Healthcare is at a New Cross-section

Brian Thomas, CIO, Swope Health Services
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Brian Thomas, CIO, Swope Health Services

Brian Thomas, CIO, Swope Health Services

What solutions do you look forward to and your expectations from technology providers for the enterprise?

The big challenge in healthcare today is interoperability. Like any bureaucracy, typically the issue is around politics or financial barriers. While interoperability has come a long way in recent years, it is still impeding quick, safe patient care.

Organizations have to integrate data across the enterprise to have a 360-degree view of the customer, but it’s not an easy thing to do. What are your thoughts on getting this act right?

It’s really important to build a strategy around every system or piece of data that touches your customer. What I found is it is important to move away from legacy systems and try your best to integrate as much of your technology as possible. One way this can be done is by developing an enterprise data mining strategy. Once you have developed your EDW, you should have a plan to give your users seamless access to this (their) data. There are several products out there to provide them easy access. One great product—Tableau—is a great visualization tool that has enough power yet easy for non-technical staff to use. It’s crucial to implement these types of tools so you can develop a strong self-service strategy. Most customers today would rather go out and access their data on their schedule and not have to wait on IT to provide them a report.

What specific types of technology will give leaders/ players the competitive edge?

It's time for all business leaders to grasp the idea of innovation and digital transformation. Likewise, it's not time to reinvent the wheel—it's important to look at emerging technologies (and your competition) and leverage these technologies to gain the competitive edge. Specifically, looking at artificial intelligence (AI) and chat bots to bolster turnaround times for your customers. With social media today, customers can be your toughest critic, and they can make or break your business.

 ​Learn your customers' business like they know it, and eliminate their pain points 

What are the pain points within the enterprise that keeps you awake at night?

For my entire career, my focus has been on developing the best customer service strategy. Of course, this involves more than technology. However, without technology you will quickly move to last place in the competition line. The best thing a technology leader can do is ensure that the critical systems that support the business are given the attention and financial resources needed to keep the business running 24/7 without interruption. Today the focus is improving the service delivery to our customers in the most efficient and fastest time possible. One thing we are evaluating now is seeing how AI can improve our Service Desk resolution times, more specifically chatbots. While we currently offer many ways to get assistance from the Service Desk, we know that leveraging AI could improve first-contact resolution times.

What are some of the trends that will have significant impact on your enterprise business environment and the industry?

Several trends that were mentioned here are all part, or will be part of our strategy. Currently, the focus has been on our data mining strategy with improving our population’s health. However, there has been some efforts to engage our patients in their own healthcare by using our mobile app. Additionally, as we replace, upgrade, or integrate the various applications we support, there has been a shift to move some of these to the cloud. While all of this is important and certainly keeps the environment constantly moving and evolving, we always ensure that this work and these systems fall in line with our security strategy.

How is technology revolutionizing the current work environment?

I can recall not so long ago when hospitals, clinics, and medical providers were using paper charts to take care of their patients. While electronic medical records have been around for 20 years, it was just in the last seven years where you were seeing a noticeable impact to patient care. We are seeing the effects of all of this digital “disruption” and the customers (patients) are fueling this by forcing businesses to change or lose market share.

How is the role of IT and CIOs changing?

CIOs have to be forward thinkers and find ways to help the business catapult their strategy. True innovators are now considered CDOs or Chief Digital Officers. I believe the title “CIO” may become a thing of the past.

The big buzzwords around new IT roles in the industry are Chief Digital Officer or IT/Business Innovation Leader. These are becoming more prevalent and recognized across the technology industry. For us specifically, it was the development of a CSO/ CISO due to the increased security threats and breaches that have been targeting Healthcare in the last couple of years. Additionally, we as a technology team consider ourselves as “Solution Providers”. As an example, our Service Desk is actually called the “Solutions Desk.” This empowers our team to think and act like a true solution provider, and the name gives a positive spin to our customers.

As security issues gradually start demanding full-time attention, do you think that it is time to hand over security completely to a CSO?

With the advent of more aggressive malware, viruses, bots, and fraud, the role of a CIO and CISO has become more significant, yet more scrutinized. In some instances, or organizations, this role has changed somewhat and may in fact have to follow some governance or compliance protocols to ensure a clean or non-biased outcome for a particular security incident. However, with the introduction of some great SIEM tools, leveraging AI can truly allow more bandwidth for the CIO or CISO.

What’s your advice to a CIO/CXO starting out in your industry?

Learn your customers' business like they know it, and eliminate their pain points. Building solid relationships from day one will help gain support for your technology initiatives down the road. Having the right relationships will allow you to select a strong ally and champion for these technology initiatives.

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