My Surprise Breakfast with Epic CEO Judy Faulkner

One of the highlights of my experience at CHIME 2012 was a surprise breakfast that happened on the final day of CHIME. I actually was a touch late to breakfast after skipping out of a mostly empty room talking about HIPAA (imagine that on the last day of a conference). I got my breakfast and sat down at a table of what turned out to be mostly hospital CIOs.

Meals at CHIME turned out to be a great time to meet, connect and learn from the hospital CIOs that attended. A lively conversation was happening when a lady sat down next to me. I looked up and to my surprise the lady sitting next to me was none other than Judy Faulkner, CEO of Epic. I’m sure she had no idea who I was and I later realized that she likely sat next to me because on the other side of her was a hospital CIO she wanted to apologize to for something that had happened months before.

As an EHR blogger, I admit that I was probably a bit star struck sitting next to Judy. This was probably accentuated by the stigma (right or wrong) that Epic doesn’t like the media very much. So, I decided that rather than probe into Judy like a normal media person (I prefer to be a thought leader as much as I am a journalist anyway), I decided to just sit back and mostly listen.

It made for a really interesting experience since one of the first things Judy talked about was apologizing to this hospital CIO. I’m sure the cynics out there would say that she was probably apologizing because she wanted to further Epic’s business with that CIO. However, that wasn’t the impression I got from Judy. Instead, I got the impression that she had a real feeling of guilt that something she had done had caused other people some amount of trouble. In fact, how troubled she was by something most of us wouldn’t think twice about I think says something about Judy. I think some like to characterize her as a tough, driven, hard-nosed, business woman. Maybe she is in the boardroom, but my experience at breakfast was of her as a very thoughtful caring person.

When I told some of my colleagues about my experience with Judy, she told me I’d been seduced. Maybe she’s right. From my experience I saw a very kind, compassionate Judy.

I’ll wait to share all of the things I learned from my time with Judy for another time, but I did also have an interesting conversation with Judy about Twitter and social media. I think the conversation began because I playfully suggested that she should post whatever we were talking about to Twitter. I say playfully, because I was quite sure I’d never seen Judy on Twitter or any other social media and so I was interested to see her response. She responded something like, “I hope I live my whole life and never go on Twitter.”

While I was partially taken back by the sharpness of her response (Although, thinking back I shouldn’t have been surprised), I replied that “Twitter’s not about ‘what I ate today’ and that there was real value to engaging on Twitter.” To Judy’s credit, she then asked why I thought she should be on Twitter.

My response in the moment was pretty terrible. I told her about Twitter’s ability to “connect people.” While this is valuable to many people, the last thing that Judy wants in her position is more random people connecting with her. After giving such a lackluster response, I decided a broader answer I could have given would be, “Social media is about people and people are the most valuable asset in the world. Social media leverages people in amazingly powerful ways.”

That answer is still not perfect without examples and application, but at least the answer applies more broadly in a way that she could benefit from social media. After this experience, I asked myself if I was doing a keynote on healthcare social media, what would I say?

I’ve already come up with 21 ways to benefit from social media. I’ve also started creating a list of very specific examples of social media in healthcare. If you have more examples, I’d love to hear them in the comments. It only seems fitting that I’d use social media to help me put together this resource, right?

I’m still debating the best way to spread what I gather about healthcare social media, but I think it needs to happen. I still run into far too many people that think that social media is just about what you ate for lunch or your drunken pictures with friends. More people need to be informed about the amazing possibilities with healthcare social media. Plus, next time I happen upon breakfast with Judy Faulkner, I’ll have a much better answer for her.