Seek­ing ex­pert ad­vice

Or­ga­ni­za­tions see no con­flict of in­ter­est as IT vet­er­ans join firms’ boards

Modern Healthcare - - THE WEEK IN HEALTHCARE - Joseph Conn

Three veteran health in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy lead­ers have re­cently taken po­si­tions with for-profit com­pa­nies that sell soft­ware and IT ser­vices to the health­care in­dus­try. The lead­ers are Dr. C. Martin Har­ris, chief med­i­cal in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer and chair­man of the health in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy di­vi­sion at the Cleve­land Clinic; Dr. Kevin Fick­en­scher, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Amer­i­can Med­i­cal In­for­mat­ics As­so­ci­a­tion, Bethesda, Md.; and Rus­sell Branzell, CEO of Poudre Val­ley Med­i­cal Group, part of the Fort Collins, Colo.based, two-hospi­tal Poudre Val­ley Health Sys­tem.

Har­ris was named to the board of di­rec­tors of Thermo Fisher Sci­en­tific, Waltham, Mass., a pub­licly traded lab­o­ra­tory man­age­ment soft­ware and sys­tems de­vel­oper. He also will serve on the board’s nom­i­nat­ing and gov­er­nance com­mit­tee.

Har­ris al­ready is a mem­ber of the gov­ern­ing boards of two other pub­licly traded com­pa­nies: In­vacare Corp., Elyria, Ohio, a man­u­fac­turer of wheel­chairs and other de­vices for home and long-term care; and Health­stream, a de­vel­oper of In­ter­net-based learn­ing and re­search soft­ware.

Thermo Fisher Sci­en­tific Chair­man Jim Manzi said in a news re­lease that Har­ris’ “ex­ten­sive health­care in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy ex­per­tise, as well as his strong track record of in­no­va­tion, will pro­vide unique and valu­able per­spec­tive to Thermo Fisher.”

Cleve­land Clinic spokes­woman Eileen Sheil said the po­si­tion is within the clinic’s guide­lines on con­flicts of in­ter­est and was vet­ted by a team that in­cludes two clinic trus­tees who are on the board’s own con­flict of in­ter­est com­mit­tee. “He would not be in­volved in any way re­lated to de­ci­sion­mak­ing” on any busi­ness re­la­tion­ships be­tween the Cleve­land Clinic and Thermo Fisher, Sheil said. Dis­clo­sure of his board ap­point­ment will be posted on the Cleve­land Clinic’s web­site, she said.

Thermo Fisher di­rec­tors re­ceive an an­nual re­tainer of $80,000. In­de­pen­dent di­rec­tors, such as Har­ris, who started in March, are re­quired to amass three times the amount of their an­nual re­tainer in com­pany stock within five years, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent proxy state­ment.

Fick­en­scher was named chair­man of a newly cre­ated ad­vi­sory board to In­tel­li­gent In­sites, Fargo, N.D., a pri­vately held de­vel­oper of real-time wire­less as­set lo­ca­tion sys­tems and other work­flow im­prove­ment sys­tems and soft­ware. Dr. Ray Gruby, the com­pany’s board chair­man and chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer, said in a news re­lease that the com­pany “sought out” Fick­en­scher “for his health­care prac­tice ex­pe­ri­ence and em­i­nent po­si­tion in the field of health­care in­for­mat­ics.”

Fick­en­scher would need to add the ad­vi­sory board ap­point­ment to the con­flict of in­ter­est state­ment that all AMIA staff, of­fi­cers and board mem­bers are re­quired to com­plete, said Kristin Sche­lin, the as­so­ci­a­tion’s di­rec­tor of op­er­a­tions and pro­grams. “We’re in the process of re­view­ing ev­ery­thing with him,” she said.

Fick­en­scher grad­u­ated from the Univer­sity of North Dakota Med­i­cal School, where he founded the Cen­ter for Ru­ral Health, a ru­ral health ser­vice, re­search and pol­icy anal­y­sis or­ga­ni­za­tion. He pre­vi­ously served in var­i­ous physi­cian ex­ec­u­tive lead­er­ship roles for health IT com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing Dell, Perot Sys­tems, Com­puter Sci­ences Corp. and WEBMD. He heads CREO Strate­gic So­lu­tions, a lead­er­ship con­sult­ing firm.

In an e-mail re­sponse to a re­quest for Fick­en­scher’s com­pen­sa­tion, In­tel­li­gent In­sites Chief Op­er­at­ing Of­fi­cer Thomas Sch­nei­der said the com­pany will pro­vide “a con­se­quen­tial means for our ad­vis­ers to par­tic­i­pate in our com­pany’s suc­cess.”

Branzell was named to the board of di­rec­tors of Getwell­net­work, Bethesda, Md., a de­vel­oper of in­ter­ac­tive pa­tient com­mu­ni­ca­tions, ed­u­ca­tion and In­ter­net ac­cess sys­tems. Poudre Val­ley is a Getwell­net­work cus­tomer. Com­pany CEO and founder Michael O’neil said Poudre Val­ley is na­tion­ally rec­og­nized as a health­care in­no­va­tor, adding that Branzell’s con­tri­bu­tions “will help as­sure that our pa­tient en­gage­ment in­no­va­tion con­tin­ues to meet the needs of health­care or­ga­ni­za­tions and the pa­tients in their care.”

Branzell pre­vi­ously served as the chief in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer of PVHS and the pres­i­dent and CEO of In­no­va­tion En­ter­prises, the not-for-profit health­care sys­tem’s for-profit in­for­ma­tion sys­tems unit, ac­cord­ing to a bi­og­ra­phy on the hospi­tal sys­tem’s Web page.

Branzell’s ap­point­ment to the Getwell­net­work board was vet­ted by the sys­tems le­gal staff “to en­sure it isn’t a con­flict of in­ter­est,” said Gary Kim­sey, a spokesman for Poudre Val­ley Health Sys­tem. “It isn’t.”

Branzell will not re­ceive com­pen­sa­tion for sit­ting on the Getwell­net­work board, Kim­sey said. Plus, “Russ doesn’t over­see our in­for­ma­tion ser­vices depart­ment any more, so he doesn’t have any in­flu­ence over how we use Getwell­net­work ser­vices.”

Fick­en­scher The ex­ec­u­tives were named to boards at Getwell­net­work, In­tel­li­gent In­sites and Thermo Fisher Sci­en­tific, re­spec­tively.

Har­ris

Branzell

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