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Sue Schade | Principal | StarBridge Advisors, LLC.

Successful women leaders are transforming the healthcare sector with their dedicated endeavors and agile decision making. They focus on providing the best healthcare facilities to the patients while adopting innovative interaction procedures. These leaders are driven to eliminate all the ailments of the patients, and to bring a smile on their faces.

One such enthusiastic forerunner with the zeal to deliver exceptional healthcare facilities is Sue Schade, the Principal at StarBridge Advisors, LLC. A nationally recognized health IT leader, she has served as interim Chief Technology Officer at University of Vermont Health Network, Chief Information Officer at Stony Brook Medicine on Long Island, and at University Hospitals in Cleveland, Ohio.

Sue has more than 30 years’ experience in healthcare information technology management and was recognized as the CHIME-HIMSS John E. Gall, Jr. CIO of the Year in 2014.

In the following interview, Sue shares her professional journey, her opinions about the healthcare industry, and how her company is scaling for the imminent future.

Give Us A Brief overview of your 38-year long journey in the healthcare sector.

I started out as a programmer in the early 1980s and moved into management soon after working my way up to regional CIO at a large Chicago based health system. I worked for a few years for an early-stage software vendor and then for a large consulting firm.

From 2000 through 2015, I served as CIO at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and then Michigan Medicine before starting down the path of interim management, IT consulting and leadership coaching. With two colleagues I started StarBridge Advisors in late 2016 and have served in several interim IT leadership roles since.

I am committed to developing next generation leaders.  My coaching work as well as my industry speaking and writing a weekly blog, ‘Health IT Connect’ at www.sueschade.com give me great joy and satisfaction.

What is StarBridge Advisors and its vision, and what are the key aspects of its stronghold in the US healthcare consulting industry.

StarBridge Advisors is a health IT advisory firm. We collaborate with leaders and   innovators to help advance healthcare with technology enabled solutions.  We have supported large and small healthcare providers and vendors across the country with interim IT leaders, a wide range of advisory services, and leadership coaching. We have a nationally recognized team of experienced IT leaders who have served as either CIO, CMIO, CNIO, CTO, or CISO in provider organizations. We offer frank and honest opinions based on real-world experience as healthcare executives.

From a business leadership perspective, what is your opinion on the impact of the current pandemic on the healthcare sector?

The impact has been significant, but healthcare providers have continued to do what they do – serve the health needs of their communities. They have pivoted in numerous ways to focus on COVID-19 patients while continuing to deliver other needed care both inpatient and ambulatory. As a result, virtual care has increased dramatically, new workflows have been developed for employees and patients to ensure safe care, many non-patient care staff have worked remotely, and revenues decreased when other clinical services were temporarily suspended or greatly reduced.

What is your opinion on the necessity for healthcare consulting providers to align their offerings with newer technological developments, especially when it comes to catering to the ever-evolving customer needs and preferences?

I love being at the intersection of healthcare and technology given the constant change for both. Healthcare consulting firms must not only keep up but also stay ahead of the trends to remain useful and relevant to clients. As industry thought leaders, we are looked to for insight and advice. As practitioners with broad experience and knowledge gained over decades in many different organizations, we are asked to provide novel solutions to old problems and innovations to create new opportunities. As a small firm, we focus on our core interim management services and ensure we can address the evolving needs of our clients. In the coming year that means an increased focus on digital health strategy; ERP planning, strategy, and vendor selections; optimizing and expanding clinical systems in support of telehealth, population health, and advanced analytics; as well as cybersecurity.

What impact did the COVID-19 pandemic have on your company’s daily operations? What efforts did you take to ensure safety of your employees at the same time?

We have always been a virtual company working from home when we aren’t at a client site. Our daily operations haven’t change during the pandemic, but we have largely done our consulting and interim work remotely for the past year.

In your opinion, what could be the future of the healthcare consulting sector post the pandemic? And how are you strategizing to scale your company’s operations and offerings to be prepared for that future?

With healthcare providers financially constrained, there will be less reliance on consulting firms and contractors. We have seen this over the past year. On the other hand, many initiatives that were put on the back burner in the past year due to the pandemic are now starting up in 2021 and organizations are very cautiously and selectively looking at what external help they need. We have put additional focus on developing key services based on what we expect to be the focus for CIOs in the next year. Our operating model allows us to adjust during a downturn in business and be ready when business picks up. I expect that there will be less travel and more remote work for consulting firms post pandemic which will save costs for our clients and allow us to be more productive.

If given a chance, what is the one thing that you would change about the healthcare consulting ecosystem in US?

Too often, I have seen consulting firms overstaff and overcharge for their engagements. Consulting firms need to be laser focused on the specific client’s needs with the right size team and right level of consultant experience to ensure the greatest value to their clients. Our operating model and approach coupled with a few select channel partner firms allows us to do just that. And we must remember that it is all about relationships. We consider our clients to be our partners. Our work speaks for itself and as a result we have considerable repeat business.

As an established leader, what would be your advice to the budding entrepreneurs and enthusiasts aspiring to venture into the healthcare consulting space?

I never thought I’d start a business or be an entrepreneur myself. But in 2016, I wanted the flexibility to live where I wanted and work less than full-time over the course of the year. Being a “single shingle” has its limits. The power that comes with having a team of advisors to draw on has allowed us to have a much broader and deeper impact on the industry. My advice is to focus on what you know and are good at, leverage others to fill the gaps, and commit to be a constant learner. And if you start a business, be ready to work harder and more than you expected!