Chief Information Officer for Baptist Health
Michael Elley grew up on a farm in Missouri and, even to this very day, his father still farms that land. His mother was a classroom teacher much of her life, until the last decade of her career, when she became the IT director for her school district. That's the simple explanation for his early interest in the subject, as well as for his choice of computer and information systems for his degree.
After graduating in 1999, Elley looked into a few different areas – including a spell in finance and government – but the main factor in focusing him back onto healthcare was meeting his wife, a nurse, and getting married in 2001.
His first appointment in health IT was in 2005, a career trajectory Elley has firmly stuck to ever since. “My job at BJC Healthcare in St Louis was as an Account Executive; I think that set a course for my career. I wasn’t a technician or on operations, but was more of a bridge between operations, the hospital, and clinics. It taught me that healthcare is different from any other industry, and I learned the language.”
As he gained more responsibility, he knew that what he really wanted to be was a Chief Information Officer (CIO). In 2010, he achieved that ambition at a small, 165-bed hospital in Missouri that had been struggling financially. “They brought in a whole new leadership team, from the CEO down – I took a chance and we turned the organisation around financially, starting to focus on the patient; I was glad to learn that early in my career.
“I then went to some larger health systems, either as CIO or Systems VP, then took a year out to do consulting before realising that, while travelling about, my kids were getting older and I was missing out on activities. That's when I came to Baptist Health in 2018, where I have been very happy indeed, both with my role and with the organisation.”
You wouldn't necessarily expect the CIO to be the one to re-engineer patient access, he says, but that’s where his path took him: creating multiple pathways for patients to engage with the system and access healthcare. Elley gained considerable satisfaction from being given the opportunity to redefine health access within a leading health system.
“There's not much change that can happen in healthcare without technology – the days when we sat in the basement doing our work and not engaging with the rest of the organisation are long gone now!”
Along the way, Michael learned to differentiate between the leaders he admired and those he found negative, choosing to emulate those more positive influences. “These are people who are dedicated and committed to the organisation they work for, and these are the values I try to communicate to my teams, because these are essential in a patient care context.
“People tend not to come to a hospital unless they really need to, and the process of navigating it can be scary. Our team can work with other areas of the business to make it much less scary and, at the same time, more efficient. That, and the relentless pursuit of dedication and commitment to patient service, are values I try to keep in mind at all times.”
With strong views of her own about patient care from her nursing days, Michael's wife – to whom he has been married for 21 years now – is clearly a much-needed support and sounding-board. They have two fast-growing daughters together, both keen athletes, and encouraging their progress through school and college has been enough to satisfy Elley’s sporting interests. “I'm not a big golfer; I'm not much good at it, and I tend to stick to the things I think I can do well in!”
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Concentrating on continuing to reduce future morbidity and mortality, and really giving people healthy life years, remains our key strategic focus.