50 hospital C-level execs share advice, innovations, 2020 predictions and more

Mackenzie Garrity, Jackie Drees, Andrea Park and Laura Dyrda - Print  | 

Hospital and health system executives have been hard at work this year. Some hospitals partnered with big tech companies, such as Amazon, Google and Apple. A few hospitals battled cyberattacks, and others began new marketing campaigns. No matter the initiative, C-level IT executives have made strides advancing healthcare in the digital era.

Below is a list of 50 Q&As Becker's health IT team has completed in the past few months. These executives have discussed everything from new projects they are working on and what excites them about 2020 to advice for their peers.

Editor's note: Q&As are listed in alphabetical order by hospital or health system. This is not an exhaustive list of the Q&As published by Becker's.

Baptist Health Chief Medical Information Officer Dr. Brett Oliver

"While there is much negativity surrounding EHRs, I see the ways they have already made care remarkably better and can see the future where a physician wouldn't dream of returning to another system of care delivery. Getting there as quickly as possible is the challenge."

BayCare Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer Dr. Ed Rafalski

"One of the benefits of the creative execution is the playful aspect, which makes it very conversational. It's one thing to write it in print, but we've created some visuals that tell this story in a fun way that educates the consumer."

Boulder Community Health Vice President and CIO Michael Jefferies

"It's also important to recognize the importance of having extraordinary people on your team. Demand excellence from your project team and organizational leaders and then take extremely good care of them. At the end of the day, your success is entirely dependent on the people in your organization."

Bozeman Health CIO Tamara Havenhill-Jacobs

"Not one person owns innovation. Every individual within our health system is helping drive innovation. The benefit that I bring to the table is both in our ability to have awareness and education of what is happening regionally and nationally. Bozeman has relationships within the tech industry and there are many opportunities to partner with local companies and organizations on digital initiatives."

CHA Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center CIO Jason Williams

"Our initiatives to improve EHR usability have been straightforward yet effective. Our IT team spends time with our clinicians and listens to their pain points to identify the biggest challenges they face. With that information, we are able to meet with our EHR vendor to work through our clinicians' issues to constantly improve the product to meet our specific needs."

Cleveland Clinic Innovations Executive Director Peter O'Neill

"At our core, we are about commercializing the intellectual property of the Cleveland Clinic. The core of that looks like 300 invention disclosures and many different layers of assessments leading to patents, to prototyping and product development, to license agreements, to spinoff companies and to commercialization deals."

CommonSpirit Health Senior Vice President and Chief Strategic Innovation Officer Rich Roth

"One of the secret sauces for innovation in healthcare is to introduce technologies within the clinicians’ workflow that reduce friction and solve challenges patients may face in accessing their healthcare. We also have to do this in a way that is economically viable and protects patients’ information."

Denver Health CIO Jeffrey Pelot

"When you look at our strategic model, the patient is at the center of everything we do. In terms of patient experience on the inpatient side, we are using predictive analytics to see if we can provide a better experience that in turn would result in a higher satisfaction rating. We have a small data science team that has developed algorithms that can indicate reliably which patients would be most likely swayed to improve their rating of the hospital if they were visited by an executive."

Fairview CIO Dr. Sameer Badlani

"Our focus is shifting from simply building new capabilities to designing customer experience and productivity-focused solutions. We'll reduce waste and prioritize strategic projects that focus on our digital presence and support operational efficiency, while also continuing to mature from a cybersecurity standpoint."

Geisinger Chief Medical Informatics Officer Dr. Benjamin Hohmuth

"Think about innovation as new ways to solve problems. Our goal is not to use new technology but rather to solve relevant problems. If new technology can help, that is great, but that is not always the case. Using existing tools in a thoughtful way with careful attention to workflow can sometimes be quite innovative and have a significant impact."

George Washington University Hospital CEO Kimberly Russo

"As we move toward a focus on population health, our biggest and most important focus is ensuring that we are making healthcare accessible and equitable to all. We want to ensure that our patients are receiving the right level of care, in the right setting and at the right time. We are continuing to evaluate ways that we can expand our access to care in order to best meet our community’s needs and provide patients with the best outcomes."

Good Samaritan CIO Danny Scott

"Healthcare providers, nurses and clinicians love healthcare and its purpose; it’s why they got involved. Having to use an EMR is the painful part of providing healthcare and causing some to question their career; many are getting burned out. Making the EMR (the pushup) much easier should be the paramount goal of every EMR company; in time, it will get there."

