The key to technology adoption? User experience, says Cedars-Sinai CTO George Carion

George Carion brings more than 20 years of information technology experience to his role as chief technology officer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Mr. Carion joined the hospital in 2008 as director of voice and data networks. He then moved on to fulfill the role of associate CTO before taking the helm of Cedars-Sinai's technology operations as CTO in 2014.

Here, Mr. Carion discusses how his priorities as CTO at the hospital have changed over the years and what IT areas he invests the most work in.

Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Question: How has your role as CTO evolved?

George Carion: I was promoted to CTO in 2014, and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to build upon the great work of my predecessor. Initially, my time was focused on a handful of large infrastructure projects and some improvement efforts around customer facing services, such as our service desk. While we were great with handling large technology programs, it became apparent that we were struggling to keep pace with an ever-growing list of small and medium priorities. Everyone was working hard, but our organization structure and the inter-team processes needed some work. My focus shifted away from being 'the implementer' to becoming the 'organizational architect.' With a lean approach, we refined how we manage our request and delivery chains. We realized the intended outcome and learned some interesting lessons along the way. The result was a leaner, more efficient delivery team.

Q: How have your responsibilities changed since you took on the role?

GC: As the saying goes, "We're doing more with less." With some heavy lifting in the rearview mirror, information technology architectural planning became my priority to help ensure our system's strategies aligned with health system drivers. Related, cybersecurity and data protection have become core responsibilities of our CTO organization and cloud technologies changed some long-standing ground rules for how we do our jobs. Our team was in the right spot and ready to ensure alignment across cloud, software as a service, data center, cybersecurity, data protection and disaster recovery. The trick is doing all that with a supportable and financially sustainable approach. I'm investing a lot of time here, as the changes involved are big and carry along some painful change management work. Your mistakes can end up becoming very expensive and hard to unwind. While those things are now foundational to the CTO role, being successful at Cedars-Sinai includes keeping forward movement toward improved user experience. Digital and cyber are driving some complex user experience between users and technology, especially in the enterprise ecosystem. I'm trying to make the adoption curve as flat as possible.

Q: What is your No. 1 deal breaker when it comes to evaluating vendor partnerships?

GC: Bad user experience. Or more specifically products that don't support our broader user experience goals due to missing features or usability issues. If our end users are going to use your product, including technology products where the end users are engineers, bad user experience can lead to a lot of waste and unnecessary expense. Let's look at this through the lens of product 'adoption.' We can purchase products that check all the important feature boxes, but if it can't be implemented in a way that becomes a simple extension of a person's device ecosystem and work processes, you're going to have adoption issues. We have a lot less room in our budgets these days and we need to avoid turning software into shelfware.

Q: What technology do you think will significantly impact the healthcare industry in the next five years?

GC: Medical 'voice user interfaces' at the point of care. Let's take for granted for a moment that artificial intelligence and machine learning will change how providers use information and make care decisions. We know we're headed toward faster care delivery, with improved quality and outcomes. And for all the benefits we receive from the mostly structured collection of health data via our health information systems platforms and technologies, the computer in the exam room still creates some awkward and inefficient experiences for both the patient and provider. By leveraging AI and natural language processing, I think voice assistant technology will make an important and helpful impact within that setting.

The VUI will become an effective proxy for routine EMR workflows, now only manageable via the graphical user interface. New capabilities in this space will shift the focus away from the keyboard and screen to a more personal interaction between provider and patient, and your voice enabled EMR will be ready to share content with less mouse clicks, screen switches and searching. It'll take a little while for EMR platforms to catch up to what we can already do in our living rooms; their problems are tougher to solve, but they will catch up. Medical voice assistants will generate interesting questions and some debate in the area of patient privacy, but those problems will look more like hurdles than hard walls.

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