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Industry Insider One-on-One: Project Director on Modernization, Electronic Health Record

An image of Carlos Chavez, chief project director at the California Department of Veterans Affairs, below a quote that reads, “CalVet is committed to moving forward with processes and procedures that account for and handle all aspects of information technology. As part of this commitment, CalVet is continuously looking for ways to improve services to our veterans through new innovations.”
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As part of Industry Insider — California’s ongoing efforts to educate readers on state agencies, their IT plans and initiatives, here’s the latest in our periodic series of interviews with departmental IT leaders.

Carlos Chavez is chief project director (CPD) at the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet), a role he has had since February. He is simultaneously CalVet Electronic Health Records project director. Implementing a new electronic health record to be used “across all veterans’ homes” was part of a larger goal to enhance operational effectiveness to maximize veteran service in the department’s 2018-20 Strategic Plan. Chavez was previously chief of IT acquisitions and projects at CalVet, from August 2018-April 2022.

An avid outdoorsman, Chavez gets outside whenever he can, hunting, fishing and camping with friends and family.

Industry Insider — California: As CPD of your organization, how do you describe your role?

Chavez: My role is to ensure that CalVet IT projects are completed successfully within time, budget and scope. My role also requires me to manage stakeholders, ensuring their needs are heard and met while aligning project expectations with the vendors.

Industry Insider — California: How have the role and responsibilities of the CPD changed in recent years?

Chavez: In recent years CalVet has focused on aligning the roles and responsibilities of the CPD with the needs of the project. My role now oversees the IT Security, Application Development, Procurement, Project Management, Change Management, and Health Informatics units. These units and the services they provide are critical to the success and implementation of new IT projects. Having these units report to the CPD ensures efficiency, accountability and reliability in our IT projects.

Industry Insider — California: Does your organization have a strategic plan, and may we hyperlink to it? How big a role do you personally play in writing that strategic plan?

Chavez: Yes, we do have a strategic plan. As a key member of our IT leadership team, my contributions are important to the strategic planning effort. I work with our various IT teams to cohesively gather and provide input to the strategic plan from an IT perspective. Our agency strategic plan includes “implementing modern information technology solutions throughout CalVet.”

Industry Insider — California: What big initiatives or projects are coming up? What sorts of developing opportunities and RFPs should we be watching for in the next six to 12 months?

Chavez: One effort to be on the lookout for is the replacement of CalVet’s Automated Drug Dispensing System (ADDS). This effort involves replacing all the remote drug dispensing units throughout our Veterans Homes of California. The current units are at end-of-life and must be replaced. Currently, CalVet is working on a request for information (RFI) to gather more information about what possible solutions there are for replacing these units.

Industry Insider — California: How do you define “digital transformation?” How far along is your organization in that process, and how will you know when it’s finished?

Chavez: While there are many variations in the definition of digital transformation, we define digital transformation as enhancing your business through all things digital. Digital transformation is a top focus for all state agencies, including CalVet. CalVet is committed to moving forward with processes and procedures that account for and handle all aspects of information technology. As part of this commitment, CalVet is continuously looking for ways to improve services to our veterans through new innovations.

Industry Insider — California: What is your estimated IT budget, and how many employees do you have? What is the overall budget?

Editor’s note: CalVet’s portion of the state’s $308 billion 2022-2023 Fiscal Year state budget is more than $654 million.

Chavez: The Information Services Division comprises approximately 100 employees, serving offices in Sacramento Headquarters, Veterans Homes, Veterans Services District Offices, and cemeteries.

Industry Insider — California: How do you prefer to be contacted by vendors, including via social media such as LinkedIn? How might vendors best educate themselves before meeting with you?

Chavez: My preferred method of vendor engagement is via work email or LinkedIn. The best way for vendors to educate themselves is to visit the CalVet website and review the type of work we do and the facilities we manage. Additionally, they can visit the California Department of Technology and educate themselves on projects currently underway via IT Project Tracking.

Industry Insider — California: In your tenure in this position, which project or achievement are you most proud of?

Chavez: The project I am most proud of is our CalVet Electronic Health Records Project (CEHR). This has been an ongoing project for the last five years that will replace CalVet’s outdated EHR system and business processes. It will ensure uniformity, accountability and reliability across all Veterans Homes, while improving the levels of care provided to California veterans. Our biggest achievement thus far is the successful implementation and rollout of OrderConnect. This is a module within our new EHR system that allows CalVet pharmacies to accept electronic prescriptions.

Editor’s note: In April, CalVet announced the deployment of a new software system aimed at streamlining how the department and staff prescribe medication for the more than 1,700 veterans and their spouses who live at eight Veterans Homes of California around the state.

Industry Insider — California: If you could change one thing about IT procurement, what would it be?

Chavez: I would change the amount of time required to complete the procurement. I would allow for more time to do analysis and gather a bigger picture of all impacts a new change will have.

Industry Insider — California: What do you read to stay abreast of developments in the gov tech/SLED sector?

Chavez: I usually read GovTech*, Capitol Weekly, and Broadcast Bulletins provided by control agencies.

Industry Insider — California: What are your hobbies, and what do you enjoy reading?

Chavez: My hobbies revolve around being outdoors, hunting, fishing, camping with friends and family. I enjoy reading various publications that describe new technologies and creations such as Popular Mechanics, and anything outdoor-related.

*Government Technology magazine is a publication of e.Republic, which also produces Industry Insider — California.

Editor’s note: This interview has been lightly edited for style and brevity.