A Career in Health IT Leading to a Task Force Exploring CRM Technology for Healthcare

Description: U:\InfoX Features\08 03 2017 Issue\Kennedy_headshot.jpgMy 22-year career spans both public and private sectors, having served in the Army, a State agency, hospitals and product companies. However, from my first position in the Army through my current position at Salesforce, health IT has been a consistent focus.

My earliest experience with HIMSS was attending the HIMSS Annual Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans in 2001. While I had been in the industry for a few years, I was just coming from a field assignment in the Army with the 62nd Medical Group, where I served as the Group’s first S-6 (i.e. CIO). Sending medical images in low-bandwidth settings was a stark contrast to the modern technology of Walter Reed Army Medical Center where I cut my teeth on the latest and greatest of health IT.

While I was at Walter Reed, I attended HIMSS 2001 in New Orleans and was overwhelmed by the technology available, the expertise of the speakers and the shear volume of attendees. I aimlessly wandered the floor before linking up with a colleague who guided me around. We asked questions, we saw demos, we engaged in conversation – it was fantastic! My perspective of health IT dramatically increased after this conference and set a solid foundation for much more work with HIMSS to come. Since then, I have served on the HIMSS Washington DC - National Capital Area Chapter Board, on the Interoperability & HIE Committee where I helped drive the 2015 HIMSS Direct Messaging Survey. Most recently, I will be chairing a new HIMSS Task Force: Exploring Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Technologies for Healthcare.

My early health IT focus was on telemedicine. In 1996 while I was serving as the Chief of Information Management at the community hospital at Fort Meade, MD, we implemented an Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) network and enabled Pediatric Ground Rounds, dermatology referrals and larger medical education. I continued with telemedicine throughout my career, including:

  • Testing teledermatology over high frequency radio from Thailand to Fort Detrick with the Army
  • Managing R&D projects at Walter Reed for Ophthalmology and Hepatitis C,
  • Project managing a telepathology effort as a civilian consultant with the Army Institute of Research
  • Enabling veterans living with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to get care closer to home while at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Technology has certainly improved since then – it is amazing how ubiquitous video is today! I wish I could say the same for its adoption in healthcare. While more common, telemedicine remains woefully underutilized.

In 2007, l was introduced to the National Health Information Network (NHIN). Immediately, I recognized its utility for the Mass General & Red Sox Home Base Program (a program to support veterans and their families living with TBI and PTSD). We saw an opportunity to decrease the time to diagnosis if we were able to get medical records from the Office of Veterans Affairs (the VA) and the Department of Defense (DoD) more quickly. My proposal was funded and we launched an exploratory effort between Mass General, the VA and the DoD to build a digital pathway to exchange medical records. While we successfully demonstrated the technology, it became clear more infrastructure was necessary.

HIEs were on the rise nationally as well as in Massachusetts, where I parlayed my expertise into a position with the Mass eHealth Institute as their Director for HIE. I led the State HIE grant program for Massachusetts. This was a remarkable time – there was funding, but little infrastructure and less experience exchange information. We started the Mass HIway (a public-private partnership and non-repository style HIE), awarded over 75 HIE grants (123, 4, 5) and dramatically increased the exchange of information in Massachusetts. While the need remains, sustaining HIE efforts has proved to be challenging for many.

My most recent endeavor, and one I have been passionate about for years, is how we make healthcare easier for the patient. Can we bring the Amazon experience to healthcare? My sense is “yes, we can.” In my current role at Salesforce and as the Chair of the Exploring CRM Technology for Healthcare Task Force, I am on a mission to figure out how.

If you are interested in being a part of the HIMSS Exploring Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Technologies For Healthcare Task Force, email interop@himss.org for more information.



Sean Kennedy, MS, PMP, MPH, is the Director of Solution Architecture for Salesforce.com Healthcare and Life Sciences. As the head of Solution Architecture, Sean guides industry architecture, integration, compliance and security efforts, advises on product development and go to market strategies, and supports customers as they work to build scalable, frictionless and secure solutions that generate enormous value.

Prior to Salesforce, Sean served as the Director, Health Information Exchange for the Massachusetts eHealth Institute where he led the State’s HIE & HIT adoption efforts. Before MeHI, he worked at Mass General Hospital where he directed key technology and innovation leadership activities. And, prior to Mass General he was a Major in the United States Army where he was a Medical Service Corps officer specializing in Health Information Systems. Sean is a certified Project Management Professional and holds graduate degrees in Telecommunications and Public Health from the University of Maryland and the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, respectively.