A desire for excellence has been the driving force in John Norenberg’s thirty-three-year career. He started his professional life in 1984 as a printer-design engineer/marketing representative for IBM. Today, he is the VP of clinical systems for Advocate Health Care—the largest health system in Illinois.
“I am always striving to do things better,” Norenberg says. “You have to decide whether your life is going to be about execution and results or reasons and excuses. I find happiness and self-worth in taking action and delivering value.”
In 1992, Norenberg obtained his MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. Although he had a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Minnesota, he was inspired by colleagues at IBM who had increased their potential by attending graduate business school.
“That degree was amazing for me,” Norenberg says. “It unlocked my ability to speak so many different languages in the business world. I used to be the typical uncommunicative engineer. The MBA taught me to how to talk about finance, marketing, and more.”
Norenberg’s fluency in a variety of functions has helped him to transition to positions at software, manufacturing, and financial services firms. When he lost his job in 2002, after the dot-com crash, he rebounded as an independent consultant. Norenberg had no experience in the healthcare field when he joined Advocate in 2004. His diverse background, however, prepared him to tackle the installation of the hospital’s EMR system.
“The basics of business are pretty much the same across all industries,” he says. “I focused on learning the language rather than learning the individual intricacies. Once I had that down, it was time to dig into the nitty-gritty of healthcare and the things that truly are different about healthcare IT.”
In 2009, Advocate promoted Norenberg to VP of physician services. In that role, he spent seven years leading IT for the network’s nonhospital business until he was promoted again in 2016, this time to VP of clinical systems. Now, he oversees more than a hundred employees. He handles all hospital-based large applications. This includes revenue cycle management, physician and patient portals, and EMRs. He is also in charge of imaging technology, such as the picture archiving and communication system. Currently, the biggest project on Norenberg’s plate is replacing Advocate’s thirty-five-year-old revenue cycle system, which registers patients, prepares bills, and tracks claims processing and payments. He says his team will complete the three-and-a-half year undertaking in 2019.
The Positive Effects of Mentoring
Years of watching the positive effect that teachers, coaches, and business professionals had on the development of his three daughters sparked Norenberg to mentor young leaders.
“I feel the need to pay it forward,” he says. “I try to help young people see the bigger picture of how what they do ripples through the entirety of their work environment. That was something I had to learn on my own, so I want to give them a head start in thinking that way.”
“We have whole generations of users who have never used another system,” he says. “It’s a breathtaking endeavor.”
This kind of ambitious goal is what keeps Norenberg motivated. Hospitals & Health Networks magazine has named Advocate to their list of the “Most Wired” hospitals and systems in the nation for twelve years straight. It was also recognized by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) for achieving the highest levels of EMR implementation and use.
“There have been a lot of moments throughout my career with Advocate when my team has achieved audacious results,” Norenberg says. “The idea that we might get to world-class status from time to time is intoxicating to me. I strive for that and work hard to join teams that agree with it.”
Norenberg spends his free time coaching high school rugby and soccer teams. He says a combination of knowledge, commitment, and focus is a winning formula for productivity and high-quality work both on and off the field.
“Both in coaching and my job, I spend a lot of time working on the fundamentals so that everybody understands what they are doing, how they are doing it, and why they are doing it,” he says. “At Advocate, my aim is always to find ways for my team to do its job better. We also want to help other people do their jobs better through the use of our systems.”
Reflecting on the past three decades, Norenberg says he has become a more sophisticated professional. He credits much of his growth to strong mentors. He counts his father as his first business role model. Bruce Smith, Advocate’s senior VP of information systems and CIO, is another one of Norenberg’s mentors.
“I see things less black and white than I did before,” Norenberg says. “My decision making has improved as I’ve taken more consideration of the human impact of my choices. As you evolve, you gather wisdom and become a more mature leader.”
Allscripts is a proud partner of Advocate Health Care and is a global leader in healthcare information technology solutions that inspire smarter care delivery. Our solutions connect people, places, and data and help build open, connected communities of health across the globe.
Impact Advisors is proud to partner with Advocate Health Care and its forward-thinking leaders, like John Norenberg, as they have set the course for unprecedented change through the innovative deployment of healthcare information technology. As a nationally recognized healthcare consulting firm dedicated to improving healthcare through technology and process improvement, our working relationship with John and Advocate Health Care epitomizes partnership. We proudly join in celebrating John’s career! Thank you for allowing us to be a trusted business advisor.
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