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Deep Dive: Scott Checkoway, Chief Information Officer at onehome

Scott Checkoway sat down with TNCR and shared his passion for IT leadership and healthcare, and his philosophy he calls the "Technical Timeout."
Catherine Pyle
Contributing Writer

With 30+ years of experience in IT, Scott Checkoway combined his two passions for healthcare and IT leadership as Chief Information Officer at onehome – a value-based home healthcare convener, following the company’s mission to bring healing home. As their new CIO, Scott has big plans as the organization scales its services into the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States.

We had the opportunity to sit down with Scott and talk about his leadership philosophy, the importance of understanding all the pieces of the business, and the “technical timeout.”

Walk us through your CIO path. How did you decide to pursue a career in technology, and how did you get to where you are now?

IT and technology wasn’t my first passion. I actually wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps and become a pilot. As I became involved in IT activities in the mid-80s, my career quickly evolved. My first job, while I was in college at the University of Rhode Island, was as a programmer assistant (PA) monitoring the computer labs. Later, I had the fortunate experience of becoming the university’s first Network Manager in the residential life system. It was there I developed their first LAN and WAN. This is when I found my passion for IT.

In the 90s, I followed the dot-com boom, pursuing professional opportunities to learn about the IT industry. In the early 2000s, I accepted my first senior leadership job at Security Source, which required me to build, maintain, and support loss prevention hardware and software for major nationwide retailers like Lowe’s. Big data and analytics became my forte, before the mainstream trend of now. I collected a variety of data, then reported and aggregated it to provide value to our customers. This experience was both rewarding and challenging.

In 2005, I accepted a healthcare role within McKesson, under their managed service team stationed at Northeast Georgia Medical Center. In this role, I led and managed an effort to build a tier-three data center, then became their Network and Desktop Support Manager. The challenges were exciting, providing IT infrastructure and support for new large buildings and facilities in the Northeast Georgia region.

In 2008, my career path led me to hosting, which was popular at the time, and McKesson wanted to do more vigorous hosting with their systems. I was promoted to Director of Hosting, taking my experience of infrastructure and application support to a new level in working with multiple large-scale hospital systems. In 2014, I moved to Allscripts to execute hosting for their business as well. I had the opportunity to play a vital role at Allscripts as a member of the acquisition team when they acquired McKesson.

My first CIO role was with MedeAnalytics – and I was their first CIO. It was a fantastic experience for me as I was able to drive technology strategy, taking the sum of my experience, and the mentors I’ve had in my journey to make important decisions. The culmination of my career, especially my time with MedeAnalytics prepared me for my current role with onehome as their CIO. MedeAnalytics handled both the payer and provider sides of healthcare, and most of my career before MedeAnalytics was within the provider space. At onehome, we are a convener of home healthcare services and coordinate the entire patient journey. My career path has prepared me for where I am today, allowing for me to lead IT as onehome scales its business nationwide.

You just joined onehome as CIO. Can you tell us about some of the initiatives you’re excited to get going and some of the major things you’ve accomplished as a CIO at other points in your career?

onehome was acquired by Humana just over a year ago, so one of my major initiatives is the integration of onehome into Humana. We launched our services in Virginia in June, the first of our Mid-Atlantic launch. onehome provides home healthcare to patients, so if a patient needs durable medical equipment (like a walker or wheelchair), onehome processes and delivers this medical equipment to the patient’s home. onehome will continue to grow nationwide, with over three million+ lives under our care in the coming years. I am excited about both the growth and new opportunities.

What new or disruptive technology or emerging trend do you think will impact the work you do at onehome and the healthcare industry as a whole?

It’s no secret that healthcare was behind the times, even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Historically, healthcare has always lagged behind current technology. DevOps is still something to bring to the forefront and using it for constant releases. It’s a concept that can provide results at the speed of the business, so it’s going to take some getting used to. Especially, when we’re moving at the speed of business, I’m looking at constant releases, going from concept to development to release in hours or days. It’s a concept I feel not many in the healthcare industry do that way today. The challenge is to provide the best innovative service and quality care at the speed of business.

What do you think about the current state of IT talent that’s available, and what strategies did you employ to recruit and develop that talent?

It’s a global marketplace. Back at MedeAnalytics, pre-pandemic, I was managing teams all over the world, but for the rest of the workforce, the pandemic accelerated the notion of working remote. Now there’s a wider talent pool for employers. I come from a world where you were in the office 5 days a week, with limited remote work opportunities. Now, companies are thinking globally in terms of talent, though the hybrid model is prevalent, making it an ever-evolving paradigm.

For the IT workforce, the opportunities continue to be endless. It doesn’t matter where you are located–you can be sought after. Virtual conversations are the norm now, too, although, for me, face-to-face will always outweigh a virtual discussion. There’s that aspect of interpersonal communication that has a deeper meaning than virtual.

When it comes to finding talent, our priority is to provide the best competitive ability to acquire that top talent. To do that, we stay ahead of our industry, and we have a top-notch recruitment team. It certainly takes a village to ensure that we understand the market and acquire the right type of talent. I believe all areas of IT continue to be a hot job commodity.

What advice would you give to someone aspiring to be a CIO?

Understand your audience. I’m a very servant-leader-oriented person, and in places like onehome, everybody is your customer. Whether it is an internal team member or an external patient we’re providing care to, it’s vital to understand your audience to provide the best experience possible. When I think about providing that experience, I think of it as medical professionals that treat patients. I consider that person my loved one, thinking about how I would guarantee they are provided the best quality care.

