Fierce Q&A: CHIME Chair Drex DeFord readies for move to Steward

Accountable care organization efforts in the U.S. have doubled over the past 12 months, according to a Health Intelligence Network survey published this month. One of the powerhouses leading the pack is Boston-based Steward Health Care, a 10-hospital system and one of the 32 Pioneer ACOs as designated by the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation.

Current College of Healthcare Information Management Executives chair Drex DeFord (pictured) announced this week that he will be leaving his post as CIO at Seattle Children's Hospital next month to take on the same role at Steward.

"They don't call it 'Pioneer' just because it's a cool word," DeFord told FierceHealthIT via email. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I'm lucky and honored to be a part of it."

Check out what else DeFord had to say about the move to Steward, which he calls "a significantly different environment politically."

FierceHealthIT: You said the job was "too good to pass up." What intrigues you about Steward?

DeFord: I believe they are creating a new national model for community healthcare. Most of the care in this country is provided by smaller community hospitals and medical groups. Citizens want great healthcare, and they want to receive that healthcare in their community--locally. Steward's dedicated to making sure small hospitals not only survive, but thrive, delivering great, safe, high-quality, cost-effective healthcare.

Steward's also dedicated to … working with consumers to keep them healthy and out of the more expensive "sick-care" side of the system. [It's] building all of this as one of the country's Pioneer ACOs--working collaboratively with employers, other providers, payers, the government, and most importantly, consumers--to change the way we deliver care in the U.S. To turn a technology phrase, Steward's building the new "operating system" for healthcare. I had to be a part of it.

FHIT: How do you anticipate your job will differ from what you've been doing at Seattle Children's?

DeFord: I'd like to say that being a CIO is the same everywhere, but of course it's not. Helping to lead one of the top pediatric academic medical centers and research institutes in the country was also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I loved every minute of it.

Steward is larger by most every measure, operates in a significantly different environment politically, and is taking a deeply active role in defining the future of healthcare through its participation as a Pioneer ACO.

FHIT: How will the move impact your role with CHIME?

DeFord: My role as CHIME chair won't change. I'll continue as the chair through the end of 2012. I'm really proud of the organization and all the work we've been able to do this year on behalf of CIOs and their healthcare organizations. I have a terrific team of CIO leaders on board with me, and we couldn't advance as an organization without our great volunteer-leaders and members. I'm incredibly lucky and honored to be a part of CHIME, too. I think I lead a charmed life!

FHIT: Finally … Mariners or Red Sox?

DeFord: That's a great question. I was kind of hoping the Oklahoma City Thunder (formerly the Seattle Supersonics) and the Boston Celtics were going to play in the NBA finals. That would have been fun.

But back to baseball ... I'm going to have to go with the Red Sox on that one. But I'll always be a fan of all things Seattle--what a great city!

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Read more on