:18:32] Scripps is a pretty big target that was taken offline. And what I wanted to ask you but really, without divulging too much about your security posture. How are you approaching this growing threat?
[00:18:45]Cletis Earle: [00:18:45] It’s tough. Again we talked about the academic side, right. That’s a whole other element. Segmentation looking at different elements of what your redundancies are.
[00:18:57]We’re just going through line by [00:19:00] line, looking at our weaknesses, looking at our threats. Typical SWOT analysis and trying to figure it out. I will not lie to you Bill, we’ve know each other long enough. It is not easy. It is not, this is more of an art than a science, because it’s like, Whack-a-Mole right. You think you have one thing covered and those bad guys are 10 steps ahead of you. So you don’t know where they’re going to come out from somewhere [00:19:30] else. and an organization such as a health system where, you know, at the biggest end of the stick of what the issues are. It’s the human factor, right? The human side. It’s very difficult to do that. We emphasize education, training, reinforcing that way. We’re taking very seriously what the white house is has issued and continue to work through some elements there and figuring, trying to figure it out as it’s, as a team, try to remove the lowest hanging fruit [00:20:00] of threat associated.
[00:20:02]At the end of the day, I always say this, that look, if the federal government gets compromised and they have billions trillions of dollars and a significant amount of staff, if they’re able to get compromised because of a state sponsored threat. We’re not going to be able to facilitate to stop it.
[00:20:24] So it’s not the typical, it’s not if but when. Our goal [00:20:30] is to, how do we remediate, right. We need to figure out an action plan to remediate and to, to, to get back up. And help mitigate the risk associated to exposure. So we can, again, try to remove the lowest hanging fruit of threat vectors to, to prevent the traditional snuck nose, a hacker that would want that’s in somebody’s garage that wants to come after us, but when it comes to the state sponsored [00:21:00] attacks, we just have to do as much as we can to plan for remediation efforts.
[00:21:05]Bill Russell: [00:21:05] Yeah. Security is so hard and I remember the, after the fr I took over as CIO for a health system, we did a, an assessment and we had 10 different areas and I just looked at it and I thought, my gosh, it’s gonna take us a decade to fill in all these gaps. Because they only have to find one entry point into the network and you have to protect, you have to protect all of them. Now, obviously we changed, we’ve changed how we think about [00:21:30] security. It’s not about just keeping themout. It’s also about identifying the anomalous traffic within the network and all those things and shutting that down and segmenting the network and all that stuff.
[00:21:44]It’s the work that keeps changing. Because in the fall it was Ray Ouk. And now it’s another version and we’re starting to see really sophisticated phishing attacks that people are actually using [00:22:00] names and information that they have harvested from social media and other things.
[00:22:05] So that the emails aren’t as clear as salary lists, PDFs, click on this. It’s a lot more like, Hey, Cletis, how you doing? Glad to see you’re back from vacation. Cause they got information from facebook and then the links are embedded in that and away they go, but that’s where they get so much more sophisticated and the emails start to look a lot like the other emails are [00:22:30] receiving from your colleagues.
[00:22:32] Cletis Earle: [00:22:32] Yeah. The key is question everything, right. I think that’s the methodology that you have to have and if it means slowing down and with your response, I have to tell you because we with phishing people like myself and CEO’s and other C titles, they’re are high target threat, right, to go after. So we have to just make sure that we’re being [00:23:00] very diligent on what we are selecting and what we’re responding to. It’s not easy because it’s there, your point is always a new vector. There’s always a new approach on. Everything’s a zero day when it comes to their new methodology of how they’re coming after us.
[00:23:19] Bill Russell: [00:23:19] So I, I assume telehealth was big during the pandemic for you as well as with every other health system. What’s next for telehealth at Penn state?
[00:23:27] Cletis Earle: [00:23:27] Well we continue to transform with [00:23:30] telehealth Bill we’re looking look, it wasn’t perfect. We, we used Amwell as a third party and we had that for years. Unlike any other health system, what they were able to do is roll it out and make it accessible as many of our practices and services shut down. What we’ve realized though, is it wasn’t, it was good, not perfect, but we had opportunities to improve and we’re in the process now of [00:24:00] integrating the technology in to the EMR. So we are an Amwell shop. We work with Cerner to make sure it’s integrated within the workflow so that our clinicians don’t have to come out of their system, go into another system, document, ake it back into another system, making it much more simple for clinical throughput so that in essence it has the best experience. We do, we did understand that there was a significant amount of [00:24:30] challenges with the customers on the other end of how they use it. Browsers, everything is not equal. You can’t guarantee that everybody’s going to use the same method to connect right on the consumer side of the shop.
