AI, cybersecurity take center stage for Cleveland Clinic

Artificial intelligence is slated to unlock new value from years of EHR data, Sarah Hatchett, senior vice president and CIO of Cleveland Clinic, told Becker's.

Ms. Hatchett assumed her new role in May. She was promoted after serving as Cleveland Clinic's interim CIO since August and has held IT and leadership roles at New York City-based NYC Health + Hospitals, Sacramento, Calif.-based Sutter Health and Epic Systems. 

Ms. Hatchett spoke with Becker's about her priorities in her new role, building on the initiatives she started as interim CIO and what technology she is most excited to explore. 

Editor's note: Responses have been lightly edited for clarity. 

Question: What are your immediate priorities in your position at Cleveland Clinic?

Sarah Hatchett: My immediate priorities will be focused on ensuring that our technologies and initiatives align seamlessly with the clinic's overarching goals of delivering world-class patient care and being the best place to work in healthcare. After serving at Cleveland Clinic for the last seven years, I deeply understand these goals and find profound motivation and inspiration in them each day. While our team has been consistently delivering on this mission, it's a great opportunity to take a fresh look at our road map given the dynamic priorities of the organization.

Q: Having served as interim CIO since August 2023, how do you plan to build on the initiatives and projects you started during that period?

SH: During my time as interim, we celebrated many successes as a team. We completed a five-year-long merger and acquisition-based IT integration road map, and now we are looking at how to apply those capabilities to other transformational programs. 

We stood up a robust application rationalization program, which is already generating significant savings that we will now be expanding the scope to an enterprise focus. We have strengthened our cybersecurity posture, and we are planning to extend the reach of our third-party risk program to improve business resilience. 

Finally, and most notably, we gained financial approval for a cutting-edge digital strategy that is focused on building an AI foundation, including a cloud analytics platform and various vendor pilots and partnerships. In the next few months, we are ramping up in this space significantly and plan to continue activating and energizing the organization on the use of AI.

Q: What are some innovative IT solutions or technologies that you are excited to implement or explore at Cleveland Clinic?

SH: AI is the most exciting new technology given the promise it holds for the transformation of the healthcare industry. While over the last few years we've made incremental improvements in workflows through standardization and optimization, I believe AI will introduce both caregiver efficiency and experience improvements that will make a significant impact on how we deliver care. That being said, AI is not the only innovative thing we are working on. With advancements in telemedicine, remote monitoring, 5G, RPA, genomics, quantum computing and other state-of-the-art technologies, it is certainly an exciting time to be leading technology for an organization as innovative as Cleveland Clinic.

Q: How do you plan to foster collaboration and innovation within the IT department at Cleveland Clinic?

SH: I think the most amazing thing about being a leader of the Cleveland Clinic IT team is the team itself. I recognize that I will never have all the answers or all the great ideas, and that the true power to deliver value is realized as our teams work together. We need to continue to build a strong team and innovative culture that empowers teams. We can do this through expanding training, upskilling, recruiting for key positions and fostering a culture of innovation and continuous improvement. 

Q: With your extensive background at NYC Health + Hospitals, Sutter Health and Epic, how do you see the healthcare IT landscape evolving in the next few years?

SH: Much of my career has been focused on what I consider the original digital transformation of healthcare — which is the emergence and adoption of EHRs. Now AI is driving the latest developments in digital transformation, yet many of the core components remain the same. 

The drivers for both EHRs and AI are around data, experience and workflows, and in a lot of ways AI is now unlocking years of EHR data in new and meaningful ways. There are also similar challenges between EHR and AI with regards to adoption, ethical use, and high levels of investment in platforms and talent. I hope to bring all the years of leading digital transformation forward into this new era through vision, strategy and a relentless focus on driving valuable business outcomes.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring IT leaders in the healthcare industry?

SH: First and foremost, it's important for aspiring leaders to focus on developing core leadership competencies, such as strong communication skills, a continuous learning mindset, strategic thinking, building your network, and leading with empathy and integrity. These are not to be overlooked as part of a formal professional development plan. I am proud and grateful to work at an organization where these elements are part of our core values and are reinforced through leadership development opportunities. As healthcare IT leaders specifically, it's important to develop your understanding of the healthcare landscape and embrace innovation. That way, you can appreciate the context and related challenges but not accept them as limitations. I believe we will navigate the complexities of our industry by driving impactful innovations and leading our organizations to a more efficient and patient-centered future.

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