Licking Memorial Health Systems Discusses Finding Your Passion, Making a Difference, and Using Analytics to Drive the Future

Sallie Arnett - Central Ohio Tech Power Player Honoree

Sallie Arnett


Licking Memorial Health Systems


Bryan Kaiser



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The VP of Information Systems for Licking Memorial Health Systems, Sallie Arnett, discusses finding your passion, making a difference, and using analytics to drive the future of Licking Memorial Health Systems. 

Hello, and welcome to the comSpark podcast, where you will get to meet today's technology thought leaders. To learn more, visit

BK: Good morning. We are here today with Sallie Arnett, who is the Vice President of Information Systems at Licking Memorial Health Systems. Licking Memorial Health Systems is an organization based in Newark, Ohio and they have about 2,200 employees.  My name is Bryan Kaiser. I'm the Founder and President of Vernovis, also part of the executive host committee of comSpark, and I will be your guest moderator today. So, let's get started. Sallie, you have been at Licking Memorial for about 18 years. So in a time where the CIOs last about 18 to 24 months on the job, to what do you attribute your longevity in this role?

SA: I'm a strong believer, Bryan, in following your passion. When I onboard new team members, I always talk to them about doing the things that they really love to do and want to do in their heart, and they know that's the thing that they really want to do, possibly for the rest of your career. And when I came on to Licking Memorial Health Systems, I really found an organization with a strong mission. Our mission is to improve the health of the community, and it's a mission that I feel very strongly about in terms of being able to make a difference in the lives of my family, my friends, and our community. When you're in community healthcare, one of the things that you tend to face every day is, there could be someone that you know or that you love coming through the door next, so you're making a difference not only in the lives of your community as a whole, but potentially in your family member's lives as well.

BK: So, so how do you help somebody unpack what their passion or their, their “why” is? You hear that a lot lately. What's your “why?” “Why do you do what you do?” How do you help someone unpack that and then how, how do you help them pull it through?

SA: Well, I think it's different, possibly, at different points in your career and in your development. You know, sometimes when we onboard, you know, the younger team members, they're looking, “How can I make money? Aow can I pay off my student loans?” And I think sometimes you have to peel off those layers and realize that IT is not all about how can I get to, “How can I make more money?” “How can I make this change in my own life?” but, “How can I make a change in the lives of other people?” And I think when you step back and start thinking about how you can make a difference in other people's lives and how you can change your life for the long term, I think that's one of the things you can kind of have to dig a little bit deeper into yourself to figure that out. And that doesn't always come with your first job or your second or your third. Um, but I think as you probably grow and mature over that point in your life, you start looking maybe a little bit more introspectively about, um, “How can I change? How can I grow?” And kind of thinking about what you really love to do every day drives that passion.

BK: Hm. Yeah. So, I would imagine a lot of these people over the years, 18 years with, with, uh, this organization are aspiring to move up the ladder. So what, what kind of advice would you give to an aspiring CIO or someone that wants to move up the ladder?

SA: The first thing I would really tell people is, all of us are really intelligent people. You don't get into, you know, you don't make it through school, you don't make it through your education, you don't get to the level of CIO if you're not an intelligent person. But very often, you're not the smartest person in the room. And you need to step back and actually listen to the people around you. You know, you've got a lot of stakeholders sitting in the room with you. They know the business. They will more than likely value how you contribute to the business, and if you take the time to dialogue with your peers and with the other team members around the table…taking that time to listen and learn from those around you, I think, is one of the most key attributes you can bring to the table.

BK: Oh, that's a fantastic answer. I appreciate that. So, let me ask, let me ask you this. What, professionally, what makes you the most happy?

SA: This is one I thought long and hard about when you brought this question to the table. And, you know, I think really for me, having the ability to make a difference in people's lives. When we talk about mission and that ability to carry it through, uh...we just finished a project in the past two years that dealt with decreasing sepsis mortality in our patients, and we actually sat down as a team. And that, again, this is that collaboration, and knowing your customers and knowing your business. Um, our sepsis mortality rates were almost 27.1 percent. Uh, we actually worked by installing new technology, leveraging technology that we already had, working very, very closely with our clinicians, and we actually reduced our sepsis mortality by 70 percent. And those are all great, because we have these nice statistics and we can put it in our process improvement books. Um, but what that came out to for us in our community – in two years, we saved 102 lives. In two years. To me, being able to go to work every day, know that I'm making a difference, and being able to see that coming to fruition. That really makes me happy.

BK: That's really good. And it kind of makes me think about how IT and analytics are converging in this mission, that mission field that you have. What are you seeing from, uh, data analytics and how that's improving processes and, and situations?

SA: Um, I think probably as we went through this process, we sat down with our clinicians, we sat down with our process improvement teams, we sat down with our statisticians, and we started with strong baseline data just to understand where our problems were, what was driving them, and how could we help. And based upon that, we actually looked at the existing technology we had. We started with trying to leverage technologies that we already had, and we saw some incremental improvements, but we knew that we could do better based upon the initial data that we had, which then drove us to go out and actually find a stronger analytics package that actually worked with our electronic medical record where all of our patient data is stored. And this analytics tool, actually generated a whiteboard for the physician so they could actually see every single patient that was in the hospital at any given point in time, uh, what their vital signs were, what changes they were going through from a physiological standpoint, and then basically generated out a very simple dashboard for them with, um, red if a patient was in danger, yellow if they were heading in a bad direction, and green if the patient was doing just fine. Um, and then along with that, we actually enhanced our communication technology so that our patients were actually get, our physicians were actually getting a HIPAA compliant, secure text to their phones, because sepsis is one of those things that you need to deal with very rapidly. With, uh, the longer a patient goes, uh, the more damage can actually occur to their body. Um, so we actually combine that with our secure texting system, so a physician would actually get a text directly to their phone and say, “You need to go to the room, you need to go right now and here's the suggested recommendations for how to intervene with that patient.” Uh, so really that analytics is driving so much and forcing us to take action. So, something that we're really excited about .

BK: That's really good. So, so I've got one more question for you. What are some of your top projects of 2018, and what, what's the importance of those?

SA: For the coming year we’re actually in the assessment phase of a new electronic medical record. And if you're not familiar with healthcare, um, electronic medical record basically is everything about your patient from the time that they register and come through the door – it records all of their treatment, their billing, and it's also a tool for one-on-one customer service with your patients. And healthcare is becoming much more consumer driven than ever before. Uh, so with this new project, which will probably be about a, we anticipate to be about a five year project, we're in the assessment phase right now. Uh, we expect to completely transform the way that we're doing business today. Uh, not only in the business side of our organization and how we register patients and collect bills and do all the things that you have to do to keep the lights on, but we really expect it to transform the way that we're caring for our patients, the way that we're providing data about our patients, and the way that we're actually interacting directly with our patients as consumers. So, we're really excited about heading down that road.

BK: That sounds like a significant project that will bear a lot of fruit. So Sallie, thank you for your time today. This is Bryan Kaiser and Sallie Arnett. To learn more about us, please visit Goodbye, and until next time.

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