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Intermountain Healthcare relies on virtual hiring to fill CIO role

Intermountain Healthcare is relying on virtual hiring and onboarding processes to bring on a new healthcare CIO.

Intermountain Healthcare will be onboarding a new CIO at the end of this month, making him the first senior executive to be hired virtually by the healthcare organization.

Ryan Smith will take over for longtime Intermountain Healthcare CIO Marc Probst, who announced his retirement earlier this year, before the COVID-19 outbreak and the mandates for nonessential employees to work from home. With remote work in full swing, Dan Liljenquist, senior vice president and chief strategy officer at Intermountain, said the healthcare system had to rely exclusively on virtual hiring to pick its new healthcare CIO.

Smith is a known entity to the healthcare organization. He served in IT leadership roles at Intermountain for 19 years from 1994 to 2013. But the hiring team felt his five years as CIO at Banner Health in Phoenix and, more recently, his two years as senior vice president at Health Catalyst, an analytics software and services provider in Salt Lake City, best prepared him for the position.

Smith will start his new role June 29 the same way he was hired: virtually. Smith said the virtual hiring process has been "quite different" from the traditional recruiting process he's used to.

"Typically, you would fly in for your on-site interview with key executives in a formal setting," he said. "It's a strange feeling to put on a full suit, dress shirt and tie to only walk to another room in your home for an interview where you're the only one physically in the room."

Onboarding a CIO during a crisis

But going through the virtual hiring process had its benefits for Smith. It made him realize the importance of video conferencing technology -- both the criticality of it running smoothly and the new challenges it presented such as making sure the background is appropriate for the meeting.

Soon-to-be Intermountain Healthcare CIO Ryan SmithRyan Smith

And, Smith said, with every interview he grew more comfortable with the virtual hiring process.

"Coming out of each round of virtual interviews, I was surprised at just how much more comfortable and down to earth the conversations felt," he said. "There are definitely some benefits to this form of interviewing, while also posing some new challenges."

Liljenquist said the Intermountain Healthcare hiring team used technology to find and interview finalists for the CIO role, even when it came down to final selection.

It's a strange feeling to put on a full suit, dress shirt and tie to only walk to another room in your home.
Ryan SmithIncoming CIO, Intermountain Healthcare

"All of us know Zoom and Webex and Microsoft Teams better than we ever thought we would," he said.

Liljenquist said Smith will be using those same tools to connect to and lead his team. While Smith said it will be different starting his new role remotely, he sees his existing relationships with team members from his time at Intermountain as an advantage. He's also planning for a remote start as CIO to come with challenges, specifically with "rounding," where he would normally meet with providers and discuss in person what technology is working and what needs to improve.

As part of the final selection for the new CIO, Liljenquist said Intermountain required Smith and other finalists to give a virtual presentation on what health IT would look like post-COVID-19.

Intermountain Healthcare senior vice president and chief strategy officer Dan LiljenquistDan Liljenquist

In his presentation, Smith said he focused on new realities the healthcare industry will face in the coming months, such as reductions in medical care, the continuation of remote work, increases in digital expectations from patients and increases in merger and acquisition activity across the industry.

"We talked about recommended approaches for leading the IT team in addressing this new normal, entailing business alignment and partnership, innovation, accountability, transparency, customer focus and fiscal responsibility," Smith said.

In a news release, Intermountain Healthcare said Smith will lead the care transformation information systems team, while partnering with others to "implement innovative digital, data and technology platforms and solutions" that align with the organization's strategic goals.

"There's never been a time in our industry when there's been such a great dependency on the IT organization's ability to be flexible, to rapidly innovate and to drive results in short periods of time," Smith said. "I think most of the plans I had in mind coming into this opportunity are still relevant, but the priorities may need to shift given the nature of the environment we find ourselves in."

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