I recently returned home from the 2018 CHIME CIO Forum. This is one of my favorite events of the year, and I highly recommend that every CIO attend if they can. The event is important for two main reasons: networking and inspiration.
During my tenure as CIO, I chose not to attend from time-to-time. This was largely due to budget (or at least the optics of heading to a conference after doing staff reductions) and/or busyness, but I still think it was a mistake on my part.
Here is what I learned from speakers and my peers at this year's Forum:
The Role of the CIO Has Changed for Most
The large majority of the CIOs that I spoke with at the event have allowed themselves to be pushed into an operational role. The job has become managing the EHR, keeping the computers running, and managing the budget. This is not true for all of the CIOs that I spoke with, but it is the case for many.
I'm not going to go into the reasons why this is happening. I've written about it before and you can read my take on the phenomenon in the posts at the bottom of this article. Also, I will most likely write a future article on avoiding the trap into which many have fallen.
No matter how or why it is happening, the basic fact rings true for most: the CIO role has evolved considerably.
Customer Experience is Top of Mind
The CIOs that haven't fallen into the operational trap have a laser focus on two things: one is the customer experience, and the other is the use of data.
Two forward-leaning CIOs shared with me their plans to eliminate the waiting room and fully automate the intake process. The goal is lofty, but they are putting technologies in place to make this a reality in the next 24 months. It involves a single patient ID across the entire health system; mobile applications that collect and aggregate data, and move it into the process when needed; and facial and voice recognition to identify the patient using nothing but a phone. It all sounds very cool.
Healthcare is a data science
HIMSS CEO Hal Wolf gave us what I think will be the theme of this year's event. He said that, "Crucial challenge is the delta between massive data and lack of actionable information," stressing the power of and. Better health through IT and information.
Eric Schmidt (of Google fame) shared the concept that healthcare has become a data science. He gave us a wide-ranging vision for what is already possible today at Google.
In fairness, this material was from the opening of HIMSS, which took place directly following the CHIME event. However, it was echoed in the projects that CMIOs and CIOs are addressing.
Dr. Bob Wachter from UCSF told us at the forum to move beyond digitizing paper processes and begin to reimagine work. He gave great examples of physicians doing in 45 minutes for an entire hospital of patients, what they used to do with one patient in a single consult. The outcome was a 45% improvement from the traditional processes.
My big takeaway – and the inspiration that was derived from this conference – is the fact that we have things in place today to truly change the way healthcare is delivered in the next five years. The driving factor is that the EHR is in place now, the consumer is activated with new expectations, and the cloud gives us technology at scale today, right now, which enables new ways of using the data.
Twice during the day, we were reminded of Google's first failure in healthcare. Dr. Bob Wachter told us that it failed because it tried to take the massive amounts of paper data and processes, and put them into the cloud. The lift was too much, it was too complex, and it ultimately failed.
In his keynote, Eric Schmidt also reiterated the same exact thoughts. He even gave a shout-out to the companies that have done this amazing work. He reinforced their growing importance, even with the emergence of new technologies that will utilize the data that they have. Now that we have the data and processes digitized, the problem becomes making sense of the massive amounts of data.
Sounds like something at which these internet giants excel.
Nicholas Webb, a medical futurist and author of What Customers Crave, also spoke at the CIO Forum. He gave us a call to action to rethink our work. Every industry experiences major disruption a short ten years after the data is digitized. Healthcare data is either at or very near that ten-year mark.
He described our current process of getting an appointment like this: 'Oh, you are sick and need an appointment? Here's a time in two weeks that's inconvenient for you but works for the doctor. Please come early so you can spend time in our Ebola chamber while you wait (referencing the waiting room).'
50% of clinical visits will go digital because we can't match the experience of the office. Nicholas Webb
The experience will be the new frontier. He cautioned that the birth of something new usually is preceded by the death of something else. Disruption will start with destruction. Destruction of old models, old processes, and old technologies. This is where the CIO will earn their stripes.
Navigating change is the core of the future role of the CIO.
Finally, Eric Schmidt told us stories of great possibility with machine learning and AI. However, there is a step before you get to the promised land, which is that you have to get to the cloud.
Get to the cloud, run to the cloud immediately. I can assure you our data centers are more HIPAA compliant, more secure, more efficient and better than your data center. Only after you get there will you will have access to a host of new capabilities. Eric Schmidt
This CHIME event was particularly inspiring to me. Health Lyrics has as its vision to "Reimagine healthcare, everywhere for everyone." We only do two things for healthcare: we move health systems to the cloud (following a process we used for our $6B health system in 2012), and we do digital transformation around the consumer experience. We believe that cloud is the core enabler, and that the end goal will be to change the health journey for everyone around the world.
These speakers confirmed that that time is finally upon us.