Health IT

CIOs told to worry, be happy at CHIME

John Jacobs, co-founder and chief creative optimist of apparel company Life is Good, closed out CHIME16 with an uplifting message for healthcare CIOs. Across the hall, an FBI cybersecurity expert gave a stern warning.

FBI cybersecurity specialist Erin Gibbs at the CHIME-affiliated AEHIX conference.

FBI cybersecurity specialist Erin Gibbs at the CHIME-affiliated AEHIX conference.

Leave it to the feds to put a damper on the festivities.

John Jacobs, co-founder and chief creative optimist of apparel company Life is Good, closed out CHIME16 — the Fall CIO Forum of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives — Friday morning in Phoenix with an uplifting message for healthcare CIOs.

“Optimism is absolutely at its most powerful on the darkest days,” Jacobs, a Boston native, said. He referenced the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. “The news couldn’t get enough of the hate,” Jacobs noted, while sporting one of his company’s T-shirts that said, “Spread Good Vibes.”

Life Is Good co-founder John Jacobs closes CHIME16 on an upbeat note.

Life Is Good co-founder John Jacobs closes CHIME16 on an upbeat note.

But people in and around the Hub saw something different: people volunteering their time, donating blood and generally reaching out to others in the community. One Life Is Good employee who was injured by shrapnel and lost most of his hearing said, “I’m grateful” upon returning to work, Jacobs reported.

He ended the session by bringing out CHIME leadership to toss out shirts to the audience, including some by T-shirt cannon.

Minutes later, right across the hall in the same hotel, Erin Gibbs, a Phoenix-based special agent for the FBI, was on stage in a related event put on by a CHIME affiliate called AEHIX. That is an umbrella name for the Association for Executives in Healthcare Information Technology (AEHIT), the Association for Executives in Healthcare Information Applications (AEHIA) and the Association for Executives in Healthcare Information Security (AEHIS), three groups CHIME launched a two years ago.

“Anything that can be hacked by a bad guy can be hacked by a bad guy,” Gibbs said, giving a bleak reality check on the state of cybersecurity.

“I don’t really trust the government,” Gibbs continued, half jokingly. “All my information is already in China, thanks to the OPM hack,” said Gibbs, referring to the breach of federal employee records at the Office of Personnel Management in April 2015.

Indeed, cybersecurity was on the minds of many at CHIME this week, even as the main CIO Forum took on a rock-and-roll theme.

Speakers during plenary sessions were ushered on and off stage by guitar-driven tunes you’d likely hear on radio stations still celebrating Twofer Tuesday and Rocktober. 1980s legends Foreigner — at least the current incarnation of the band — played following the closing reception Thursday night. (A few CIOs even made it to the optional 8 a.m. sessions Friday morning, or so this reporter was told.)

Yes, the T-shirt cannon was present at the Foreigner show.

When they weren’t rocking out, attendees were trying to get a handle on interoperability, cybersecurity and the massive new rule spelling out the Quality Payment Program that starts Jan. 1 under the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA). Jacobs encouraged the CIOs to remain upbeat under all this pressure.

He and his brother Bert formed a small T-shirt business and hawked their wares on the streets of Boston. They eventually bought a used minivan and went on road trips to college campuses. Then, in 1994, they had a revelation.

“We talked about how the media would inundate people with negative information,” Jacobs said. “We wanted to create … something that could be a rallying cry for optimists.” The Life Is Good shirt was born.

In the intervening 22 years, Life Is Good has grown into a $100 million business plus a charitable foundation to support healthcare and social services for children. Jacobs attributed the success to his boundless optimism and willingness to listen to customers.

“If anyone thinks they’re going to do it alone, they’re not paying attention. Customers are king these days.” In other words, transparency pays off, Jacobs said.

That is a lesson CIOs and other healthcare leaders could stand to learn.

Photos: Neil Versel/MedCity News