'It's easier to make a living than to make a difference': Why one CIO pursued healthcare

Ramping up cybersecurity efforts and shifting to pay-for-performance are the top priorities this year for Frank Clark, PhD, the former vice president of technology and CIO of an academic medical center in South Carolina.

Along with serving as the CIO, Dr. Clark has been the chair of the Health Sciences South Carolina Committee. He stepped down from his position as CIO of the medical university in 2015. 

Below, Dr. Clark discusses why he decided to pursue a career in healthcare as well as how technology has transformed the industry into what it is today.

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

Question: What motivated you to join the healthcare industry?

Dr. Frank Clark: I had a mentor who told me that "it is easier to make a living than to make a difference." Healthcare has enabled me to do both. I feel that I have made a difference in some small way in the lives of caregivers and patients.

As a CIO, I have always tried to help my staff feel that they are part of something bigger than themselves; we call it connect-to-purpose. 

Q: Throughout your career, what has been the most monumental/significant technical or digital transformation you’ve experienced? 

FC: Generally, taking the lead on the organization's digital aspirations and innovation agenda. Specifically, leading the effort through the DT Governance Framework, which involved moving away from a best-of-breed approach to EHRs and revenue cycle management and toward a single vendor, Epic in our case, solution that scaled across all care settings.

Q: What is the most challenging aspect of being a CIO? And how do you overcome this? 

FC: Changing the culture. Bringing people together to discuss best-practices is very important to having a successful culture. I have also found that it is important to not focus on digital technology being the silver bullet solution for bad workflow, poor processes and poor management. 

Q: If you could solve one health IT challenge overnight, what would it be and why? 

FC: Adoption of a national patient/provider identifier that would advance seamless interoperability with the ability to exchange patient information across all EHR's. It would also give patients access to all of their longitudinal medical record. 

Q: Looking into 2020, what are a few of your priorities?  

FC: Enhanced cyber security is a main focus of ours; this is top-of-mind in healthcare. Also, we continue to prepare for the full shift from fee-for-service to pay-for-performance. Population health will also play a larger role in healthcare this year.

Editor's note: This story was updated Jan. 10. 

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