Hackensack Meridian Health Chief Medical Information Officer Dr. Lauren Koniaris

"I don't think we need to promote innovation; what we need to do is listen to and, when appropriate, act on the ideas presented to us. Every day our team members have wonderful ideas on how to transform healthcare — and they want to see these come to fruition. For those ideas that impact the areas the CMIOs oversee, the key is to keep the lines of communication as open as possible. We achieve this in multiple ways — feedback, email addresses, publishing our cell phones, hosting town halls and coffee talks."

Hospital for Special Surgery CIO Jamie Nelson

"When you are a female in an industry not dominated by females, you do have to work harder to prove yourself. In the early days, there was a lot of work done on golf courses and at other events where women weren't normally invited or encouraged to participate. This has changed over the years. Nowadays, a female leader's voice is understood as being part of the diversity of thought that makes companies successful. The value that a female leader brings into a non-traditionally female world is now being recognized and actively sought out – at both leadership and board levels."

Houston Methodist Executive Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer Dr. Roberta Schwartz

"I've been doing healthcare since I started candy striping when I was 13. I never wanted to do anything but healthcare, but I never wanted to be a clinician. And so, more than anything, I am a healthcare expert. I've gotten to do things from the medical school side and really understand the business of research and education. In my consulting role, I've gotten to work with pediatric hospitals, adult hospitals, academic hospitals, community hospitals — doing everything from improving operations to, one of the first things I got to do in my career, working in the Senate to write the GME sections of the single-payer bill."

Intermountain Healthcare CIO Marc Probst

"The other need for innovation revolves around removing the clinician from doing data entry. Technologies such as natural language processing, image capture and voice capture allow clinicians to do their jobs without touching the computer. I think we're really close to having this technology as part of everyday use in clinical settings, and it will revolutionize the care giving process, or the needs we've imposed upon our caregivers around the use of technology."

Intermountain Healthcare Chief Medical Information Officer Dr. Stan Huff

"The purpose of interoperability isn't just technology for technology's sake; it is so that we can take better care of patients. At Intermountain, we have improved the quality of care and decreased the cost of care we provide through our decision support initiatives. The challenge we have though is that without interoperability, every single one of those programs must be created at Intermountain using our own programmers and resources. We have done a lot, but literally, we could do one thousand times more than what we're currently doing if we were in an environment where we could share with other institutions."

Kettering Health Network Chief Medical Information Officer Dr. Charles Watson

"I am quite excited with the artificial intelligence associated with voice recognition technology. I honestly believe that we will see the end of the keyboard in my practice lifetime."

Lehigh Valley Health Network CIO Michael Minear

"I have to say knowing how to partner is extremely important. Healthcare leaders don't do anything of value unless we create a fundamental partnership. Some of this partnership is within the IT group. Every key project needs partners, including clinicians, operations partners and financial players. If you are trying to do things without a coalition or broad partnership, you won't have a big impact."

LifeBridge Health Chief Innovation Officer Dr. Daniel Durand

"The role of the innovation team at LifeBridge Health is to promote the highest possible quality of care for our patients, both within our enterprise and beyond our enterprise. This means identifying, prioritizing and helping implement a variety of innovations — both analog and digital — and working on a variety of topics ranging from the use of artificial intelligence to improve hospital safety to the use of mobile technology to better engage and delight patients outside the health system as they go about their lives as people."

Mayo Clinic's Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery Medical Director of Innovation and Design Dr. Douglas Wood

"We have a diverse approach to innovation at Mayo that represents a combination of the kind of innovation that occurs in the laboratories of our scientists, the kind of sustaining innovation that occurs in our programs in quality management and the kind of innovation that we do in our innovation and design area. It is transformative innovation, and it's based on human-centered design. In that, what we're trying to do is innovate solutions to the experience of health and healthcare."

Medical City Healthcare CIO Leah Miller

"Employees must be purpose driven. For us, above all us, our team members must be committed to the care and improvement of human life. Innovation comes from taking risks, and all the good characteristics of amazing IT teams can lead back to being purpose driven. It is a purpose higher than any one of us or a job or function. I can take risks differently; I can do the right thing for our patients differently; I can empower differently. It's all about being purpose driven. It's never about just one person, but the focus is on the patient in the bed."

Memorial Healthcare System Senior Vice President and CIO Jeffrey Sturman

"There is so much going on next year. We follow the fiscal year, and our 2021 year begins on May 1. To make it successful would mean to execute important strategic partnerships. A lot of people think of innovation in terms of what is new and cool and different. I am thinking about how I can align myself and my organization in the right strategic partnerships and monetize those things we already do exceptionally well."

Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine Chief Innovation Officer Dr. Ashish Atreja

"As I've had this role, I've learned that to make innovation wholesome you must have the element of transformation. If you create something and it works, it's really your responsibility to meaningfully partner with other departments and organizations to ensure that patients are touched by the innovation. Innovation and transformation really go hand in hand."