[00:24:43] So the tools that we’re talking about using it’s it’s leveraging and ways that we can actually just be more thoughtful and practical where the technology can accommodate [00:25:00] all variations of customers on the backend on their front end or which is on our backend. So it’s just using it in different ways to have a better outcome. But integration is key. That’s going to be our that’s actually our number one follow up from what we learned last year.
[00:25:18] Bill Russell: [00:25:18] Yeah. So those are the two things that slow it down the most is not having a well-integrated internally. And then just the digital divide that exists outside of the four walls of the health system. I mean, you have [00:25:30] different populations and people may think you’re in Hershey and other world places, but you get far enough out and there’s, there’s a reason, most telehealth visits during the pandemic were actually tele visits. They were telephone visits because there still as a broadband and digital divide that exists.
[00:25:49] Cletis Earle: [00:25:49] There is. There’s a huge disconnect there. And we’re looking in many different ways to partner with broadband carriers to help change that. Where [00:26:00] there’s the Comcasts of the world which is in our region, Pennsylvania. Or the cellular providers to look at connections from that perspective. So we’re really looking at how do you help with that digital divide and that’s it. That’s a true problem.
[00:26:16] Bill Russell: [00:26:16] Yeah. That’s interesting. So I mean, is digital health going to accelerate or you think it will stay at the same pace or you think it’s going to slow down coming out of the pandemic?
[00:26:28] Cletis Earle: [00:26:28] I think it’s going to [00:26:30] accelerate times 10. I think we’re at the cost of greatness. Talk about going back to cyber for a second. As the continued evolution of cyber and using artificial intelligence. I do believe that we’re going to have to have AI fight AI. Right? When it comes to those who are attacking us, we’re going to need it. As quantum computing becomes a thing as we get down towards the zero nanometers. [00:27:00] We’re down to two now, right? Other two nanometers now going down from the chip size to zero. And I think that we’re so close to that side, that tipping the scale it’s gonna tip so much that we’re going to take advantage of that.
[00:27:14] And I say to people, the future is not 10 years from now, the future is now we’re seeing elements of that happen inherantly every day. These are tipping points that are happening all around this. So I think the evolution, the digital transformation [00:27:30] is imperative to compliment that.
[00:27:32]Bill Russell: [00:27:32] You bring up that AI fighting AI. And when we were trying to identify anomalies on the network, back in 2013, 2014, we had to set up actual rules. Look for this and if you see this, then this, and what we have now is tools that are going out there watching the traffic across the network using machine learning and saying, okay, this is what normal looks like.
[00:27:54] And then at some point when it changes it’s generating alerts and that’s [00:28:00] without me sitting there and going, okay, I’m looking for this, this, this, and this. The machine can identify new threats. Almost as they’re happening.
[00:28:09] Cletis Earle: [00:28:09] Yeah, because of anomalies. Right. And that’s what anomaly based detection is, is something that we’re going to have to always focus on and using the machine to continue to learn in that manner. So I completely agree with you. It’s game changer. But there’s technology that’s doing it today and can you imagine that same principle [00:28:30] gravitating towards healthcare. Right. And being able to say where’s the anomaly. I had a, there was a personal situation where somebody I knew has an implant inserted. And it’s a relatively new implant for ETG kind of anomalies. And what I found those interesting by this it’s a traditional, it’s not a traditional Holter system, but it’s something that goes under the skin and it stays there for three years Bill. Three [00:29:00] years. Now think about this for a second. That’s three years of continuous tracking of your, your health to help identify strokes. That data right. What do you do with that data? That data is so transformational that it will help you, but when you add machine learning on top of it, it’s going to be able to abstract information and help patterns that we can’t even. Start to believe in [00:29:30] three years. And we wouldn’t have been thought about that right now, that it’s three years it has a cellular chip in it, and it’s able to push things out where it doesn’t matter where you are. You can be anywhere and that instance can actually be uploaded to the cloud. I mean, we’re really talking about game changing information and technology that’s going to help us promote care, once you start to add these, these algorithms on top of it, to help figure out what’s happening to the body. We’re going to know that people are going to have, an MI or something [00:30:00] before they even know it. And that’s, that’s really transformational.
[00:30:03]Bill Russell: [00:30:03] Yeah. That is transformational and exciting. We could obviously talk about where that, where that takes us from a clinical standpoint. And we can talk about where that takes us from a privacy standpoint. It’s interesting cause when I think about privacy in that case, I think, you know what the benefits far outweigh the risks to my personal privacy.
