5 questions with new Cleveland Clinic CIO Edward Marx

Cleveland Clinic named Edward Marx its CIO July 18, a position he will begin Sept. 1.

Mr. Marx says he is honored to join the hospital, which was ranked No. 2 by U.S. News and World Report in its 2017 honor roll, notably for its patient-centric approach to care.

"The opportunity to be part of that and serve in that capacity, helping lead the technology aspect and the digital health aspects, for the organization was a dream come true," he says.

Mr. Marx, who most recently served as executive vice president of the Washington, D.C.-based Advisory Board Company, has an expansive IT background in the C-suite, beginning in the mid-1990s as CIO of Parkview Medical Center in Pueblo, Colo. He went on to serve eight years as CIO of Arlington-based Texas Health Resources and five years as CIO at Cleveland-based University Hospitals.

He has won a number of awards, including 2013 CIO of the Year, jointly awarded by the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society. He was also part of a team that won the HIMSS Nicholas E. Davies Award of Excellence in 2013.

"Whether we're talking about policy or whether we're talking about how we deliver care, [we're] not waiting to be disrupted," Mr. Marx says of his goals for Cleveland Clinic. "Our focus is really not to wait to see what happens — whether it's something locally, or regionally, or nationally in terms of healthcare or payment models, or things like that — but it's also taking this proactive approach to help create the future."

Here Mr. Marx talks with Becker's Hospital Review about his leadership strategy in a rapidly changing IT landscape.

Note: Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Question: How has the IT landscape changed for hospitals since you began working in healthcare in the 1990s?

Edward Marx: Digital health, specifically precision medicine, is really the future. If we're talking technology, we had a data revolution, we've had some revolution with artificial intelligence, but I think now we are on the precipice of the whole precision medicine revolution. And we have the opportunity because of who we are as the Cleveland Clinic to actually help shape that future and not just react to it.

Q: How do you plan to lay the groundwork for IT projects at Cleveland Clinic?

EM: My philosophy is that there really is no such thing as an IT project — I always think of IT as being embedded in the fabric of an organization. I'm all about developing the right relationships. I always say I'm going to "hit the ground listening" and really make sure I'm partnering with the other caregivers, partnering with my peers, partnering with patients ... It's a lot of leadership before we even get to the technology component, which is important, but you've got to have this framework in place first.

Q: What is one of your main goals for Cleveland Clinic this year?

EM: Technology is always changing, which usually means we're going to be able to deliver better care [and] save more lives. In terms of some technologies that help support where we're headed … patient engagement is so valuable. It doesn’t matter how great of care you give, if a patient is unengaged, you are going to be limited. That will be one of our areas of focus. We do online patient portals, for instance, but how do we go and help patients to be well and stay well? If you develop a relationship with your patients before they even need the service — if you engage them — the outcomes will be better for all involved.

Q: What has been the most rewarding experience in your career?

EM: I have been very blessed and fortunate to be a part of some great organizations and some spectacular teams, so I will never say I've had a specific career accomplishment, because it's never been about a single person or just me. One of the things I'm proud of is how my teams have leveraged technologies that have saved people's lives. That is my passion, and that is what drives me. Whenever my team can develop something like that, it's very satisfying, because it isn't a one-time thing. Those [accomplishments] are forever because those technologies are still used today and continue to save people's lives.

Q: What advice would you offer to other hospital CIOs looking to keep up with changing technologies?

EM: You have to make sure you're not myopic and that you get out of the walls of healthcare and into other industries. Too often we become very insular.

We get into the healthcare vertical and we never stray — we never peek over the wall — and that's a big error on our part. Take a step out and look at what's going on in automotive, look at what's going on in the financial industry, look at what's going on in Silicon Valley. Involve yourself, and try to spend at least 25 percent of your time outside the healthcare vertical. Really explore what's going on in other industries, and the technology industry itself, because only then can you start putting things together and thinking proactively about solutions. That is when we see revolution, as opposed to evolution.

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