CES Partners, Ltd. Executive Search Consultants

CIO Contributes to Health System’s Strategic Vision


A spring morning in 2004, David Moody, the Chief Human Resources Officer at Salina Regional Health Center (SRHC), received the disturbing news. The 250-bed not-for-profit facility in north central Kansas was about to lose its top information technology executive.

A Chief Information Officer checking out isn’t unusual, of course, but making the predicament unusually precarious was the timing of the CIO’s departure. SRHC was barely two years into its largest I.T. commitment ever, an $18 million investment that included a phased-in, five year, $10 million contract with one of the nation’s leading hospital information system vendors to implement a new system.

That morning, Moody added a new item atop his “to do” list: he needed to begin a search to find a new healthcare IT visionary.

His primary task was to determine the best route to take to locate and attract a CIO with the right experience and credentials, and the drive that would be required to complete the course SRHC had set upon – including implementing a full-fledged EMR and progressing into clinical information systems. Would he be able to find a candidate that fit the bill and still be comfortable, at home on the ranges of central Kansas?

David and SRHC turned to Barry Cesafsky and CES Partners for help. David indicates his HR department normally works to fill posts in the medical center themselves. They team up with executive search firms only occasionally, for assignments like director of oncology or other medical specialties, and for executive leaders in finance or information technology. For successfully filling jobs like these, David knows SRHC competes in a wide geographic area, typically spanning four or five states and sometimes nationally. He also understands that the challenge is not only finding and identifying the right talent, but candidates who will fit in the culture of both the medical center and the central Kansas community.

When he does work with executive recruiting firms, Moody says he chooses CES Partners, because of CES’ knowledge of the hospital, and its demonstrated ability to present both the strengths of the system as well as the city of Salina and the surrounding area to appropriate candidates.

The search began in summer of 2004. CES Partners partnered with David to develop a position specification and identify the unique characteristics that SRHC was seeking in candidates. In the collaborative process, including input from human resources,  from the system’s CEO Randy Peterson, and other key stakeholders at SRHC, CES Partners found that the organization was looking for more than a technology manager and experienced IT decision maker. They sought an individual who could take the SRHC information system to the next level and who simultaneously could “re-establish credibility, professionalism and esprit de corps” that had been diminished during the early stages of the difficult HIS implementation.

Further, SRHC needed a motivating leader that could bring perspective and fresh input to the Executive Team and position information technology as a strategic asset rather than a liability, thus helping to ensure IT alignment with the overall goals and objectives of the health system.

CES Partners launched a search with emphasis on sourcing candidates in the Central Plains and Southwest Regions. CES Partners sourced, interviewed and screened prospects to develop and present to SRHC a final slate of qualified candidates who met the search plan’s criteria.

Three years later, SRHC has yet to look back. The CES Partners placement, Larry F. Barnes was formerly CIO at a slightly larger health system in Waco, TX. While he was content in his job in Waco, he was drawn to SRHC by the positive direction he saw the system going, especially in its plan to embrace information technology. Larry was also impressed with the overall caliber of the organization and its leadership. Larry took to the challenge rapidly and successfully guided the conclusion of SRHC’s 5-year HIS implementation. Soon after he came aboard and almost halfway into the HIS project, Larry made the tough, bold call to drop the original contract vendor of the HIS. The “go live” was in March 2007—on time and very smooth despite having changed vendors mid-stream.

“In my initial analyses, I found our I.T. expenditure levels had risen to between 5% and 6% of system spending – when it should have been closer to half that to meet our goals for spending per occupied bed,” Larry explained. Larry guided SRHC to a new contract with MEDITECH, despite the potential upset that such a change could cause. He indicated that the MEDITECH system would be a better fit with the other software modules already in place at SRHC and much more cost-efficient, with savings of millions over the long haul. 

Larry’s tough decisions and early performance earned praise from SRHC executives. “We’ve had a few bumps in the road since the implementation, as you can expect with any conversion, but they don’t compare at all to the lumps we would have taken without Larry’s leadership or if we stayed our course with the original vendor,” David said.

“Larry exceeded our expectations; he is performing great for us and is fitting in
very well in our culture,” says the center’s CEO Randy Peterson (who has since moved up to serve as SVP for SRHC’s parent, Via Christi, the largest health system in Kansas). “We were particularly delighted that he quickly re-established a strong ‘user’ orientation while implementing the new information new system.”

SRHC also has seen progress in some initiatives Larry set forth when he first arrived at the center. Prior to stepping in as CIO, Larry’s analyses identified a need for more controls in the system. Additionally, while he was satisfied with the level of expertise embodied in the staff of 28 FTEs, Larry brought in resources to increase and maintain the technical strength of the team, from analysts and programmers on up. Under Larry’s guidance, SRHC continued to achieve some of its tough goals, including the recent “go live” on a wireless beside clinical information system.

Clearly, Larry was the right fit for the challenge at SRHC, a successful recruitment resulting from good partnership between SRHC’s human resource team and CES Partners. CES Partners continues as an established partner with a track record for Via Christi. It recently completed a successful search for a Chief Financial Officer for another hospital in the Via Christi system, Mt. Carmel Regional Medical Center, in Pittsburg, KS.


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CES Partners, Ltd. is a premier retained executive search firm that specializes in serving healthcare provider organizations with tailored, personalized, senior level consulting services. With a national reach throughout the United States, CES Partners serves health systems, hospitals, group medical practices, and senior living communities. CES Partners’ main office is located at 1314 Kensington Road, #5195, Oak Brook, IL 60522-5195.