[00:30:25] I’m more than happy to share that with an academic medical center, with others, with a, [00:30:30] even with a tech company that has the algorithms to identify those things early. Because I mean, the alternative is okay. I might have my privacy hacked or I might die. So I would like to know that those anomalies exist.
[00:30:45]We’ve always said this we have more, we have more meters on our cars than we have on our personal body. So I would transfer some of my privacy rights in order to get that kind of feedback.
[00:30:57] Cletis Earle: [00:30:57] Yeah. I completely agree. I think there’s a component [00:31:00] where we’re going to have to decide A, do you want privacy all the time oir do you want to live? And I think there’s a fine line. But those who are in a position, particularly when you’re dealing with your loved ones, know we want our loved ones to live. Right. And we were willing to do what we need to do to ensure that data is shared so that we can have the best outcome possible.
[00:31:22] Bill Russell: [00:31:22] So what’s the hardest position right now to fill in IT at Penn State Health?
[00:31:27]Cletis Earle: [00:31:27] Business intelligence, [00:31:30] machine learning folks, CRM folks I’ve have noticed, I’m not mentioning a few, but are BI all around data. The people around data, and security. It’s all, we’re all competing as industries, regardless of the vertical, we’re all competing for the same skillsets.
[00:31:52] And now that a good portion of people are working from home and organizations are allowing it. Guess what? We’re [00:32:00] not competing with people throughout the non traditional state lines. Right? So we have the ability to lose people that goes to Silicon valley because they don’t have to relocate and they can get paid a lot more money than we are.
[00:32:12] So all of these positions, these data centric data, rich positions are extremely complicated and extremely difficult to fill in a timely manner because of the competition across verticals.
[00:32:25] Bill Russell: [00:32:25] Is there a benefit of being at Penn State to tap into the Penn state talent in any way? [00:32:30]
[00:32:30]Cletis Earle: [00:32:30] We have approximately 107,000 students. Right. That’s across the Commonwealth. Pretty big organization. And we try, right. We have the ability to have our students, we have internship programs that we have other types of faculty based on models, but even with that said, and you have so many talented folks they’re looking at other [00:33:00] organizations as well.
[00:33:01] They’re looking at your Googles and Apples of the world. So if you’re trying to get your top talent can you compete with Apple. Reality is no we can’t. We can’t compete when it comes to trying to attract that talent. But you do have the ability to say, if you want to be local. You want to work for a cause.
[00:33:21] Something that you know is going to help people’s lives, right. You can get paid very well. But you also have a, [00:33:30] almost a mission return. And that mission is even helping save lives. And that’s something that we are absolutely doing. We saw that in the the COVID activity, right. We did something that truly helped saved lives. I don’t think too many other organizations or verticals can claim that.
[00:33:48] Bill Russell: [00:33:48] Having visited Hershey park and lived not far from there and having been recruited for a job in Silicon valley, I just, anyone who’s thinking about going to Silicon valley needs to take into [00:34:00] account the fact that you’re going to live in a shack. This was actually later on in my career and I was going to have a CIO position up there in Silicon valley and, and I still couldn’t afford a home there. I mean, it was, it was unbelievable how expensive it was.
[00:34:16] Cletis Earle: [00:34:16] I still don’t know how people can. I just, you have to be making millions of billions of dollars in order to just sustain something like that. It’s it’s not realistic.
[00:34:27] Bill Russell: [00:34:27] Yeah. And you should just show them pictures of the [00:34:30] houses in Hershey and say, this is what you can get here. This is where you’re going to live over here.
[00:34:35] Cletis Earle: [00:34:35] And and you should be able to just get some chocolate.
[00:34:38]Bill Russell: [00:34:38] What do you think the lasting impact of the pandemic will be on health IT?
[00:34:47] Cletis Earle: [00:34:47] This is a really good question. As far as lasting impact. I think that there is some and this is not just IT but just in general, there’s a huge psychological scar, right? [00:35:00] To what we’ve experienced. People it’s, it was traumatic what happened with COVID and that trauma we’re going to have to address it as a society and health IT, it’s you know, because we were working and talk about that pace, that constant pace. I think we’re going to have to understand Bill, how do we navigate and produced the results, but not on the heels [00:35:30] of breaking our teams backs. And I think that’s probably the biggest challenge.
[00:35:36] We’re seeing it with schools. We’re seeing with the psychological impact to to industries as a whole has been really bad. And the frustrations that we’re seeing on a daily basis. The increased amount of gun violence, increased amount of violence on the planes. I think there’s a correlation between what we’ve experienced [00:36:00] over the last year being sheltered in place and we’re lashing out.
