“The effective use of data separates the average from the great.”
Ron Mehring serves as the Chief Information Security Officer and Vice President of Technology & Security for Texas Health Resources, one of the largest nonprofit healthcare delivery systems in the United States. Ron holds a Master of Business Administration and Master of Legal Studies in Healthcare Law and is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional.
Why did you join Texas Health?
I recently came off work with the Department of Veterans Affairs. I was looking for new opportunities and came across an open information security director position at Texas Health. It looked intriguing, and the Texas Health mission and values resonated with me. I have been with Texas Health for over 11 years.
Can you share a bit about your background — what led you down this path?
I live in Fort Worth with my family. I retired from the Marine Corps after 21 years of active duty. After the Marine Corps, I landed in the Department of Veterans Affairs, where I served in their oversight and compliance teams and led network defense operations for almost three years. Yes, I am a recovering federal employee. I put my name in the hat for a Texas Health information security director position, and I was fortunate to join the Texas Health family. They’ve been coaching, mentoring, and training me ever since. From an education standpoint, I just finished my second master’s from Texas A&M, where I studied healthcare law and policy. I’m a full-fledged Aggie, so I’m officially a Texan. Being a Marine and working in the VA with a strong mission and people-oriented culture has driven my need to be a part of something significant and meaningful. Healthcare delivery and our mission to serve our communities hit the sweet spot.
What did you learn in your other roles that you brought to this industry?
I brought an understanding of what large-scale technology and security operations look like in a mission-oriented organization. I worked in oversight and compliance, and in the larger operation centers within the VA. I saw how technology and security influence patient care and customer delivery at the national level, at the point of care, and at different customer touchpoints. Specifically, I saw how our rules and services impact delivery in its totality: whether it’s at the actual point of care, treatment, or end-of-life, memorial services — the full lifecycle of a veteran.
Throughout your career, what have you learned about the power and potential of data?
I have always been data-driven. What makes data so meaningful to me? I would say the effective use of data separates the average from the great. You’re better off if you can incorporate data into your day-to-day work, whether it’s an operational process or some larger-scale initiative or product. Systems become safer, delivery is faster, and the overall experience is better. No matter what your role is — a technologist, a caregiver, a financial analyst, or a supply chain leader — using data in a meaningful way can help make people and processes more effective.
What does Truveta’s vision of saving lives with data mean to you?
Looking back at the pandemic, we were chasing a lot of data. It’d be nice to be more proactive in how we use data and have more holistic data solutions for acute and chronic disease management. Not just at the point of care, but also for the management of social determinants of care. I think there is potential to improve the quality of life for many [through data].
How has your work changed your views on data, technology, and security?
There is more clarity. When data is presented to you in a meaningful way, it allows you to ask different questions. For example, determining who, when, and how to help those most at risk within our communities. Data has allowed us to answer those wicked-hard questions. As we bring data together from our healthcare ecosystem touchpoints, we see a deeper, clearer picture that helps us optimize delivery. Being data-driven allows our executive and clinical leadership teams to make effective and timely decisions.
There’s so much room for change. What are you looking forward to next in the industry?
I am looking forward to a cohesive, integrated approach where we leverage data so patients are guided on a care path that best fits them on their terms. The pandemic created a lot of change in a short period of time, which is not easy in healthcare delivery systems, it’s like trying to turn an aircraft carrier. I am looking forward to applying everything we have learned: this new form of agility, speed, and innovative thinking.
Can you name a pivotal moment or person that changed the direction of your career?
How did I get where I am today? In my younger years, I thought I was on an aviation career path; I fixed airplanes for a living. I loved it and was good at it. In 1998, while in the Marine Corps, I was on special duty, serving as a career planner. Marines are required to spend a few years out of their primary occupation on a special duty. My role was to retain Marines and help them with career choices. One day, I was in my office, and I heard a bunch of racket, filled with expletives, from an office a couple of doors down. Then, loud steps marched down the hallway and a Colonel said, “I need you to go down to the intel room and fix the email server.”
I kind of knew what email was, but I had no idea what a server was. My first inclination, as an aviation metalsmith, was to grab a hammer and bang on it. I realized that would not be helpful and figured out who to call, and they guided me through the process. Learning how to fix the server was exciting, and I continued to help through my special duty tour. Two years later, I changed my career and became the data systems chief for an entire air station and airwing. That one moment put me on an entirely new career path.
After a few years as a data system chief, I was hand selected to become one of a handful of information assurance practitioners that would help establish the Marine Corps information assurance program. That culminated with being selected as an honoree for the National Security Agency’s Frank Rowlett Award for Individual Excellence in Information Assurance. So, a broken email server and a phone call led me to the incredible role I serve in today at Texas Health Resources.