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May 8: Today on the Conference channel, it’s an Interview in Action live from ViVe 2023 with Erica Williams, Regional Technology Officer - Texas at Ascension. What was Erica’s purpose in attending the conference and what did she gain from the hosted buyer program? How does she maintain her network of lady executives and what are the benefits of having such a network in the healthcare industry? How does Erica see healthcare changing in the next 5 years?

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Welcome to this week, health my name is Bill Russell. I'm a former CIO for a 16 hospital system and creator of this week Health. A set of channels dedicated to keeping health IT staff current and engaged. Today we have an interview in action from the 2023 Spring conferences, vibe in Nashville and hymns in Chicago.

Special thanks to our cDW, Rubrik, Sectra and Trellix for choosing to invest in our mission to develop the next generation of health leaders.

You can check them out on our website this week,, now onto this interview.

 All right. Here we are interviewing action last day of the VI event here in Nashville. I'm here with Erica Williams. Welcome. Look forward to the conversation and your role with Ascension.

I am the regional technology Officer, so within Ascension we have about 139 hospitals across 19 state.

And I'm responsible for the Texas ministry. So that includes soon to be 14 hospitals, 150 ish clinics and other sites of care.

Regional technology officer. Is that more akin to a CTO or like a regional? I know, I know. You don't have regional CIOs. I'm not trying to make an announcement.

It's similar to a regional cio, the structure's the same.

So you're interacting with the individual ministries, which is hospitals, individual hospitals, yeah. and, and medical groups. Mm-hmm. And listening to them, understanding their needs, making sure projects go well in that region. Is that exactly essentially it? Yes. Wow. So we're at the end of the conference.

When you were coming here, what were you looking to engage? Was there a specific technology or set of conversations you were looking to have?

I was pretty open-minded. The technologies, I mean, we're all looking for things that other people have, solved some issue.

And of course, anything that's around patient experience, clinician experience, when those are all interoperability, those are all kind of things that pique our interests. So honestly I was part of the hosted buyer program and that was, a really great experience. So opportunity to just have kind of that speed dating and learn about the different vendors and what problems they're solving and connecting those dots of what, where it might fit.

How many hosted buyer meetings did you have? I did eight. Eight. Eight? Yes. Okay. I've heard it from both sides. Those are a really good experience.

Yes. And I've also, I mean, previously with Chime there's also the focus group, so it's kind of that, but in a different spin and I enjoy both just because it's an opportunity to learn.

Well, the focus groups are interesting to me cuz it almost felt like we were talking to their product team and saying, Hey, this is what we need you to do. And I think they had 'em here, but they were like, they did, were they on Saturday?

They were early or Sunday. It was interesting. It wasn't as integrated into the meeting as the fall forum is.

Yeah. And, and, that's when people ask me about this conference. Now I'm gonna say, last year it was two conferences happened near each other. And this time what really happened is the Vibe Conference became one. Right. And a lot of the things we will experience in the chime fall forum were pushed outside.

Yes. The focus groups were pushed outside and, and some of the other traditional things like we would normally have a vibe. agenda, we'd have speakers, we'd hear things and that kind of stuff. And that really went by the wayside. And this became the, really the show.

Yeah. I love that.

It was all integrated to your point. So everything's on the floor. Yeah. So it really encourages people to, stay in, in one place.

Yeah. There's a stage there, there, that corner of that corner. Mm-hmm. yeah. And

you're crossing back and forth and getting,

you know, So you, you had an opportunity to spend some time with your peers .

What were some of the conversations that, you were looking to have and what kind of conversations did you have while you were here?

So that, what I love most about these events is, the networking aspect. So I have a core group of, lady executives and who are really core to support both personally and professionally.

And so I, I love those opportunities to just hear , you know, it, it always feels good to know I'm not alone in things that I'm trying to solve. Right. And, it's all people processes, technology, and honestly, it all. Usually begins and ends with the people and what we can do to support our teams, grow our teams, create that engagement, because that's truly the foundation for us accomplishing anything.

It's one of the things I appreciate about the lady executives mm-hmm. is you guys have formed a group, a phenomenal peer group, but I found and, and we're trying to address this, but I found over the years that people let that. Those groups atrophy. Mm-hmm. They get so, I mean, the job is so Yeah.

Taxing and, some years you can't go to conferences, you can't see 'em and that kind of stuff. But you guys tend to reach out to each other in between the meetings and mm-hmm. And find ways to connect. That's invaluable. I mean, I was just talking to somebody and they said hey, I heard your I, I gave 10 roles of marketing to healthcare cis.

And one of the rules was understand that their first phone call on what should I do, like what's a good solution for this is to other CIOs. Mm-hmm. And so that network is so valuable. How do you maintain that network?

It's not, It's not formal, is it?

No it's, it's really not. It's. Grown organically over the years and you know, we add people to the team in the groups and we, work with each other to mentor each other and coach each other and really, oh, well this person was just going through that and well, connect you to this person or that person.