Make sure you understand all the major functions of what’s going on in your company. You’ll wear many different hats, and to understand the importance of each role, you must understand every aspect of the business. Since I’m still new at onehome, I’m touring every department and group, because I want to understand, to have that experience in what each group does, their workflow, and their challenges. I look at each challenge as a puzzle piece, understanding how each group uses our technology and the challenges that they face gives me the board to put the pieces together and make it something they can use and enjoy.

Connecting with the people in your department and being able to relate to them is very important. Especially making sure you have the knowledge base to understand how to relate to them and ask the right questions. That doesn’t mean that you must have been a developer or engineer so long as you understand how their work connects the technology to the business puzzle that needs to be solved.

Whom would you say has been the biggest influence on your career path, and why?

There are several people – one of those village aspects. It started with my grandparents who taught me at a young age to respect and value the input of everyone around me. They were extremely hard workers. My father was the same way. He was in the military and then a commercial airline pilot, someone who worked hard to provide for his family his entire career. He instilled in me that the hard work you do pays off at the end of the day. My mom was the first federal medical records technician in the United States, and it was because of her that I had my inspiration to be in healthcare. She has Lupus, so being in this field has special meaning to me every day. It means a lot to me to be in this field, to help patients and ensure that the quality of care is high for everyone. It was a big deal for me when I started my first job in healthcare in ’05.

At the business level, I’ve had a few key mentors. Mark Jennings was the first major CIO who took me under his wing back at Northeast Georgia Medical Center and McKesson. He saw in me the leadership potential I was seeking, and he inspired me to work towards being the best leader to those I served. At MedeAnalytics, Paul Kaiser, the CEO at the time I was there, and Scott Hampel, our president, showed me the value of trust. When I started as CIO there, I quickly knew what I needed to do, and the strategy that I wanted to employ, and they said, “Go do it. That’s why we brought you in.” I use the same strategies when I work with my leaders, too. It’s my job to give them the tools and abilities to do their job without telling them how to do it. I credit my business mentors with shaping my leadership style and am ever thankful to them.

How do you decompress from the challenges of being a CIO, and what do you like to do for fun?

I love to barbecue. I was part of a team that won second place in the National Barbecue Cup in Georgia, just a fun casual cooking team. It was a fantastic experience that again showed how hard work can pay off, whether that’s winning a medal or eating good food. Barbecuing puts me in the Zen mode of just being able to focus on making good food. There’s always a challenge, too as I make my own sauces and rubs to use on brisket and ribs. It’s a topic I could talk about all day long.

My other big hobby is working on my 2018 Mustang. I’ve spent time enhancing it and love taking it for drives. I enjoy taking it to work every day. Those are the two areas I have the most enjoyment with, beyond just reading. I love to read and keep learning.

Are there any books that you recommend, books that you give to others, or that have shaped you as a CIO?

If you’re in healthcare—you don’t have to be a CIO for this—but in healthcare IT, the book that made the biggest impact on me was Dr. John Lance’s Why Hospitals Should Fly. Just an amazing book. Dr. Nance was a pilot, and he used his airline approach to checklists and documentation for patient safety and quality care. He talks about applying airline procedures to hospitals. One of my favorite parts of the book and one of my biggest technology “epiphanies” is the “surgical timeout” that occurs right before surgery. The surgical team takes a moment so everybody on the team knows who’s doing what, why they’re in that room, what they’re operating on, and so forth. I’ve applied this same concept to IT and called it a “technical timeout.” It’s taking that step back amid the heat of an incident, taking hands off keyboards and mice to talk about the problem rather than everyone on the phone with just the clickity-clack of keyboards and mice. Like the surgical timeout, I ask everyone to step back, identify the problem, talk through who’s involved and what they’re doing, then discuss how we’re going to “operate on the patient”. That way, no one is stepping on each other, and there’s a clear line of communication on how this issue is being addressed.

Another important book for me is the Fred Factor, a short story about customer service. It goes back to what I said earlier about being a CIO; you must understand your customer and make sure you provide good customer service. Everyone should strive to be like Fred, I know I try every day.

Do you have any final words you’d like to share?

First, regardless of industry, if you want to be in the IT field, especially in IT leadership, be humble. Remember where you came from and remember the people you serve. Don’t be afraid to wear a hat that isn’t within your scope or title. Be the leader, or the engineer, or the person you’re good at being, and let that shine. A title never defines who you are. Next, remember your integrity, which is something that cannot be taken away from you. Always stand up for your convictions and what you believe is the right thing. That’s especially important if you’re in a leadership role. Don’t be afraid to show compassion to your team and show that you care. That is what makes the bond between you as a leader and your team special. It’s an important bond.

Always try to bring data to a business conversation. I love to talk about facts and data. Why?  Because data tells the story, whether it’s good or challenging. Of course, facts and data can be interpreted in different ways, it always provides a great base framework to have a valuable discussion.

Lastly, be compassionate and kind. These are very simple ideals that go a long way. Just remember that everybody has their own struggles in life. Especially for us as leaders, regardless of industry, it’s important that our staff knows we’re there for them, to provide support, be a cheerleader, or a listening ear. Give everyone the tools to do their job to their best ability, keep them happy by providing good leadership and it will all pay off to the people you serve.

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