IT strategy in the next 24 months: Prime Healthcare CIO Will Conaway on growth, acquisitions & contracting

Will Conaway, CIO of Ontario, Calif.-based Prime Healthcare, has spent his career managing health IT teams. Here, he discusses the health system's strategy for growth and key IT considerations through new acquisitions.


Q: Where do you see the biggest opportunity for health IT to make a difference at your organization in the next 18 to 24 months?

Will Conaway: Things change fast in technology, and 18 to 24 months can be a lifetime. We continue to improve each day with scenario planning and documentation on how we can be flexible and proactive to the needs of Prime Healthcare and the industry overall. Publilius Syrus said, 'It is a bad plan that admits of no modification.'

From the clinical standpoint, Prime Healthcare hospitals continue ranking among the nation's top hospitals. With recent awards from IBM Watson Health, two of our hospitals receiving the Everest Award, and several earning a Five-Star Rating from CMS, there is a concerted IT effort to support and enhance our facilities and their ability to provide the best patient care possible. As a physician-led organization, I am fortunate to have two very active chief medical officers with great insights on the pulse of care and what they see as important IT clinical initiatives.

From an operational perspective, crucial focal points to drive efficiencies and advance bottom-line results over the next 18 to 24 months involve restructuring our IT contracting and negotiations department to include dual reporting with our legal department. We're implementing a new contracting system to give us tighter controls and increased efficiencies that will prove invaluable to the organization as a whole. Our IT project management department has refocused and is building new tools to track and measure project performance and return on assets.

Q: What are the biggest IT considerations during a period of acquisitions?

WC: We are an organization that has acquired many hospitals over the years, so we're reevaluating and staging mock acquisitions with critical stakeholders to confirm that no IT item gets overlooked. We're prepared if we were to expand again. We've created a transformation office to deal with the people side of IT, and we've enacted strategies together to ensure that we're working on the correct human capital items that drive value. The transition office has established many vital metrics and continues to refine them. These include the percentage of business miscommunications with IT, IT business survey results, quarterly meetings feedback, number of projects and return on projects, training hours and growth opportunities for our IT employees.

From a technical standpoint, we're an early adopter of internet of things security. On March 11, 2019, a bipartisan group of lawmakers including Sen. Mark Warner and Sen. Cory Gardner introduced the Internet of Things (IoT) Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2019. The introduction of this bill is expected to include over 20 billion devices by 2020. After numerous product reviews and a pilot, we've signed an agreement with tech security company Culinda to help secure our medical IoT devices with an artificial intelligence platform.

We will also continue to roll out technologies and upgrades with SD WAN, Lawson, unified communications, enhanced MFA and Epic. We've been able to identify multimillion-dollar savings with various technologies, which will be realized in the next few years. We'll continue to seek out increased automation opportunities and optimization of existing products, all while staying current with new technologies, which could potentially add value to the organization.

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