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Jul 31, 2012, 9:00:00 PM · by Ashley Wetmore

A Conversation with Steve Sisko

In today's post we offer you an interview with Steve Sisko, author of ICD-10 Impact to Health Care Payers & Providers. We approached Steve for our company blog, intrigued by his quick climb to the top in featured lists such as Top Ten Bloggers to Follow on Twitter and his number five position on the #HIT100 list. We get to see a lot of Steve's work from the technical side published on his blog and through his guest contributions. This time we wanted know the man behind the technology and how he has gained success in the Health IT industry and become an opinion leader in Health IT social media. Below Steve answers a variety of questions about his experience blogging, his recent recognition and how all of this has affected him as a professional, blogger and family man. At the bottom of the post, feel free to leave any further questions you might have. Steve has generously agreed to personally answer questions by readers.

Healthcare IS: Tell us a bit about the man behind ShimCode.

Steve: I’ve been working in healthcare for about 20 years; for payers, risk-bearing providers and the software vendors and consulting firms that service payers and providers. I held just about every role there is including senior management and sole founder of company that developed an Internet-based means for payers to enable physician offices to check eligibility, claims status and submit authorization requests without human intervention. I grew up in the Chicago land area, spend about 10 years in the Healthcare Capital of the United States (Nashville, TN) and now reside in a suburb of the Valley of the Sun (Phoenix, AZ). I’ve been married 27 years to my high school sweetheart and have four grown children. My time is now largely my own.

Healthcare IS: What media sources do you value for Health IT news?

Steve: I find some of the best information comes from blogs posted by individuals and small, niche companies. These sources tend to omit or minimize sales pitches and fluff. For instance, CapTech Consulting is a good example of a niche company that shares good info:

http://blogs.captechconsulting.com/blog/list

The Motorcycle Guy is an example of a single individual sharing good info:

http://motorcycleguy.blogspot.com/

I also value information shared by certain key people and companies I follow on Twitter. Often times they’ll be the first to post information they become aware of before the general Twitterverse and/or public. I also value the Internet in general and have a number of RSS feeds and Google Alerts setup for topics that interest me. I cull through these once or twice and day and separate the wheat from the chaff.

Healthcare IS: Who are your key influencers to watch?

Steve: Well, I’ll tell you that my key influencers are not those that Klout [an application that rates your overall influence on Twitter] thinks they are! And I think one has to differentiate between positive and negative influencers. There are a lot of people and companies out there that, in my opinion, are not very credible, are purely pushing a one-sided agenda or are just plain ignorant. Just a few of the positive influencers I follow on Twitter include (and there are dozens more)

Healthcare IS: How do you compare where you are today in your profession as opposed to life pre-blog?

Steve: I’m much more aware of and tuned in to what’s going on in the intersection of healthcare and information technology. I’ve focused in on certain areas of great interest to me and areas in which I see huge opportunity. Using social media and having a “system” that I follow affords me greater value due to the brevity and clarity of the topics I pursue. I can identify and skip a lot of fluff much quicker than before. Although many might argue otherwise, I’ve become more ‘reserved,’ tolerant of other viewpoints and making a more concerted effort at being “politically correct.” – Although this is a constant challenge for me.

Healthcare IS: How has ICD-10 Impact to Health Care Payers & Providers changed you, the people you interact with, and your outlook on the future of Healthcare IT?

Steve: Blogging has changed the way I look at a specific topic or issue and how I can most succinctly and clearly convey my thoughts about that topic. It’s honed my research and communication capabilities and these skills have carried over into my interactions with others. I tend to be more accurate, not to be so windy and potentially judgmental as I may have been before. I don’t think blogging has changed my outlook on the future of healthcare IT at all. I’ve always been very happy and optimistic about healthcare IT. To paraphrase Former New York Mets All-Star second baseman Chico Escuela, “Health IT has been berry, berry good to me!”

Healthcare IS: You mention in your blog that if the payback for blogging didn’t offer fun, growth and value you’d rather be out fishing. Seeing that you have just reached your one year mark, in what way has it impacted you?

