Tell us about your role and responsibilities at Children’s Mercy Hospital.
I’m responsible for all of the technology initiatives in our organization. Part of this is managing a total budget of $80 million along with a staff of 240 full-time employees. We manage two hospitals and 45+ clinics in Missouri and Kansas.
In your experience, what have been the most significant changes to the role of healthcare CIO in the past few years?
It is changing constantly. We used to be the technology solution provider. Now we are leading business models and changing business models using technology. When many of us first started our careers, technology was about data processing. So we were making sure systems and phones were up and running. It was probably a small data center with routers and switches. Now core technology is a commodity. CIOs are now focused on how technology is helping to drive business value and profit to the organization.
As CDO, what are some of the opportunities your organization is pursuing to improve data security?
The security issues that healthcare organizations face are largely a result of people’s behaviors. Phishing attacks, malware, it’s due to internal behavior. We need ongoing reinforcement and education. We should be taking information security as serious as clinicians washing their hands.
You’ll never be bulletproof. But when I think of organizations doing security awareness once a year to be compliant—it’s not good enough. It takes just that one employee to have a bad behavior, not intentionally, to cause a breach. Security should be reinforced on a regular basis.
“Now everything is technology-centered. I like to think every organization is a tech company. That’s a big pivot in the thought process and mentality.”
Do you feel collaboration between IT and the “business” is challenging in healthcare, and if yes, how can the C-suite work more seamlessly together?
Yes, it’s a challenge. As a leader, we have to change perception. Everyone has a perception of IT as a back-end function. We need to work collectively to solve a problem or achieve a business goal. It’s about solving it together.
We touch every department. Many times we are the patient’s first contact. We can tell you what happens with our patients from bill drop to reimbursement. When you think of it from that perspective, it shows how many opportunities there are to rely on the CIO to help drive improvements. That was not historically the construction. Now everything is technology-centered. I like to think every organization is a tech company. That’s a big pivot in the thought process and mentality.
What should CIOs/CDOs focus on most when deciding which emerging technologies will benefit their enterprise?
When I talk to peers, they don’t have some of the fundamentals in place. For instance, if you want AI and blockchain, you need a fundamental analytics platform in place. You need infrastructure to take advantage of it and gather data from the network and from wireless. You can gain a lot of insight about patient usage by tracking their movements and seeing what they are doing.
Some lack the building blocks of what is needed. For example, for AI, you need computing power, you need cloud first. Healthcare is not the fastest to adopt cloud technology. You also need data to be amassed from everywhere. For these game-changing technologies, we’re about five years away. There are foundational challenges that we’re still trying to fix.
Industries today are more collaborative working across industry boundaries. How can healthcare companies take better advantage of their ecosystems?
We have to think non-traditionally. For instance, partnering with a retail chain or startup. Historically this has not happened. We play it safe. We want to see something that’s proven. New leaders must think about not having a proven solution, trust their gut and take a gamble.
We’re starting to see traction. With technology like AI and analytics, you need time to inject the data and put in the right algorithms to make AI mature and start learning. But it’s not as accelerated as other industries.
What do you like most about your job?
Solving problems that are saving people’s lives. I’m in a pediatric specialty hospital. I have small kids. I think about the parents of kids who have to come to the hospital. They are placing their lives and trust in our facility. Saving lives is a big mission. It keeps me going. So I think, “Let’s put together simple to use technology that makes employees more efficient and makes it the best experience for people entering the facility.”
What are some of the improvements your organization has made to the customer experience?
We’ve undergone major organizational transformation. We looked for ways to improve back-end processes. For instance, improving the revenue cycle to lead to better patient outcomes. We are implementing new systems, but also reinventing business processes end-to-end.
What do you like to do outside of work? Do you have any special hobbies or interests?
I have three kids ages 5, 7 and 9. That keeps me going outside of work. And they’re at the age where they still like me and want to hang out with me. I also enjoy golf, basketball and exotic cars.