[00:36:05] And I’m concerned that our industry, we’re not being mindful enough of the psychological impact that all of this has had on folks. And that burden as well, that the health IT technology is supposed to help. And in some cases it’s not. So I think that I don’t have a good answer as far as how [00:36:30] do you remediate it, but I do believe that these kind of soft, which are usually traditionally quantified as soft items are actually not soft at all. They’re really going to be impactful to how we navigate in the near future.
[00:36:48] Bill Russell: [00:36:48] There’s so much wisdom in that answer, just in terms of the the psychological impact of this. And I don’t think we’re going to know it for another decade.
[00:36:58]We talked earlier about [00:37:00] getting a dog and that kind of stuff. Yeah. People need to interact, they need to interact. They need to be a part of a community. Be loved, be cared for, be a part of a mission, a part of something bigger than themselves. And when you essentially lock them in their house, it’s it, regardless of what your thoughts are on the lockdown and it’s affecting this and all that other stuff, it has an impact on people’s [00:37:30] psychology in terms of coming back out, in terms of interacting with people. I remember the first time I went to a grocery store after we found out about the pandemic and I was very aware of the fact that I walked through that Costco very differently. I was very aware of how far apart I was from someone.
[00:37:49] I was very aware who was not following the rules and that could, and just, I didn’t like, I didn’t like who I was becoming in my mind. And [00:38:00] we all had those similar battles. And what do you do with your family members and your how do you protect your kids and how do you protect your parents?
[00:38:07] And we had decisions to make that were weightier than any decisions we’ve had to make before. And I think that I agree with you. There’s a long term psychological impact to that, that we’re not going to know for quite some time.
[00:38:19]Cletis Earle: [00:38:19] I always go back to 9/11 and one person tried to, or a couple of people put a improvised bomb in their shoe. And ever [00:38:30] since we have to remove our shoes when we’re boarding a plane. Years later, decades later, we’re going on 20 years of 9/11. We still are managing differently and that’s, it was a catastrophe. Don’t get me wrong. But we have, we’re coming up to 600,000 people dying in this country as opposed to several thousand.
[00:38:50]And I think that recourse is going to just, it’s going to continue to find its way. Can you imagine the first time we’re back together and [00:39:00] we’re in the flu season side and people start to cough in a meeting setting. We don’t have masks. I mean, I don’t know what’s going to happen. Right. And I think that we need to be mindful of our teams. I would encourage people.
[00:39:13] I’ve mentioned that we have a lot of things going on, but you know what ,nothing’s more important than your family. Nothing’s more important than taking time off. Take the time. We have a lot going on but I emphasized take time off public mental health is absolutely critical and we [00:39:30] have to emphasize to our team members to take time off of work.
[00:39:34] Get a break. Check out. The ironic part about this Bill, the type of person I was is no, you don’t check out, right? Because in IT everything’s always happening, but now check out. Take off. Go silent. I’m saying those words now that a few years ago I’ve matured where, I should say adjusted that we can’t live like that anymore. The game has changed.
[00:39:58]Bill Russell: [00:39:58] Yeah, it is. And [00:40:00] I have to confess, I was one those bosses. I used to get into the office around 5:30. Only because as a CIO, you got to get your work done and I could get my work done between 5:30 and 8:30. Then you had to interact with your managers and help them to get their work done.
[00:40:15] And then you just had the deluge of meetings that you had to go to. And so that 5:30 to 8:30 time for me was when I actually got my work done or it was after hours and it was really demanding, but I, again, I [00:40:30] also found myself psychologically fighting the fact of saying, Hey it’s 6:30, it’s 7:30 and no one’s in the office yet. Am I the only one who cares?
[00:40:40]Cletis Earle: [00:40:40] I’m looking at the parking lot. Right.
[00:40:41] Bill Russell: [00:40:41] Yeah looking at the parking lot. My office overlooked the parking lot, so I could see it. And I was like why aren’t these people? Why don’t they care? Why aren’t they in here? And you just have to fight that because they do care. We work to live, not live to work.
[00:40:53] Cletis Earle: [00:40:53] And I think that’s the biggest, if we haven’t learned anything over the last year and a half, [00:41:00] that’s it. We have we have to change our mindset and it’s interesting other countries have gotten this long before ours. Right. Whether it’s the siestas or this, and I’m not implying, we take days off but I
[00:41:16] Bill Russell: [00:41:16] Siestas now at Penn State Health.