NewYork-Presbyterian Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Leo Bodden

"There are a few things we are doing strategically and tactically that will fill 2020. We are in the process of transitioning from nine EMRs to one within our system; as we’ve integrated other hospitals with our health system, we have inherited some of their platforms, primarily EMRs. Over the next 24 months, we are in the process of retiring eight of those systems and keeping one. That will help us align the strategic plan for the system."

NewYork-Presbyterian Senior Vice President and Chief Transformation Officer Dr. Peter Fleischut

"Probably the biggest mistake I see is the belief that technology can solve all healthcare problems. In actuality, technology only makes up 5 percent of innovation, so if you don't focus on the people and the process, you're going to make a mistake."

Northwell Health CIO John Bosco

"From a physician point of view, the systems today are difficult to use. They're inflexible and it's difficult for physicians to navigate around the system and get the information they need. A more modern, flexible, graphical user interface is needed. Additionally, the next generation EMR needs to incorporate artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies."

Novant Health Vice President and Chief Technology Officer James Kluttz

"Moving to the cloud doesn't mean you will be more secure. It also doesn't mean you'll be less secure. It doesn't mean you spend less time in architecture or more time in architecture. My key advice is all the core disciplines that you have established and built within your organization cannot be forgotten or relaxed. There is still a strong level of ownership and responsibility that goes along with cloud architectures."

The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center CIO Phyllis Teater

"For almost all of our projects, the technology is becoming the easier part. The culture change, alignment and decision-making are more of a challenge. Technology has become the way we do business and we need to agree on that 'way' before we can select the right technology. We want to make sure that our culture is aligned around the technology advances so we are advancing our goals."

Partners HealthCare Chief Innovation Officer Chris Coburn

"We are in the age of digital healthcare — promises made about digital healthcare capabilities that were first made in the 1960s are becoming a ubiquitous reality. It's difficult to identify an activity, unit or function that is not currently being enhanced or enabled by digital technology. While in some cases it is still nascent, the broad arrival of digital in our environment means that care can be personalized in virtually every element, whether it's for example, giving a precise diagnosis to an individual or providing insights for an entire population. The healthcare delivery model is shifting from single interactions to a continuous exchange of information and insights."

Penn Medicine Vice President and Chief Data Information Officer Jim Beinlich

"It’s all about hiring people with the right attitude, aptitude and energy. If you hire on those things, you can teach technology."

Penn Medicine Chief Innovation Officer Roy Rosin

"Good innovation leadership hygiene still matters across the board, such as by choosing appropriate metrics that initially focus not on scale but on whether something new worked, so we can then scale what works. We try to align innovation work with existing priorities instead of adding something additional to clinical partners' plates."

Proliance Surgeons CIO Curt Kwak

"Our internal IT strategies shift every year to keep things fresh and spontaneous as well as to minimize culture fatigue and stagnation. However, one thing that never changes is our focus on the best customer service possible and care of our employees. If you have these two things down solid, everything will fall into place."

ProMedica Chief Innovation Officer Dr. John Pigott

"If they're not in the business of innovation yet, I would quote the Nike slogan: Just do it. I think that they would be very surprised at all of the peripheral good things that happen once you start an innovation program. I think they'll be surprised by all the connections, whether it's through other tech incubators — we have a very nice relationship with Matter in Chicago that we fostered. We have a very nice relationship with the government of Quebec, and we've evaluated about 40 programs out of Quebec to bring down to ProMedica hospitals for pilot testing."

Providence St. Joseph Health Executive Vice President and CIO B.J. Moore

"IT is central and pivotal to a health system’s population health effort. Through a sound big data strategy, patient record, demographic, and other system strategies and the application of advanced technologies like machine learning/artificial intelligence, IT can be the foundation for population health strategy and infrastructure."

SCL Health Chief Information Security Officer Howard Haile

"The best way to prevent employees from falling for phishing attacks or other scams is to prevent as much malicious email as possible from reaching the employees' mailbox. The next step is to train employees on how to spot phishing emails and run phishing exercises that gauge the effectiveness of training. Then retrain employees as necessary to reduce risk."

Stanford Children's Health Chief Medical Informatics Officer Dr. Natalie Pageler

"We have a small but mighty digital health team. They support the first few visits the provider does and show the patients how to use the technology for their first visit. That has dramatically improved the comfort and uptake."

Stanford Health Care CIO Eric Yablonka

"Healthcare is definitely a people business. While technology underpins almost everything we do today, people and patients in healthcare still come first. Although many patients appreciate technology that supports their care, most of them are very interested in working directly with their physician and care team. We can never forget that a large part of our responsibility is around change management and how we successfully deploy and adopt technology."

