'Progress, not perfection': Advocate Aurora CIO Bobbie Byrne on healthcare optimization

Advocate Aurora Health's CIO Bobbie Byrne's, MD, top priority is putting her clinicians first, as well as working to move her organization's business intelligence work and analytics to the cloud. 

Becker's spoke to Dr. Byrne about her top priorities as a CIO, healthcare optimization, her strategies for the Downers Grove, Ill.-based health system's digital IT and services direction, and the most pressing challenges health system CIOs are facing. 

Question: What are your top priorities as a CIO?

Bobbie Byrne, MD: My top priority as a CIO is always the support of our clinicians as they take care of patients. If we don't put our clinicians first, we really can't do anything else.

The second is working on care model redesign. As we come out of this COVID world we are looking at different ways to take care of patients. For example, we're asking, what is the right mix of physical, digital and virtual, and what does that look like for the different patient conditions.

And third is cybersecurity. As the bad guys keep getting better, we have to keep upping our game and doing more in cybersecurity.

Q: What are some of the challenges and concerns you have as a CIO today? 

BB: Talent development is definitely the biggest challenge. I spend more and more time recruiting, retaining and trying to grow the next generation of new leaders. 

As we know, healthcare is not exempt from this war on talent. There is a lot of activity and cross recruiting that is going on and it's important to me that we keep the best talent that we have, and then we attract really outstanding people who want to work in healthcare.

It's also important that we make this a really great place to work and a great place to develop a career and a great place that employees can grow their skills or they will be recruited away for hire for higher wages.

If we are fully staffed with excellent team members, there is absolutely nothing that we can't do. If we don't have a team on the field, we're not going to be able to meet any other challenges.

Q: What does your health system's current IT environment look like, and what do you hope to change or improve?

BB: We have spent a lot of time working on what I like to call a single source of truth. 

So a single EMR, a single ERP solution and a single communication tool. We've really done a lot of consolidation work so that we can get a single system, in any area, across our whole organization. 

The next thing that we are looking into is how do we move more aggressively to the cloud. The cloud offers real benefits around cost and scalability. So right now we have a pretty large initiative around how we move all of our data assets to the cloud so that we can do our analytics and business intelligence work there instead of moving it out of our legacy data warehouses. 

Q: What do CIOs get wrong about optimization?

BB: The real challenge with optimization is that there is so much of it to do and it is really overwhelming. 

So then you find yourself saying. 'OK, since there's so much that we could do, we're just not going to do anything.' And I think that's the mistake that people can make.

So, we have to look at it as progress, not perfection. How can we move forward and make it a little easier today than it was yesterday? Because making these small steps can eventually lead to incremental steps and then over time you can actually start to make big changes. 

Q: Any exciting new tech partnerships or innovations happening at your organization?

BB: I am super excited about our involvement in Truveta. 

Truveta is a joint venture of several health systems, and it's working to save lives through data. 

There are new insights to data when you can aggregate de-identified data and use it for the advancement of medicine to make patient lives better. 

Even though we are a large health system, and those in Truveta are large health systems as well, we still need to come together and share our data to truly get insights.

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