The Economy of the Cloud at Adventist Health

Chief Technology Officer Mark Heringer draws from his financial background to spearhead technological innovations in healthcare

As an agricultural economics major in college, Mark Heringer was interested in studying econometrics, a field which uses computers to build models of the economy. It is then that he realized he preferred learning about computers instead of economics. He started working for a government-sponsored entity called the Farm Credit System, dealing with a series of banks.

He began working in the IT department doing a variety of things such as training and programming. In 1987, he got the opportunity to be in charge of the department. As vice president of the organization’s management information systems department, Heringer developed and provided the leadership, vision, and determination to successfully implement a five-year plan for upgrading the information processing technology used by the Western Farm Credit District, a group of twenty affiliated companies with ninety offices and one thousand employees in seven western states.

Mark Heringer, Adventist Health

“We replaced its general ledger, we replaced its loan accounting systems, and we replaced its HR systems. We started rolling out PCs. So, from 1987 to 1993, we were essentially overhauling everything that it used to run its business for that series of financial services,” Heringer says.

He worked for the same company for eighteen years, during which it went through various mergers, and grew from five to twelve western states. In the late ’90s, the company merged with a wholesale bank out of Spokane, Washington, and he spent two years working with the joint management team. However, he soon realized it was not the right fit for him. After almost two decades in financial services, Heringer made the shift to healthcare.

He started looking for other opportunities and began networking with a former colleague from IBM who was running a recruiting organization. In the late ’90s, Sutter Health formed from the merger of several hospitals and the organization was then in the process of trying to build an integrated healthcare delivery network. Specifically, it was looking for a business systems product manager to support the Lawson Software ERP implementation.

“Due to my background and the various kinds of financial services I had performed, I was suitable for that role. I made my way performing different roles such as HR, payroll, procurement, and workflow suites for all of Sutter Health’s companies. This is how I made the transition into healthcare, and I am very lucky because I enjoy this much more than I enjoyed financial services,” Heringer says.

He later spent seven years as vice president providing technical services for an integrated health delivery system with 26 hospitals, 250 offices, 5,000 doctors, and 50,000 employees across Northern California. During this time, he was responsible for wide area and local area networks, data centers, servers, storage, voice communications, and end-user devices.

In early 2014, Heringer worked as a consultant and got involved with the various medical facilities owned by Adventist Health. Eventually, there was an opening at the company, and he left to join it.

In his current role as chief technology officer, he is responsible for the data center, network, and server across Adventist’s twenty-two markets. He is also responsible for its security and manages a team that handles rapid response, working as a liaison between the service desk and the vendors. Recently, Adventist shifted from physical data centers to a more cloud-based system, which has been a focus for Heringer.

“We started the implementation about fifteen months ago,” he says. “So, all of our general financial information is now in the cloud, and we are working on a project to move all of our collaboration space into the cloud in the next few months.”

Earlier this year, Adventist decided to partner with Cerner to take responsibility for about two hundred of the company’s employees who are in charge of running and maintaining Adventist’s EHR. Adventist made a decision to partner with Cerner to be responsible for all of the application work that goes on around the EMR.

“This deal with Cerner looks very much like another successful deal I did in the ’90s,” Heringer says. “It is a ten-year deal, so we’re in the early stages of working on it and getting this whole partnership to work.”

Despite his vast technological experience, working at Adventist is a very different environment for Heringer. He spent sixteen years at Sutter Health where he was responsible for a 45,000 square foot data center. Everything was on-premises, and he was responsible for thousands of servers. Part of what they are dealing with as an IT team while shifting to the cloud is managing that relationship and service delivery.

“That is our focus right now. Not a lot of people have experience in managing big cloud services, and we’re still trying to figure out how do we build the right relationship with Microsoft and Oracle so we get the kind of service that we would expect,” Heringer says. “How those relationships are managed and monitored is the intellectual challenge that we’re facing right now.”

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