Texas Children's Hospital CIO and Chief Innovation Officer Myra Davis

"After I became CIO and chief innovation officer, I went on a discovery for about four months to understand what innovation meant to our organization. During this time, I interviewed many of Texas Children's executives, senior leaders and board members to discuss the meaning of innovation. What I learned was that innovation took on so many different meanings across the organization; anywhere from change to the creation of medical devices to commercialization to leveraging existing technologies and owning companies. I received a wide variety of definitions, but when I looked up the root word of innovation, it really means to make change."

Titus Regional Medical Center CIO Tim Pugsley

"Being a healthcare CIO is extremely challenging and rewarding. There is a lot of pressure in our industry on delivering excellence in healthcare. To be successful as a CIO, it is not as much the expertise you have as a technical expert as it is the relationships you create and nurture along the way."

UCHealth Chief Innovation Officer Dr. Richard Zane

"One of our biggest focuses is on the concept of surveillance: what it means and how it integrates within traditional types of care delivery models. By surveillance, we mean being able to monitor a very large population base, whether that's just inpatients or both inpatients and outpatients, and being able to intervene before someone develops an acute exacerbation of a chronic illness or needs an escalation in care."

University of California San Diego Health Chief of Staff and Chief Innovation and Transformation Matthew Jenusaitis

"The biggest barrier is that innovation is inherently risky, and there's a high likelihood of failure in almost everything that you work on. It's really a portfolio management exercise: When you invest in technologies and in innovation, you need to take a portfolio approach, where you recognize that it's inherently risky and that the size of the portfolio you can develop will determine how much risk you can take."

University of Kansas Hospital Chief Medical Informatics Officer Dr. Gregory Ator

"I am very excited to see the combination of AI, natural language processing and voice to text and what that will do for providers. This should allow, when in combination with clinical decision support, a very robust technical experience with improvement in adherence to basic care guidelines. The key to this will be improving the experience and adoption of EMRs for the rank-and-file provider. This ensures a much better predisposition to such care reminders."

University of Maryland Medical System Interim Senior Vice President and CIO Dr. Joel Klein

"There are things every team member loves, and the trick is to figure those out and connect them back to the work of the organization. One of our best developers builds furniture and other artwork; we challenged him to take the same design aesthetic when making our software more usable through visual standards. Every EHR alert in our organization must have a picture associated with that message, so when a user sees it, they visually connect it to the support idea. With the visual, clinicians are more likely to read the alert and pay attention to the advice."

University of Rochester Medical Center CIO Tom Barnett

"When a large project is successful; it takes so many different folks to make that happen. Collaboration between operations and IT is truly a sight to behold! It is not unlike a championship team winning the national title or your favorite musical ensemble finding that unmistakable groove together."

UPMC Chief Marketing Officer Dean Walters

"There are currently 14,000 individuals waiting for a liver transplant. Of that number, about 2,800 pass away every year waiting for a liver transplant. We believe strongly that the answer to that is living-donor liver transplant. What we found is, even within our own system, when we started to go down this road, GI doctors and hepatologists weren't aware of the procedure, so we've been doing a massive campaign to create awareness."

Vanderbilt University Medical Center Chief Health Information Officer Dr. Neal Patel

"We look for every opportunity available to connect our IT team members with our users throughout the medical center, from shadowing a provider, to sitting beside a patient care specialist who's checking in a patient, to watching a nurse discharge a patient from the hospital. These interactions can create those 'ah ha' moments where an analyst sees an opportunity for improvement."

WakeMed Health and Hospitals Vice President and CIO Dr. Peter Marks

"It's important to see technology as an enabler here and not a driver. We look at all avenues of access and engagement to help determine if and when technology is the best fit versus revamping our processes. When we think about patient engagement, our CMIO, Neal Chawla, MD, says we must look at people, process and technology. This could not be more important when we think about engaging people who seek health services."

WakeMed Health & Hospitals Chief Medical Information Officer Dr. Neal Chawla

"Our team’s capabilities continue to advance as we build toward a robust data-driven system. This increased analytic capability allows us to look retrospectively at data to figure out what happened, as well as proactively, through cleaner data, better definitions and improved data literacy, ask better questions and better understand what the data is really telling us."

Yuma Regional Medical Center CIO Fredrick Peet

"Yuma Regional Medical Center is actively improving patient satisfaction simply by encouraging doctors and other providers to sit down. This past summer, YRMC’s Patient Experience Team launched what has already become a highly successful quality care initiative, all built around a sensitive and inclusive way of thinking — and a small stool in the patient’s room."

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