Healthcare CIO takes pride in developing future leaders

In three years at the University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers, CIO Sue Schade has guided an EHR project to completion and restructured IT.

Sue Schade, CIO, University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers [2015]
University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers

Sue Schade worked as a nurse's aide in high school and college, and some members of her family were nurses. But while Schade says she "never thought seriously about being a clinician," she did end up in healthcare -- as an IT professional. Since 2012, Schade has been the CIO at the University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers, where she oversees a 600-member IT team that supports 25,000 people.

Earlier this year, Schade was named the 2014 John E. Gall Jr. CIO of the Year by the by the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) and HIMSS, a nonprofit group for healthcare IT professionals. Here, she reflects on the challenges and opportunities in healthcare IT and the technology profession in general.

What was your strategy for taking on the Michigan job? When you come into a new role, the organization is where it is. It has its multiyear plan from a business perspective as well as an IT plan. So you come into that, and you have to move that forward. Sometimes you can shape it. In this case, the EHR [electronic health records] journey was fairly well laid out, so I needed to pick up with that and move it forward on time and on budget. Two major phases had been competed in 2012 before I got here, so it was taking it through to fruition.

The other broad thing I'd say is that I took a little bit of time to determine what organizational structure changes were needed. I didn't want to impact the EHR schedule that we were on, so I made my changes about 11 months in, and those changes started to shift the culture within the IT organization.

What was the cultural shift? There was a somewhat separate organization within IT being created and fostered to implement the EHR. And there were duplications of core functions. I saw that and I thought, "It's one IT organization and we don't need that schism, we don't need that duplication." So when I did the reorganization, it was all about consolidating and streamlining functions.

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