And so it's just a, to your point, a really organic, amazing group of women. That are just supportive of each other and helping each other grow and be successful.

I, I saw one of those conversations between, and so the one executive was essentially saying, look, I've been interim for like, forever.

Yeah. Like, they won't give me the job. Mm-hmm. And I, I saw the coaching that went on. I saw the, and it was, there's so much wisdom cuz it's, it comes from. Years of experience. That's right. And it, it was just exceptional.

Yeah. And one of the things that I learned, or it was a seminar that I went to, and it was all about the importance of having your own board of directors or your personal board of directors and, the exercise was, draw a table, put eight chairs, And make sure you have your chairs filled and people will come on and off as a, traditional board of directors.

But it's important to, to make sure you have that. And that was, years and years ago and it's become so relevant and something that I remind my team and others of, is your personal board of directors, who's on your team and helping you? Both professionally and personally. 📍

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It was cute. Right? She's gonna cure cancer with a lemonade stand like only a four year old would.

But from day one, it just exceeded anything we could have imagined because people responded so generously to her.

We are working to give back and are excited to partner with Alex's Lemonade stand this year. Having a child with cancer is one of the most painful and difficult situations a family can face at Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation, they understand the personal side of the diagnosis, the resources needed, and the impact that funded research can have for better treatments and more cures.

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We are asking you to join us. You can hit our website. There's a banner at the top and it says, Alex's lemonade stand there. You can click on that. And give money directly to the lemonade stand itself

now, back to the show. 📍   📍

That's how I met Susun. I was reading her stuff when I was a cio and I'm like, I need a, I need a group of personal directors. And I reached out to her and she's like, I'd love to do that. Honestly. Yes. it's, It's fantastic. And another thing I appreciated about her is she had a different perspective.

She'd been in academic medical centers and Northeast cio. It's interesting. My experience early on was the east and west felt like two different groups of people, like mm-hmm. because, with some of these things you get together regionally and whatnot. Right. And I just didn't know that.

The people on the East coast, cause I was a West Coast cio. Mm-hmm. And I'm sure you're a mid is Texas Midwest. What is Texas?

Texas is Texas. We don't really conform with anything else.

So what are we gonna be seeing over the next couple of years? I mean, you have some really innovative people at Ascension.

You have Ascension Ventures. You're bringing in, you know. yes. New things to that effect. How do you perceive healthcare changing over the next. Uh, 10 years is too much. Five years,

right? So, wait. We've been talking about it for a while, but continuing to evolve to consumerism.

So that's a lot of focus nationally with my organization. Some exciting things my CIO gin has shared is. One of the things is interoperability. So we've been talking about that forever too. But there's always opportunity and we're continuing to get better and better and better for our clinicians to be able to, both within the walls of our organization because we have multiple EHR systems to create that longitudinal record for them.

External leveraging our superhighways, so to speak, versus point to point initiatives. And then really exciting is our organization is developing our digital front door, the My Account, and that's our patient portal strategy. So it presents that one look and feel for our customers, regardless of where they're, where they're going.

Well. And one of the things that people may or may not know about Ascension is probably as an institution has the most EHRs of any institution, which makes that digital front door. Really important because. You want the experience for the, the patients to be pretty uniform Yes.

And pretty seamless,

right? So regardless of where they come, they feel they are at Ascension. And it doesn't matter what's happening in the background, whether subpoena or Cerner or Epic or whatever the case may be.

So that intelligent interoperability becomes a really key thing. And actually when I came in, we couldn't really do interoperability back in 2012.

Correct. I mean, we were doing it, but there's a lot of point to point Yes. Brittle kind of things. Mm-hmm. I, I'm, I'm happy to say as I walk around this floor and I look at some of the solutions and have some conversations. We were way past, getting the data from point A to point B, and now we're talking about tracking, lineage uh, normalizing that data.

Keeping the raw data, but normalizing it, making it transparent to the clinician and whatnot. I mean, there's a lot of, I think really exciting things and I, I don't know if it's 21st Century cures or just the need. Mm-hmm. Both.

It's both forcing the hand, I think, obviously, but the need is there.

And to your point, it's not just sharing information to say, I check this box. It's presenting in a way that's meaningful. For both internally and externally for it to be usable. So it's not just, a bunch of data and a sheet that you can't find in some weird place in the chart. It's within the workflow of the clinicians and it's truly meaningful and usable.

Yeah. We've got, we've gotten past the regulatory checkbox. Yes. And

that is really true. Yes. But we have some work to do, bud.

Erica, thank you for your time. Thank you. Appreciate it.

Another great interview. I wanna thank everybody who spent time with us at the conference. I love hearing from people on the front lines and it's phenomenal that they've taken the time to share their wisdom and experience with the community. It is greatly appreciated.

We wanna thank our partners, CDW, Rubrik, Sectra and Trellix, who invest in our mission to develop the next generation of health leaders. Thanks for listening. That's all for now.


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