[00:41:20] Cletis Earle: [00:41:20] But I think they had some idea, right? They understood that it’s not about living to work. Right. And it’s not good. [00:41:30] And I think from a healthcare IT industry, that we as CIOs and other executives, if we continue to go down that road, we are going to perpetuate a negative industry or a negative culture that in a decade from now, we’re going to look back and say, holy cow, we did this and we did something really wrong.
[00:41:55] And I think this is the time to do it. I think this is the time. We start now in [00:42:00] saying we have to change. We’ve we, we can do things we can do it.
[00:42:04]Bill Russell: [00:42:04] I mock siestas but my, one of my habits now I still get up at five 30. I don’t know why, I guess, because I’m getting older, but the one of the things I do now is I take a half hour nap, right around 12:30.
[00:42:18] From 12:30 to 1:00, no one expects me to be around anyway. It’s great. It’s almost like having two days cause you, you wake up and you’re you’re ready to go again. So I don’t know if we can incorporate that into the [00:42:30] normal work day.
[00:42:30]Cletis Earle: [00:42:30] If I could just chime in just two seconds on that one. So like you’re taking a nap I think I do. I did this for a while. And again, you get away from it and particularly in home is take your meetings outside. Take a walk . A walk and talk and enjoy the times. Right? You can meet with your teams by taking a nice stroll if the day is really nice out there.
[00:42:55] One of the things I’m also promoting is since we’re mobile, [00:43:00] then you can be anywhere, right? If you don’t have to be in your house I try to encourage my team, go to the coffee house, make a secure connection. Go to the park. It I’ll do whatever it is. Take it in. I went, I was in a meeting with the team the other day and I’m going to create a small competition.
[00:43:19] Hey what scenery can we do best? So I drove to central park and I did some of my meetings from central park. Pennsylvania to central park. So you can do [00:43:30] these kinds of little things and then make a game out of it have some fun at it. Let’s get back to having fun. I think we got lost there and I just want to make sure I emphasize that as that’s the way it is the small little things you can do to help your teams through this really tough time.
[00:43:46] Bill Russell: [00:43:46] Yeah. I’m, I’m careful where I use the word normal, but getting back to what life looked like prior to the pandemic. What’s going to be the first conference that you attended in person, or maybe you already attended one.
[00:43:58]Cletis Earle: [00:43:58] I wasn’t going to go, but [00:44:00] I’m going to attend HIMSS and then I’m going to CHIME. So I’m doing both. So those are going to be my two main organizations, as they’re different times now as they’ve kind of separated. What about you?
[00:44:14]Bill Russell: [00:44:14] I’m going to HIMSS. I have some commitments at HIMSS so I’m going to go there and I’m also going to CHIME in San Diego. So I’m looking forward to, looking forward to catching up and seeing you at both of those.
[00:44:25]I wasn’t sure whether CIOs were going to go, but more and more, I’m talking to people they’re going to stop [00:44:30] in. And and almost everyone I’ve talked to is going to CHIME in San Diego. But more and more I’m hearing people are going to stop in at HIMSS.
[00:44:39] It is always a pleasure to catch up with you. I guess I will see you at those two conferences, but that sounds like you’re going to be busy for the next couple of months.
[00:44:48] Cletis Earle: [00:44:48] Yeah. Yeah, definitely. And that’s probably why I’m a hundred percent not committed because it all depends on how things are going. Right. So everything that I have happening, hey to be honest with you, if I, if [00:45:00] something’s not passing the smell test I won’t be there. All right. So it’s, it’s just the reality of the world.
[00:45:06] Bill Russell: [00:45:06] Yup. That’s the life of the CIO. Thanks again. Appreciate your time.
[00:45:10] Cletis Earle: [00:45:10] Take care, man. Have a good one.
[00:45:12]Bill Russell: [00:45:12] What a great discussion. If you know someone that might benefit from our channel, from these kinds of discussions, please forward them a note, perhaps your team, your staff. I know if I were a CIO today, I would have every one of my team members listening to this show. It’s conference level value every week. They can subscribe on our [00:45:30] website thisweekhealth.com or they can go wherever you listen to podcasts, Apple, Google, Overcast, which is what I use, Spotify, Stitcher. You name it. We’re out there. They can find us. Go ahead. Subscribe today. Send a note to someone and have them subscribe as well. We want to thank our channel sponsors who are investing in our mission to develop the next generation of health IT leaders. Those are VMware, Hill-Rom, StarBridge Advisers, Aruba and McAfee. Thanks for listening. That’s all for now. [00:46:00]