Steve: Blogging gives me an outlet to share what’s on my mind and to develop my thoughts about a specific area of expertise (ICD-10 and healthcare interoperability) in a fashion that I believe promotes consumption by others.  My blogging has afforded me a lot of positive recognition and I’ve been approached by a number of individuals and organizations about career and partnership opportunities. I consider my blog a living, passive resume.

Healthcare IS: If you were to encourage a colleague to participate in healthcare IT social media, what could you take from this last year to convince them?

Steve:

  • Have fun – blog about what interests you – you’re not working when you’re doing what you enjoy
  • It’s technically easier than you think. Use available tools and read how-to’s and tips – you don’t have to make mistakes that others have already made. Ask for help if necessary.
  • Blogging requires a clear thought process – don’t hesitate to re-write and even toss a post if necessary.
  • Blogging will take some effort – but not much when you do it in small bits and use available tools.
  • You’ll be a more valuable resource and people will reach out to you.

Healthcare IS: What was your initial reaction to both your listing in 10 HIT Bloggers to Follow on Twitter by Michelle McNickle and your high ranking in #HIT100 promoted by @TheEHRGuy?

Steve: My initial reaction was “Hey that’s cool!”  And then a little thought as to “Why me?” and after a few days “Why not me?” J

Indeed the last 3-4 weeks have been really crazy.  It all started when I got a plug from MedCityNews in a post titled “10 engaging health IT Twitter users you should be following” – http://medcitynews.com/2012/06/10-engaging-health-it-twitter-users-you-should-be-following/

Then came the “10 HIT Bloggers to Follow on Twitter” post you mentioned by Michelle McNickle. http://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/10-hit-bloggers-follow-twitter

During all this, the #HIT100 health IT crowd-sourced contest promoted by Michael Planchart (aka. @TheEHRGuy) was underway.  I place #5 in that and was pretty much flabbergasted. In the last 4 weeks my Twitter follower count has grown over 400 new followers – and largely all “quality followers” – only a handful of XXX, MLM and weirdo followers! :’) I’ve had over a dozen inquiries about interviews, guest posts, job opportunities, and other positive feedback support.

Healthcare IS: In your anniversary post you talk about your large family. Are you able to share your social media success with your family? What’s their opinion of your recent achievements?

Steve: Of course I was excited to share my ‘achievements” with my family; although I’m not sure they appreciate its importance to me and potential value to them.  My wife and four kids 17-23 yrs. old think I’m largely screwing around on social media because that is what they largely do on Facebook.  My oldest daughter who doesn’t live at home mention she was going to get a Twitter account so she could more easily keep in touch and communicate with me!  :’)

I think my family may appreciate my achievements when they translate into increased cash flow that can be applied to things like college tuition, car maintenance, insurance payments and a much needed vacation!  I don’t blame them as I rarely followed the details of what my father was doing to entertain himself and advance his career.

Healthcare IS: Who would you consider to be the most influential person for your blogging career?

Steve: I don’t have a most influential person for my blogging. But I’d offer the following as some possible candidates and explain why:

  • @ePatientDavehttp://epatientdave.com/ He’s been blogging for a while.  He provides a good mix of content and media in his posts. And he can be a warm-hearted AND curmudgeonly old fellow who can share and share alike as the situation warrants.
  • @Jhalamka –  http://geekdoctor.blogspot.com/ Prolific writes and consummate provider-side Health IT guy
  • @Techguy –   http://www.healthcarescene.com/ Prolific blogger – runs a gaggle of blogs and employs qualified help to run all the blogs.  Little edgy at times – open and easy going – youth in action!
  • My oldest son Neil – questions me at every point.  My main antagonist that keeps me on my feet. Over the past year, have given me a lot of shit for spending time online and congratulated me when I pointed out a few positive things: “That’s cool Dad!”

Healthcare IS: What do you hope for the future of Health IT in the U.S.?

Steve: That positive change actually takes place and those that hoped for what they really need get what they wanted without undue impact to those who may currently have what they need and will likely be footing the bill for the new entrants into the system.

You may also like our podcast interviews: What's the difference between an I.T. Pharmacist and an Informatics Pharmacist?

General, Interviews

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