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Meet the Family! Michael Wildsmith reflects on IT transformation, HIPAA evolution

Cornerstone family

In this day and age, 15 years is a long time to commit to one place of employment.

Given the changes in the way Cornerstone of Recovery uses technology, it may feel like Michael Wildsmith has been here twice that.

Today is his final day, and we asked him to take a break from his role as Cornerstone’s HIPAA Privacy and Security Officer to reflect on his service to Cornerstone of Recovery.

Michael Wildsmith: From IT to HIPAA

Michael WildsmithQUESTION: What was your official start date, and what was your title when you were first hired?

MIKE: Dec. 20, 2004, and I was hired as Cornerstone’s first Director of IT (Information Technology)

QUESTION: I think new employees don’t quite grasp just how much technology has changed over the years, and how it’s transformed our jobs. Give us a glimpse of what it was like in the beginning, when you were hired, to do the job you do today.

MIKE: When I was hired, Cornerstone had two locations and a little over 100 employees. The network connectivity between the two locations at the time was a radio-wave network, comprised of two dish antennas on the roofs of 1214 and 1130, pointed at each other. During bad weather, we consistently lost network connectivity. We also had paper charts and lots of paper filing cabinets. Charts had to be checked out and transported from one location to another for someone to read. Fast forward to today, with our two main locations, and close to 250 staff — we are constantly and securely connected through the public internet by fiber, with crazy high bandwidth choices, and we utilize a secure, cloud-based electronic medical records system. To me, it is crazy how much has changed in just 15 years.

QUESTION: What do you see as the biggest change, and what are you particularly proud/honored to have played a part in?

MIKE: It is difficult to choose a single event or IT project as the “biggest change” over the years. It has been an honor being a part of an organizational culture that maintains a willingness to learn and embraces change, even when it’s sometimes painful; especially with the evolution of technology and the huge growth our company has had over the years.

QUESTION: When and how did you start to become interested in HIPAA (the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and patient privacy?

MIKE: Sometime in 2006 I heard (former Cornerstone CEO) Dan Caldwell and other leaders here refer to me as “the Security Officer.” Working in IT at the time, I did not know what that meant, so I started doing research about HIPAA and other health care laws. Thankfully, certain staff members such as Pam Collett, Barbara Hale, Dave Reeves and others were able to help answer a lot of my questions. That is when I really started building more of a passion for patient privacy.

Michael Wildsmith, left, and his wife, Beth.

QUESTION: What has impressed you the most about the Cornerstone culture’s growing adherence to HIPAA guidelines?

MIKE: It has been difficult asking our staff to take on additional responsibilities that are required by federal and state substance abuse privacy and security laws. It can be daunting and even boring. However, I am amazed at how our staff has found a way to accept the extra workload simply because it protects our patients.

QUESTION: Where are you going and what will you be doing?

MIKE: I will be working at Avertium in Knoxville (as a Healthcare Consultant), as part of a team that provides HIPAA and compliance consultation to nationwide clients.

QUESTION: Any personal details you want to share, feel free.

MIKE: Not a lot of people may know I met my wife working here at Cornerstone. Beth worked here before me, as a (Young Adult) counselor and later moved to a receptionist role. She also worked in (Recovery Renewal), (Assessment and Orientation) and Medical Records. We recently celebrated our 13th anniversary. We have three grown children and three grandkids. One of our children volunteered in Activity Therapy years ago, and one worked with Anne Young in the Women’s Program. Cornerstone has played an integral part in our family’s history.

QUESTION: Any parting thoughts on your time at Cornerstone?

MIKE: It has been an honor to be a part of the Cornerstone story and we will miss our friends here.

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