How 1 CIO is creating a tech environment that is adaptive, sustainable

Julie Eastman, Orange, Calif.-based UCI Health's new CIO, says as technology continues to develop rapidly, architecture will matter more than ever. This is why the CIO is laser-focused on creating an adaptive IT stack that can evolve with the organization's changing needs.  

Ms. Eastman was appointed CIO of the organization July 24. She succeeds Scott Joslyn. 

Becker's spoke to Ms. Eastman about her priorities for the health system, how her critical nursing background plays into her new role and core IT needs she's focused on.

Q: What are some of your top priorities going into the role of CIO for UCI Health?

Julie Eastman: UCI Health is growing at an incredible pace, including building a state-of-the-art medical campus in Irvine, Calif., to complement our flagship medical campus in Orange. The new medical campus is the first all-electric, carbon-neutral medical center in the nation and will include a 144-bed general acute care hospital, the Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center and Ambulatory Care building, and the Joe C. Wen & Family Center for Advanced Care. Some of my top priorities will center around delivering innovative solutions to this new campus. 

To support this growth, it is equally important to support the teams who deliver these solutions. Meaningful engagement with the information system teams will also be an area of focus for me and my leadership team. To accomplish the goals in front of us, we need high-functioning teams who understand their critical role in achieving our mission.  

Q: What does UCI Health's technology stack look like and what do you hope to improve?

JE: Our technology stack includes evolving components that not only support the delivery of care today, but also positions us for the future. New technologies are being developed rapidly and architecture matters more than ever. Our approach is to create a dynamic, sustainable and future adaptive architecture that will allow us to build solutions that can evolve with our growing organization.  

Q: How do you think your previous skills as a nurse and associate CIO will play into your new role?

JE: I transitioned from direct patient care to technology implementations in the '90s, and my clinical experience has been a crucial asset throughout my career. 

My deep understanding of healthcare delivery processes consistently guides me when providing effective solutions for UCI Health and its patients. Information system teams may focus on delivering technology solutions, but we ultimately support the healthcare business. 

As I step into the role of CIO, I remain committed to keeping patients at the heart of all our endeavors. The 18 months I served as associate CIO has allowed me to immerse myself in departmental operations and IT responsibilities. 

This deep involvement has enabled me to craft an expedited implementation plan, capitalizing on insights gained from my prior role. Moving forward, I am confident in my ability to collaborate with my colleagues and swiftly enact impactful changes that align with our patient-centric approach.

Q: Is UCI Health looking into applying AI or generative AI to any business lines?

JE: Like many organizations, we are currently in the process of delving into various use cases for implementing generative AI. Our primary focus is on identifying opportunities where generative AI can deliver substantial value while minimizing potential risks for the organization. Achieving a harmonious balance between these aspects is of paramount importance. We believe that the optimal starting point falls within the realm of administrative applications. This strategic alignment allows us to explore use cases that hold the greatest potential for immediate impact. 

UCI Health is collaborating with leading software companies who are leveraging the latest technological advancements, which exemplifies our commitment to pioneering innovative solutions. In parallel, we are actively piloting additional conversational AI solutions designed to streamline clinician charting processes, ultimately contributing to the reduction of clinician burnout.  

Q: What is a trend you're following closely in the healthcare technology space?

I am closely monitoring the evolution of AI integration within healthcare. It's clear that AI's increasing role in healthcare solutions is going to become an essential role in driving efficiencies and enhancing outcomes. The ongoing focus on patient-centric care and proactive health management has me also watching advancements on the internet of medical things. As wearable devices continue to gain popularity for monitoring health conditions, we will be in a better position to effectively manage populations, harness data for research and drive improvements in patient outcomes. This is an exciting time, for sure.  

Q: What are some of the core IT needs for UCI Health? 

JE: As highlighted previously, the launch of our state-of-the-art medical campus opens doors to pioneering technological applications. These unique demands are shaping the fundamental IT prerequisites of our healthcare organization. Simultaneously, as we continue to operate our established healthcare enterprise, the ongoing imperative to refine technology utilization and service delivery remains crucial. Embracing automation to enhance efficiency remains a central focus as I transition into my new role.

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