10 hospital CIOs share their recipes for health IT's 'special sauce'

In February, Daniel Barchi, CIO of NewYork-Presbyterian in New York City, told Becker's that health IT is 80 percent people, 15 percent process and 5 percent technology. We reached out to 10 CIOs from health systems across the country and asked them to share their formulas for successful health IT. Here's what they said:

Kristin Myers. CIO and Dean for Digital and Information Technology at Mount Sinai Health System (New York City): Healthcare IT is 50 percent innovation, 30 percent optimization and 20 percent modernization — driven by our people, process and technology. Innovation is looking for ways to differentiate ourselves and drive competitive advantages in the marketplace. Optimization is the continuous improvement of our processes and how we operate. Modernization is leveraging technology in an agile way to meet changing business needs.

Mike Restuccia. CIO at Penn Medicine (Philadelphia): Far from me to disagree with Mr. Barchi's formula, as he has counseled many of us on how best to build strong and reliable organizations. Thus, I agree that the cornerstone of such an organization are the colleagues/teammates that bring their energy and passion each and every day; not only for their specific institution, but for the entire industry. We strive to create an environment in which our teammates can expand their skills, grow their career and feel valued as they make these notable contributions. The selection of appropriate technology combined with fair, consistent and well-understood processes is the special sauce of successful healthcare IT.

B.J. Moore. CIO of Providence (Renton, Wash.): There are two formulas that come to mind. The first: 80 percent of IT in healthcare is standard for any industry and 20 percent is unique to healthcare. We should hold ourselves to best in class practices and maturity across industries. Giving too much weight to healthcare "uniqueness" can lead us to complacency and suboptimal outcomes in performance and productivity.

The second: 70 percent simplification, 25 percent modernization and 5 percent innovation. To build innovation sustainably and at scale, we must have a strong foundation with minimal complexity and access to modern technology and engineering practices.

Lisa Stump. CIO at Yale New Haven (Conn.) Health: I often use the same formula cited by Mr. Barchi. And I would add to it: 80 percent insight, to understand the business and where it needs to go. 10 percent innovation, to bring solutions that re-envision the work. 10 percent inspiration, to connect people to the vision with a clear plan that inspires commitment and execution. 

Zafar Chaudry, MD. Chief digital and information officer at Seattle Children's Hospital: I believe that successful healthcare IT at Seattle Children’s is made up of 20 percent sales (IT staff have to sell their solutions to end users), 10 percent technology, 10 percent change management, 10 percent process and 50 percent people.

Atefeh Riazi. CIO at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (New York City): The care journey and healthcare value chain drastically changed after COVID-19. It has shifted from a human-driven and technology-supported approach to a technology and digital-driven and human-enabled design. Soon, as AI and machine learning become smarter and more powerful, humans and technology will converge to a semiotic relationship, reaching singularity. So if I were to describe healthcare IT in a mathematical equation, I would use the geometric convergence theory and formula, as we see both sides (human care and technology) converging into each other and becoming one.

But a better way to describe this would be using Darwinian theory. If you look at the impacts of microbes across the tree of life or in the human body, what you see is that life incorporates many species that depend on each other for health and survival, such as the variety of bacteria that coexist with humans and plants. Without these, humans and plants would not survive. In the same way, technology and humans depend on each other for survival.

Technology and humans are shifting to abiotic interactions. This will result in human evolution and our biology transitioning from being solely carbon-based to being carbon- and silicon-based.

Tom Barnett. CIO at Baptist Memorial Health Care (Memphis, Tenn.): Digital transformation is something that I see as a formula: simplified patient journey + streamlined employee workflow  = a memorable experience. The essence of digital transformation is the ability to boil patient touch points down to their essence and only what is necessary, then make the behind-the-scenes workflow less cumbersome by reducing silos and friction points, and then accelerate the entire throughput with carefully selected and complementary technology. Understanding those critical components of the equation is how you can end up making huge impacts.

Sunil Dadlani. CIO at Atlantic Health System (Morristown, N.J): Health IT is 25 percent strategy, 25 percent team and the ecosystem of partners and technologies, 25 percent collaboration and 25 percent execution.

Joel Klein, MD. CIO at University of Maryland Medical System (Baltimore): I think Mr. Barchi is trying to make the point that technology is not some super-bullet that blows away a lack of constructive attitudes or organized workflows. He's definitely right about that, and in a CIO role, we are often challenged by this belief that the answer to most problems is to buy more tools. In a lot of ways, smartphones have become the public, universal standard for technology as "it should just work and solve my problems." That's magical thinking. But at the same time, you can’t just have mostly people with great intentions and awful tech — the platform strategy, the configuration details and the way tools are interconnected really does matter. And in each individual case, the proportions vary depending on lots of other factors.

So I'd say on average, I've found it's more like 30 percent technology, 30 percent process, 30 percent people and 10 percent serendipity. You definitely have to make your own luck, but I'll work hard for that any day!

​​John Henderson. CIO of Children's Hospital of Orange County (Orange, Calif.): The formula for successful healthcare IT revolves around the following four elements. The first: 50 percent people — the relationships you have to build and cultivate, your leadership team and the frontline talent that executes every day. The second: 20 percent process — the best practices and the flexibility to change as your health system grows and changes. The third: 20 percent partners — the third parties that help you deliver value beyond the contract you executed. The fourth: 10 percent technology — the right technologies to make the care delivery process easier for the providers and clinicians.

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