Demand management the biggest challenge for Orlando Health's Rick Schooler [Q&A]

For Orlando Health Chief Information Officer Rick Schooler, his job is all about balancing projects that are required by regulation with all of the various other initiatives underway at the 1,780-bed health network.

Orlando Health has a formal IT governance process through which it ensures the things that are required by regulation--or are truly strategic to the organization--are tackled first and foremost, Schooler, who is also the health system's vice president, tells FierceHealthIT in an interview.

After those initiatives are taken care of, "then it boils down to 'OK, now what else do we need to do?'" he says.

"We take care of what's absolutely required first and then those things that are 'should dos' or are a 'nice to have,' those kind of things fall toward the bottom of the pile; if there are resources to do them, we do them, and if not they get put off."

In our latest CIO Spotlight, Schooler also discusses the challenges of meeting all those needs, the opportunities the job presents every day and what the industry faces when it comes to cybersecurity.

FierceHealthIT: Talk about your work at Orlando Health; are there any big projects or initiatives underway that stand out?

Rick Schooler: I'm involved in a lot of things at any given time--responsibilities for supply chain and for several other areas such as clinical informatics and biomedical and retail pharmacy. But I spend the vast majority of my time in the CIO role. At any given time we'll have 100 or so projects going on at once, so we're very busy almost all of the time. We're working on population health, automating the process of healthcare and tech integration with mobile platforms for patients and physicians. 

FHIT: How would you describe your management style?

Schooler: I'm a very open and transparent person. I have a solid management team that understand our business; they understand how to deliver value to our customers and patients. I'm often busy working with other executives to ensure we're doing the right things. I've got a lot of great people who work for me and with me. I don't believe in wasting time with things that don't bring value. It's the nature of our business these days; we can't be consumed by things that don't matter. And we have to ensure our money, our efforts, our time is spent on the things that bring the most value. 

FHIT: How do you approach mandated initiatives (such as Meaningful Use and ICD-10) compared to day-to-day tasks?

Schooler: We have a formal IT governance process through which we ensure that the things that are required by regulation or are truly strategic to the organization that we first and foremost allocate time, money and resources to getting those done. We have a process to ensure that whether it's a project or a business initiative, that we balance what's required to meet that needs with that endeavor against the needs of the other things we must do. [I]t's something that any business goes through because there's only so much money and there are only so many people to do what you have to do.

FHITWhat is the most interesting part of your job?

Schooler: I have the opportunity to work with a lot of very smart and very interesting people. It's constantly mentally stimulating with many opportunities to learn all the time. This business is so complex; I've been in healthcare for 24 years and I learn something new every day. This is a life and death business. We're adding value to people's lives every day.

FHITWhat is your biggest challenge?

Schooler: Meeting all the needs and the allocation of scarce resources and knowing there's always going to be someone who's not happy. In this game that we play, the objective is to make sure you don't make the wrong person unhappy, and that's tough. That's the whole process of demand management.

FHITHow are you tackling security and privacy at your organization?

Schooler: My job is to make sure we invest in the technologies we need to ensure security and put them in place as quickly as possible. Our data loss prevention, network and systems penetration technologies, filtering of email, all of the antivirus programs, that's all my responsibility. As an industry we've know about security issues and have done things to keep us daily out of the newspaper, but I think now we realize the level of attacks are so sophisticated, that if you don't have the best and the brightest involved in helping you manage this and you spend the money on it, you will get hacked and you will lose data.

FHIT: What changes do you see for the future of health IT, and how do you see it impacting your role as CIO?

Schooler: The biggest change I see is that more of our tech platforms are going to be offered in the cloud. I think you're going to see CIOs have to put in place demand management or governance processes that can effectively assess, as well as deal with, the numerous offerings of the cloud. That's going to require us to change to be more coordinators of information management, as opposed to implementers. It's going to make everything harder as more and more of what many of us call "bright, shiny objects" start appearing. 

Editor's Note: This interview has been condensed for clarity and content.